Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Gentleman Always Leads

I don't take direction well, and if you ask my high school band director, I have a problem with authority- especially male authority. It's not entirely true, but I've been known to get up on my hind legs and say what I thought from time to time.

None too surprisingly, in the past this has led to more than one breakup. There are quite a few men, it seems, who have this idea that they have to dominate, govern, or dictate terms in a relationship. It's give-and-take, people...not a hostage negotiation. Why is that so hard to understand?

It took ballroom dance lessons to shed light on another unpleasant little truth, and it was a weird epiphany. I was a classically-trained ballet dancer, but the schools were always small and I wasn't physically cut out to pursue it beyond childhood lessons; I never had to dance pas de deux, partnered with a boy. Even then, the man doesn't really 'lead' in the traditional sense. The popularity of Dancing With The Stars has probably educated the general public a great deal about this concept, but DWTS hadn't yet premiered when I began taking ballroom lessons.

I kept stepping on my partners' feet, or bumping into them. It was embarrassing for someone who prided herself on her ability as a dancer...and then my teacher took me aside. "This is a trust issue for you, isn't it? You don't trust men. You have to let the gentleman lead. In this dance form, the gentleman always leads." I drove home from the studio that night pondering the implications. How many times in my life had I ever permitted it? How many times had I ever let the gentleman lead?

I quit taking lessons. I never could get the hang of it, because I simply could not trust any of the men with whom the teacher tried to pair me enough to avert total disaster on the floor. In the end, it proved how much I'd shut down my ability to connect with anyone. I have four pairs of ballroom shoes stashed at home on the off chance that I might actually take it up again someday- but they're really just gathering dust while I try to sort myself out.

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