Monday 23 March 2015

Dancing with Men

Here I am at last. I have been writing all day--mostly about Cardinal O'Brien, and that's hard to get right. On the one hand, men should not make advances at priests and seminarians, especially when they are bishops, priests or seminarians themselves. On the other hand, the outraged press once adored Cardinal O'Brien and his funny ways. Had there been no gay marriage debate, the press would not have been so excited by the accusations; Cardinal O'Brien actually stood up for gays back in 2005. When another Scottish priest blew the whistle on what happened to straight old him and other guys at the hands of gays in his seminary days, he got suspended, not umpteen Guardian articles in his defense.

Anyway, this is not a post about Scottish clerical gay sub-culture. Au contraire. This is a post about women encountering men in social situations and interacting with them in a pleasant fashion that 99.9% of the time will not end in marriage. I, for example, do not have the faintest hope or idea of marrying any of the men that I meet in social situations. Life is so much more restful for married women that way. 

I suppose most women learn to interact with men in a pleasant fashion by going to school with them although the very idea fills me with pity and fear. My ability to learn would have been greatly compromised by teenage boys, both the cute ones and the ones that bounced up and down hooting like monkeys, so I am rather glad I did not go to a co-ed school. I'm not sure I wouldn't have been better off in a women's college, come to think of it, although mostly I wish I had gone to Aberdeen and met B.A. right away. (Sigh.)

Well, never mind that. The point is that once you graduate from university, you discover that there are not so many Single men your age around anymore. For example, you are no longer in classrooms and lecture halls full of them. Maybe there are one or two at work, but there are no longer dozens. And at work you are not supposed to socialize with them, exactly. You are supposed to be professional and so are they. They aren't supposed to tell you, two months after appearing in your staffroom, that they have just left the seminary because they really want to get married to a nice Catholic girl, and you might fit the bill.

But where are you supposed to meet dozens and dozen of men with whom to socialize, you ask. And--lo! Because I love my little Singles so much, I have done serious reconnaissance work and can report that there are dozens and dozens of men involved in social dancing. In fact, some of the men love social dancing so much, they go to different types of social dancing. Amongst the Edinburgh Lindy Hoppers are Edinburgh Ceidhli Dancers and Edinburgh Tangueros. Naturally some of them have girlfriends, but that does not stop them from dancing with other women and socializing in a pleasant fashion.

If you go to a proper dance class run by a society of amateurs, not money-grubbing professionals who spend half their time on sales, you do not need a partner at all. If you are learning to be a "follower", you are made to dance with all those learning to become "leads." As men almost never (in my short experience) volunteer to be followers, this means you dance with every man in the room. In the process, you learn something about all of them, and all of them learn something about you.

As a follower who spent the weekend working on the Lindy Hop, I realize that this is one of the most effective training in paying attention to men there is.  After dancing with 15 men for two days, I know who is nervous, who is funny, who blames his partner for his own shortcomings, who is flirtatious, who is despairing, who really cares about the comfort of his dance partner, who is dangerously attractive and who is a bit of a bully. (I also know that some of the best and most thoughtful Lindy Hop leads are women, so the next time a woman asks me to dance, I am not going to think "Oh well, better than no-one", I am going to think "GREAT!")

My report should not dissuade nervous young men from taking up social dancing, for I had nothing but sympathy for the ones who kept forgetting the steps, having forgotten them so often myself. I would certainly ask Mr Never Changes Pattern to dance before asking Mr Know It All Bully. Of course, normally I would never ask anyone to dance. Instead I sit on a chair and look happily at the dance floor like a dog contemplating a bone. That is, that's how I looked yesterday after the workshop-training miracle.

The way for a follower to get better at dancing, which I very much wish to do, for I have caught the bug, is to be asked to dance over and over again by leads. This puts me back in the deplorable position of wanting men to like me, or at least to like dancing with me. Fortunately, for this I do not have to be a raving beauty, but merely a good follower. For insights on how to be the world's best follower, I shall have to consult my friend Alisha Ruiss. I suspected saying, "Don't worry; we got through" and "Thanks, that was great!" is pretty essential, so I said those things a lot. I hope I have impressed upon fifteen men that I am kindhearted and acceptably nimble.

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