I just finished taking my second-ever dance lesson. The class is called Social Dancing, and there is a lot more to learn than just the steps. The “Social” part of Social Dancing is a learned behavior. That means it must first be taught, and then learned by a student so willing to learn. There are two main parts to this learned and taught behavior on the dance floor. One: The gentleman leads; two: the lady follows. Everyone knows this, but from what I can tell, most people know it only verbatim. They don’t really know what it means. And neither did I.
Ironically, this is an odd thing for me to comprehend and especially to put into practice. My upbringing has inculcated me into respecting and treating both genders equally. A couple is a pair, each of whom contributes equally in a life together (… I guess). That’s a good thing to be sure, but somewhat counter to the rules on the dance floor. As if learning the steps aren’t hard enough, I have to UNlearn lessons of equality in order to take my place—and my partner—dancing. It has made for a particularly steep learning curve.
The gentleman leads on the dance floor which means the man has to know first how to dance (I’m working on that), where he is going on the floor, and finally what he wants to do with his partner. He has to observe the dance floor, he has to give the signals, guide his partner through the crowd, and he has to be confident doing so. He’s the lead.
Therefore, the lady follows on the dance floor which means, as our male instructor told us, she gets to go on vacation. More importantly, it means she needs to read the signals given to her by the gentleman, and then follow through. In other words, she is supposed to do what the man tells her to do … on the dance floor, and stop trying to lead. Now bear with me in my apparent sexism here, but dancing has always been deemed a feminine activity to me, yet I am discovering it’s the masculine part of dancing that drives it. What a twist!
One of the older fellows there—I don’t know, maybe he’s mid to late fifties or so—said that American women are the most difficult women to dance with. He further said that foreign women have no problem falling right into dancing however the man wants to dance. I am not a worldly person, and I am just a fledgling dancer, so I wouldn’t know, but that stands to reason. American women have not only gained, but are expected to have and use the independence that they have fought so hard to obtain. Maybe that’s why the show “Dancing with the Stars” is so popular. People have forgotten, or never knew in the first place, how to dance. The social rules have been knocked on their ass so hard for so long, that the concept of dancing—gentleman leads, lady follows—is now a novelty. And it compels me to ask, has the pendulum swung too far?
There are more women in college now than there are men. Several military Generals are or have been women. The U.S. Secretary of State is a woman and had a very real shot at the Presidency. Dr. Condoleezza Rice, also a woman, was U.S. Secretary of State in the previous Administration. The Director of the Utility for which I work is a woman. The Director of Human Resources is a woman—at my present place of employment, and at my previous. About half of the engineers at my previous place of employment were women; one of them is now the Manager. Two of the four City Council members in my little town are women. The lady I am seeing owns her own house and two vehicles all free and clear. She has a full time job, and keeps up with her possessions.
Nothing I mentioned in the previous paragraph is particularly alarming. In fact, it’s all good. But I remember a conversation I heard some years back in a restaurant. One man pointed out to another: “There are a lot of women driving trucks now days, especially in the oil fields.” To which the other man replied, “That’s true. One of the biggest reasons is because they usually pass the drug test. Men typically fail it.” What a deplorable scene! What was once held out as “the bread winner” can’t even begin to make the bread because of his own weakness and stupidity in what is euphemistically called substance abuse. And the fairer of the two genders is left to pick up the slack? And go to school? And bear the children? I am almost embarrassed to be a man! It’s a wonderful thing that women have obtained and use their independence in this country. But the picture is grossly tainted when men simply give up, hand it all over, go squat in a corner and pout!
I am looking forward to my next dance lesson. We are required to change partners frequently, and I do. But one of the students is a very nice lady with a killer smile, a pleasant laugh, tremendous amounts of patients, and is apparently single. Therefore, I am uniquely motivated. We are supposed to learn something called the East Coast Swing. The instructors gave us a little preview, and they looked like they were having the time of their lives. I can’t wait to try it! But I have SO much to learn; I have so much to UNlearn.