76: Advice Worth Trying

76: Advice Worth Trying

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Advice Worth Trying

Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.

~F. Scott Fitzgerald

My palms sweated, and my hands shook. Whose idea was it to be here, anyway? Well, in truth, it was my mom’s. “Take ballroom dancing lessons,” she had said.

So here I was, standing outside the door of Studio Two. All I had to do was walk through the door. It sounded easy, but it wasn’t. I knew I would be walking into a room filled with experienced dancers, graceful, controlled people who had been practicing a long time. Many had won contests. I didn’t even know the names of the dance steps.

I was sure they were appropriately dressed. I had no idea what someone wore to dance lessons. Sweats and a T-shirt, or a fancy dress with stiletto heels? Heck, I didn’t know. So, I compromised. I wore a dress and medium heels. It was a fun dress, kind of swishy when I moved, and it matched my shoes. It would look fantastic while I danced. After thinking about it, I wasn’t sure the dress was right for practicing. I wondered if I should have worn the sweats.

I didn’t have to go through the door. I could have turned around and gone home, back to my empty apartment and all the memories it held. I could have sat on the sofa where we cuddled, watched TV, and talked about our future. I could have gone into the kitchen where we practiced making gourmet meals, and fixed late night peanut butter and cracker snacks. I could have climb into the bed where we made love, and where I’d awoken each morning with the haunting memory of his final goodbye. No, I couldn’t go back where all those memories waited for me. I couldn’t go back without making an effort to go forward, since it was, as Mom sternly told me, time to move forward with my life. I opened the door and walked inside the studio.

I immediately saw what one should wear to dance lessons and what I had on wasn’t it. I looked at all the curious faces staring back at me. Jeans, shorts, casual dresses and leotards were what people wore to dance classes. I couldn’t have made myself stand out more had I planned it. Okay, people, I made a mistake, but you don’t have to gawk, I thought to myself.

“Hold your head up and smile.” Mom always said. “That will get you through anything.” I began to doubt her wisdom. I was definitely not feeling the love in the room. I knew what they were thinking. “What is she doing here? She has two left feet. She’ll never learn to dance. She doesn’t even know how to dress for dance class.”

“Are you here for lessons?” a tall, willowy lady asked as she came toward me in a pink leotard with a filmy skirt over it. A faint scent of lilacs tickled my nose. She seemed like a nice lady. She might save me.

“Yes, um, yes, I’m here for lessons.” My hands shook again and my feet acted like they could leave any minute and take me with them.

I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of look I was getting from the pink lady, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t approval. “Come with me,” she said. I could tell from the way she said it, she wasn’t happy I came to her class for lessons. She was probably thinking how little I looked like a dancer. I followed her past several couples standing on the dance floor and ended up on the other side of the room, where folding metal chairs lined the wall.

“We have three other new students this evening. You can join them and watch as some of our more experienced dancers demonstrate a few steps.” Pink lady abandoned me to return to the dance floor… so much for help from the nice lady.

A couple of guys and another woman occupied chairs and, as they had made the sweats choice, I figured they were inwardly laughing at my stupidity. Maybe not, but I was pretty sure they were. It didn’t matter. I’d made the commitment. I came to learn to dance so I was going to dance. I sat and looked at the couples on the floor, pointedly ignoring the other newbies.

The lady in pink turned on a waltz. Sensuous music filled every corner of the room. We watched for a short time as the dancers effortlessly glided around the floor. It was beautiful to watch. I began to think my mom might have been on to something after all.

Unexpectedly the lady in pink motioned for those of us sitting to join the other dancers. I didn’t move. One of the men and the other lady got up and eased out on the floor. That left two of us, and we both knew what that meant. I figured he was really embarrassed to be stuck with the only female in the room dressed for church instead of dance. Too bad, my friend, you’ll get over it, I thought, still not moving. I looked at the other couple as they took their place with the experienced dancers.

“Come. We must practice, practice, and practice. That’s the only way you will learn,” insisted the lady in pink. She was hovering over us, motioning for the two of us to get up and come to the dance floor.

My attention was drawn back to the lone male. He had moved to stand in front of me, hand extended, a smile on his face.

“I think that means we’re up. We can’t get out of this,” he said.

I smiled back and took his hand. It was firm, yet gentle. He let go as I stood, and placed his now free hand on my back as he guided me to the dance floor. I liked the comforting feel.

Nerves took over and my feet wouldn’t move. He put a hand around my waist and extended the other, taking one of mine in his. We posed in the same position as we had seen the others doing. The music faintly began and built to a strong beat. He took a step forward. I was forced to follow his lead. Another, and then another and… we were dancing! I was elated. He looked into my eyes and, with a twinkle in his, said, “This is so easy I could do this for the rest of my life.”

Yes, Mom gave me great advice. That dance was the beginning of a beautiful marriage. Two children later, my husband and I still attend dance classes every Thursday evening.

~Rita Durrett

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