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Care for a bite?

Athough I have been in a dating no man’s land lately,  I have to confess that I haven’t been quite celibate.  I did unexpectedly stumble upon a tiny oasis in the non-dating desert one night this past summer.  It happened at a local salsa club here in Montreal.  I really didn’t feel like going, but a friend had asked me to teach him salsa in preparation for an upcoming wedding.

So thanks to him, I picked up my shoes, plucked up my courage, and headed for the club. It was crowded for a Monday night, but since it was early we caught a beginner group lesson.  Many dance clubs offer lessons at the beginning of the night, and it’s a good way to meet people and scope out potential dance partners for later in the evening.

What usually happens is this: a practice session is set up so that the men on the outside of the circle rotate every few patterns or sequences. The women are on the inside of the circle. It’s a good system because you’re able to dance with a lot of different people.

That evening, during a break, I noticed a young man staring at me.  We exchanged smiles and a slight greeting. Later, we danced a couple of times during the rotation.

After the group lesson, and few solo dances with my friend, I was ready to leave.  I was packing up my shoes when this young man approached me and struck up a conversation.  He was so natural about it and so at ease that after a few minutes I’d almost forgotten we had just met.  He was open and enthusiastic, and there was this sweetness about him.

Men in this younger age group don’t carry a lot of baggage.  Life hasn’t yet taught them to be cautious and calculating the way it does some of the men (and women) of my generation.  The course of the conversation with this young man was so refreshingly different that I couldn’t make up my mind if wanted to kiss him or pat him on the head.

We talked about travel, career and life in general.  His question about my three life goals caught me off guard.  I hadn’t thought about that since – well since I was his age really.  His short list was action oriented whereas mine was more philosophical.  He wanted to take time off to travel, start his own business and learn as much as he could about life.

My short list included dwelling in tranquility, having more time, spending it  wisely, and not squandering any opportunities along the way.   I’m not quite sure that he “got it” because when you’re young you always think you have more time.

Later, he offered to drive me home and I accepted.  As he pulled up in front of my building, he asked if I would like to go for a walk.  It was a balmy night, and the stars were out. I thought it would be a shame to waste such a night especially when it was one of the few nice nights we’d had all summer.  And so I accepted, but I had to do a few things first like change, use the bathroom and pick up some bottled water.

My building is like Fort Knox, with security cameras everywhere and a vigilant doorman.  So I felt comfortable inviting him up to wait for me while I did what I had to do. Max, my doorman, gave me a little smile as my guest signed in.  I returned his smile with an “It’s not what you think” look.

Except that wasn’t quite true, and I wondered if that look was meant more to convince me than Max.   I had never done anything quite like this before.  The good angel on my right shoulder whispered “Lead us not into temptation” while the fallen angel on my left shoulder shouted ”Yield to temptation! It may not pass your way again.”*

We never did go for a walk that night.  We ended up drinking iced tea on my balcony and wishing on all the stars we saw. I felt like I was back in high school.

Finally he leaned over and whispered, “I wish I could kiss you”

“You’re in luck,” I said, “because granting wishes is my specialty.”

All kinds of wishes came true that night.  He had wanted experience and got it.  As for me, it was a night well spent with someone I didn’t know from Adam.

*Robert A. Heinlein

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/oliverwolfson

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Ideal 017Dancing for me has been a real lifesaver lately.  It’s always been the perfect prescription for a broken heart.  Last year, Salsa could have saved me from feeling sorry for myself  and embarking on a long-term relationship with Ben and Jerry. But it didn’t;  it wasn’t enough to get me through my most  recent  relationship derailment.  Salsa is such a joyful dance but I was too sad to even attempt it.

When it comes to dwelling in sadness, Tango is just the thing.  The music, the lyrics, the longing: it was exactly what I needed.  During my week in BsAs, the sad strains of tango pulled me back from a trail of tears. I channeled all of my regrets and melancholy on to the dance floor.

My friends like to tease me about my passion for dancing. Like everything else in my life (including my love life) it’s an all-or-nothing deal.  “Soon,” they say, “we’ll be seeing you on Dancing with the Stars.”  Ha! If they only knew…

I am not a natural dancer.  I come by lots of other things naturally (languages, diplomacy and falling for the wrong men), but when God was giving out grace and coordination I must have been the last in line.  Whatever little talent dust was leftover in the cosmic gift bag and was sprinkled on me never made it past my neck.

So I have to work for every step.  And work I do.  When it comes to mastering a skill that is just slightly beyond me, the one thing that saves me is my stubbornness.  It’s an “I’ll Show You” attitude that allows me to shrug at my missteps, laugh at myself and try again and again and again.

Take, for example, my morning technique classes.  I practiced walking for five days.  How hard could it be, right?  You would think walking is an easy thing since we do it every day.  But let me tell you, it is not.  Walking in Tango requires deliberation, precision and balance, and I was as wobbly as a newborn colt.  After my first class I felt a bit dejected at not being able to master such a simple task.

Later that day, my first Tango dance lesson was only slightly better.  Since I was in Latin America, I was doing my best to channel that superstar of song, that mistress of movement, that diva of dance Shakira, but to no avail.  She’s right,  “hips don’t lie,” and mine were a dead give away.  Trying to master the contradictory movements of keeping your upper torso still while moving only your hips is nothing short of impossible – at least for me.

I was dreading my first milonga that evening at Nino Bien.  But since I had nowhere to go but up, I surprised both myself and my practice partners on the dance floor.  Every day the steps got a little easier as I became more confident.  By the end of the week and my last  Milonga at Confiteria Ideal (photo), I was dancing steps I never thought possible: the elegant walz, the fast paced milonga and, yes, even a little salsa.

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