- Catherine in Rules by Cynthia Lord.
I don’t know how to dance.
When I was in kindergarten, my best friend took ballet, so I asked if I could take ballet lessons too. My mother said it was too far to walk. We lived in New York City then. She only went out when she had to. It was hard for her to make room for other activities around “Ryan’s Hope”, “All My Children”, “One Life to Live”, “General Hospital”, and “The Edge of Night”. Besides, a nap followed.
When I turned nine, we moved to the suburbs. I asked again for dance lessons a couple of times, but my mother didn’t drive and my father came home too late after commuting in from Manhattan. By the time my sister, who is six years younger, wanted to dance, my mother knew how to drive and my father’s schedule was more flexible. On the upside, I was allowed to play soccer, which is pretty much mandatory on Long Island.
When I was in high school, for one quarter I took Dance as a gym elective. I’d been to a couple of dances in school and didn’t know what I was doing, more shuffling than dancing. Would this class help? Apparently not. Our teacher was in charge of the Tigerettes, who performed at every ball game. They were good. Most in my motley crew of beginning dancers were not.
I recall the teacher’s frosted hair and painted claw fingernails, frustration flooding her face as she called out dance moves in her thick Long Island accent, “Now the Madonna!”
Fumbling through Whitney Houston’s “How Do I Know?” spoke volumes.
At dances and weddings, I observed other people, trying to imitate their movements. I got better. But I never felt competent. I felt miles away from those who had flair, like my sister. I still felt self-conscious.
(This is why I write for children and teens. Not only do I recall the awkwardness and the angst, I still live it.)
My husband, who never took formal lessons either once quipped I dance like Elaine in “Seinfeld”. Harsh. That comment set my confidence level back YEARS.
I swear; I’m not that bad. But that is how my hair used to look.
Over the years, I’ve tried not to care. I’ve tried to just enjoy myself. A drink (or two) helps me ignore everyone else. I still peek at the moves of better dancers.
My daughter takes ballet lessons. She’s doing so well that she’s in a class with mostly older girls. My son took ballroom dancing in fifth-grade, so he knows seven different dances. They’ve had opportunities I was denied. My children aren’t self-conscious when they’re on a dance floor, and I hope it stays that way.
My son and his partner at ballroom dancing.
This spring at my husband’s cousin’s wedding, all four of us danced and had a wonderful time. This summer at my cousin’s wedding, all four of us danced again. I watched my sister dance, and she really knew what she’s doing, though she made light of it when the spotlight was on her instead of basking in the moment. But each year I get older; I care less about comparing myself to others and less about my abilities. Who’s wasting their time watching me anyway? I’m not on “Dancing with the Stars” – I’m supposed to be having fun. (And burning off calories from all the food I just devoured.)
My husband, daughter, and I at the wedding, not dancing.
nobody can see,
- Sophia Bush in More Six-Word Memoirs
What has made you self-conscious?
Were you able to overcome it?
If so, how?
About my daughter and dance:
About my son and ballroom dancing: