Control Issues

The music stopped and he let out a sigh, obviously not happy with his performance.”Have you done this before?” he asked.

“No.” This was, in fact, my first-ever official waltzing lesson.

“But you’ve danced before…”

“Well, yes.”

“I can tell,” he said. Was he complimenting me on my skills on a dance floor? My seventh-grade self would never have imagined such a thing in my future. Nor my 27-year-old self for that matter. But there I was in my first waltzing lesson appearing to my partner as an experienced dancer. Ha!

Before I could reassure him that I, too, had once been is his position of exasperation, the instructor directed us to take up our positions again as he started the music. I rested my hands on my partner’s shoulders, wanting to offer words of encouragement but not wanting to disrupt his attempt at counting to the music. One two three, four five six. One two three, four five six.

When the music stopped, I smiled and murmured some positive words before moving on to the next partner as instructed.  I took a few missteps, but gone was the anxiety I once felt about looking foolish on a dance floor.  Don’t get me wrong – I still look foolish plenty, I just no longer care. I smiled recalling my last year of high school. I was the girl who skipped out on the senior prom – instead joining three friends in a father/daughter dinner at the nearby Culinary Institute of America. There are pictures of me and my best friend Carly on her front lawn in our evening finery looking every bit like we were off to the prom.  I think my smile is so big because I knew I would not have dance that night.

Of course, the type of dancing that happened at a high school prom was nothing like what I imagined myself one day being able to do. I had illusions of gliding across a dance floor ballroom style, or maybe swing dancing.  I tried both at various times in my twenties only to find I was unable to let a man be in control.  Years later, giving it another go, I realized that if my partner showed confidence in what he was doing I was fine letting him take over.  It was the ones whose hands felt tentative in mine that led to my difficulties trusting them to take the lead. A parallel to other things in life? Absolutely.

But now-a-days, the dance floor is one of the few places in my life where I don’t have to make any decisions – where someone else tells me what to do with a push of his hand or a twist of his body. I don’t glide by any stretch – and I fumble my fair share. But what I love is that there’s no debate about which move to make – I have no say, nor time to protest. I simply follow, happy to secede control.

I know many women fought for my right to live my life however I choose. For that I am appreciative.  However, there are plenty of days where I just want someone else to point me in the right direction and I, with no time to argue, just go.  And like magic it all turns out beautifully.

Smoking Hot

In the junior high cafeteria, I sat alone every lunch period.  I knew no one and no one seemed interested in getting to know me.  I had braces, no fashion sense, and a body that was all out of proportion.  I ate my lunch as fast as I could without making eye contact, then stuck my face in a book.  A few weeks later I learned we could go to the library during our lunch periods and after I ate, I’d get out of that cafeteria as fast as I could.  The next semester when the guidance counselor asked if I’d mind not having a lunch period so I could take the classes I had to take, I said that was no problem at all.  Inside, I jumped for joy.

Fast forward twenty three years.  As I walked up Merrimon Avenue yesterday, a man at a stop light leaned out his window and said, “Girl, you’re looking good today!”  I smiled.  “Thank you.” There was a time I didn’t appreciate men yelling anything to me in public.  Actually, if it was complimentary I assumed they must not be talking to me anyway.  It’s still not my preferred method of receiving compliments, but at least now I can appreciate some kind words – even if they are tossed out from a car window.  As I continued my walk, I smiled thinking back to those teenage years when I wouldn’t have dreamed anyone would ever tell me I looked good.

High school wasn’t much better than junior high – but at least I had people to sit with at lunch.  My fashion sense may have improved a little (thanks to secretly “borrowing” my little sister Liz’s clothes), but I still had braces all four years and a body I hated.

Now the braces are gone.  I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for this body I’ve been blessed with – it did, after all, get me through a 500 mile walk across Spain.  My fashion sense: well, I know what looks good on me.  That doesn’t stop me from showing up to holiday family gatherings, looking around, and thinking I should hire my three sisters to redo my wardrobe.

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I walked into a bar a few weeks ago to meet a friend.  He flooded me with compliments on my appearance and over the course of the conversation said some more wonderful things about me to some of the friends to whom he introduced me.  The next day, in a conversation with another friend, I said how this has happened quite a few times since I’ve moved here – men here seem to be pretty good at giving compliments.  (I am still learning how to be good at receiving them.)  “Is it Asheville?” I asked him, wondering if men were just more forthcoming with compliments here.  “Well, you are smoking hot,” he said.  He continued on, but I didn’t hear anything after that.  Smoking hot?  What? I know I’m not the timid, body-conscious kid I was in junior high.  But “smoking hot”?  Me?

I tell my students all the time to give themselves credit for the progress they’ve made before telling me all that they didn’t accomplish.  I often find myself giving the advice I most need to hear .

So today I’m going to give myself some credit.  After trying on seven different tops and four different pairs of jeans, I finally looked in the mirror and told myself I looked good.  But smoking hot?  I think that’s pushing it.