(I wrote this last night but decided not to post it until today.)
So I was driving home at 11 tonight and I started laughing so hard that it caused a coughing fit. I had to force myself to calm down and just smirked the rest of the way home.
Now let me start at the beginning.
When I was 21, I had dropped out of school and moved back in with my parents. All of my friends were still in college, so I had no friends around and I wanted to get out of the house a bit. I had always loved to dance, though I had never really had any lessons, and I had heard about this Country Western bar in town that did line dance classes on Tuesday nights for $3 and free beginners lessons on the two-step, triple-step, triple-two step, and the waltz on Wednesday nights. I don't remember which I did first, but I started going to more and more lessons and became more confident in my dancing.
Eventually men started asking me to dance, and as I got better, I realized I was pretty good. One gentleman in particular, somewhere in his 40s or 50s, taught me SO much. I suppose he introduced himself the first time we danced, but I couldn't remember his name, so in my head and to my friends and family, I always referred to him as Purple Shirt Guy. He had a Thursday night shirt and a Saturday night shirt, and they were both purple. Anyway, once I built up my endurance, we would dance for half an hour straight before I would need to stop for water.
I was never the skinny, beautiful girl who got asked to dance constantly, but I had a few guys who would make it a point to dance with me, especially my Purple Shirt Guy. I also learned quite a few line dances so that I could dance without a partner. And when I was on the dance floor - I felt special.
How do I even explain this in a way it makes sense?
I've always suffered from low self esteem. I always thought that I was never good at anything, I was just the smart fat chick that guys ignored. But when I realized I was actually a pretty good dancer...I suddenly felt better about myself. My weight didn't matter (as much). I always swore that someday I WOULD be the skinny chick that all the guys wanted to dance with.
Anyway, for a while in my early- to mid-twenties, I was dancing there and another Country bar 2-3 nights a week. I grew up a lot in those bars. I met, made out with, and even dated guys from the bars. Guys constantly told me I was light on my feet. It didn't matter how heavy I was, because I could be led so easily. I was GOOD.
A few years ago, life and depression got in the way of me going out and dancing. I put on about 50 pounds and became somewhat of a recluse.
So then last fall, shortly before my 30th birthday, I decided things needed to change. I was finally feeling like a normal human being (i.e. not depressed) and I was ready to take charge of my life. I started Weight Watchers Online and joined Curves (a gym for women). I lost about 35 pounds, then I joined a meetup group and took a Tango lesson last month. Around that same time, I went back to one of the Country bars - and remembered just how much I love to dance.
Fast forward to tonight. I had been to each bar again once or twice before tonight. I decided to go take the $3 line dance class (still only $3 after nearly 9 years - amazing, right?)
So I got there about 15 minutes before the class started. I put my coat on a chair (I keep my ID, money, phone, and keys in my jeans pockets so that I don't need to bring in my purse and leave it unattended) and stood next to the dance floor watching the line dancers. Every Tuesday night, the same group of people do all the line dances that have ever been taught on a Tuesday. I certainly don't remember any of the ones I learned that long ago, because the Tuesday night line dances are never seen in either bar any other night of the week. So I was just watching to see if I could pick up some steps.
A few minutes later, this blonde girl comes up to me and asks me where people usually put their coats. I told her that the coat check is closed on Tuesdays since it is such a slow night, but she could put her coat on a chair at the same table my coat was at. She thanked me, put her coat down, then introduced herself and we started chatting.
Even though she is 34, she reminded me of myself when I was 21 and I was just starting to venture out on my own and discover myself. In her case, she has just recently gotten out of a bad relationship, and she is learning how to be single again.
So we chatted until the dance class started, about 15 minutes late. We danced next to each other during the lesson, then retreated to our table to chat more after the class. At this point, I had high hopes that the DJ and/or band would start playing a few Cowboy Cha-Chas. It's a line dance that you can do alone or with a partner. It's a pretty popular dance done to a certain beat (I'm not a musical person, so I can't tell you what time it is, I can only hear it and know it's the right beat), so I figured I could at least do a few of those and call it a night.
I did get in a few Cha-Chas, and my new friend was impressed but too scared to get out and try it. Eventually, the DJ played a song that fit the beat for the line dance we had learned, so everybody got out and tried to remember all the steps we had just learned.
Shortly after that, my blonde friend had to go. We exchanged phone numbers in the hopes of meeting up at the bar more often, at least for Tuesday night line dance lessons, and maybe Saturday nights. I had made a few bar friends so many years ago, and they took me under their wing, so it is really nice to return the favor to somebody. Maybe we will become real friends one day.
Anyway, I am not exaggerating when I tell you that less than 5 minutes after she left, a good looking guy came over and asked me to dance. Really?! Dancing with a guy was the last thing on my mind, but needless to say, I was THRILLED!
Come to find out, he's from South Dakota, but he's in town visiting his sister who is in the hospital. He and two of his brothers and one of their cousins were all at the bar celebrating Mardi Gras. I invited them to join my table, and next thing I knew, a few other girls joined into the group as well. It seemed that at least one of the girls knew the boys - through their sister maybe? I don't know.
What I DO know is that I danced at least once with each guy, and several times with the first guy. None of them were great at the two-step or triple-step, but two of them were REALLY good at swing, which is one of my weak points. But we could laugh when I messed up, and the guys were impressed at how well I did manage to keep up.
Suddenly, I felt like this beautiful, young, single, available, DESIRABLE girl. I wasn't great at the small talk, though. I didn't really bring that version of myself with me; I didn't realize I would need social flirt Jennifer. All of the guys were ranchers or farmers, so I couldn't go on and on about "Tell me what you do for a living," so I ran out of topics.
Still, my lack of conversational skills did not stop the guys from asking me to dance.
The bar wound up closing at 11, and we all went our separate ways. I will probably never see any of them again, as 3 of the 4 were headed back to South Dakota in the morning, and that is OK. The self confidence, self esteem, and all-around happiness I found tonight is irreplaceable.
This also ties in to how I felt at the Tango lesson - a blog post I have written but have not published yet. In time, I will publish that and link to it here.
Anyway, here I am, finding myself on a dance floor again. Not only do I love to dance, I love who I am when I am on the dance floor. I feel like I glow from the inside. I even have a tattoo to remind me how much I love to dance - and yet I let dancing slip away from me for so many years.
I have a fair amount of hope that I will meet my future husband on a dance floor. That's partly because I love who I am on a dance floor, and partly because I would love to spend the rest of my life with a man who at least appreciates, if not shares, my passion for dancing.
So the connection between discovering myself 9 years ago and tonight in the exact same bar is what caused me to laugh while driving me home. It really is funny how life works sometimes. I was just looking to get some exercise by dancing, and I got so much more than that.