The other day I had my first date in a very long time. The date proved that Einstein knows his stuff and that time, indeed, is relative: an hour is not the same in every Starbucks. It also proved that wood is not all that pliable; otherwise, I would have fallen back and out of my booth because I was pushing so hard against the back of the wooden booth, trying to get as far away as possible from the utterly kind, intelligent gentleman who tested my ability to force interest and a smile while knowing that everything he talked about could be of interest to me. So, basically, he proved to me that as much as I might want to like someone, give someone a chance, there’s no fiddling with the chemistry dials. He also enabled my older daughter to consider me shallow because that is what she called me when I used his pilling blue turtleneck as my iconic image of the date. She let it slide when she conceded that perhaps a hardcore academic is not the man for her mother.
A few weeks ago I battled my couch’s magnetic field and went out contra dancing, which is a kind of Irish square dancing that makes you very very very dizzy. This was after a friend said that she was going ballroom dancing in New York, and I just could not take another night home alone. The good thing about contra dancing is that you don’t stay with a dance partner: you have a partner and you have neighbors, and you just swing and swirl along, smiling as you go. And people ask you to dance, to dance, because that’s what we’re there for; although, some people saw me as a fatal woman.
The second man who asked me to dance was much older than I am, much shorter than I am, much rounder than I am, and more facially-haired than I am, but smile I did because that is what you do when you dance and I looked right at him because I was told to concentrate on a person’s nose or eyes so that I won’t get too dizzy. As I walked away after the dance, gasping for air and water, someone said to me in a hush that he is married. I was offended that I was judged for such non-discriminating taste, and, honestly, I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t just a dance for singles. It was also the first time since I was implicated in someone’s divorce that I was perceived as a vixen. Just goes to show there is nothing carefree.
Another man asked me to dance twice and we sat out two dances chatting. In Virginia, having New York Jewish stuff in common is not all that common, so it was a very nice chat. I am a mature woman, which, in my case, is synonymous with being naïve. Yes, I had a nice conversation with a man; yes, I told him that he could contact me; but I did that because I thought we could be friends, I had no desire to sign my dance card over to him. Call me delusional. He emailed me the next day (my email was on the list of people who had signed up for the dance and he was the organizer) to say that he is dating someone and wants to see how it goes with her. Now, besides the fact that I prefer to say no and not be said no to, I was in no way attracted to this man and his assumption, which makes sense, I admit, bothers me. Can’t I make new friends? This might reflect more on him and his attraction to me than on me, but still, I was left feeling disregarded.
It might be that since I have excluded myself from the dating scene, I have forgotten what it feels like to be thought of as anything other than a friend, teacher, mother, daughter. My contacts with people have been restricted to roles that I do well in (don’t ask my daughters or my mother, for that matter) and in which I find comfort. Comfort zone indeed.
So when I go contra dancing again tonight at different venue, am I to smile or not?
I went, I danced one, two, three dances, and I got too too too dizzy to ever contra again. Now I know for sure that I could never have been an astronaut if being twirled around a dance floor is more than my equilibrium can take.
There was no drama, except my fear of spiraling down in a faint onto the prized dance floor. Oh, a man much younger than me, much cuter than me, and more facially haired than me, did ask me to dance, and I said yes, smiling the whole way (dizziness be dam*ed). It is an odd feeling, being smiled at while dancing, because it really does mean nothing, it is one of the moves. But he was so attractive and friendly that I let my mind play its “Oh, he likes me” soundtrack for the moments of the dance. And I did see, briefly, the allure of being a cougar. (It is not about the man, but about how glorious it feels to feel young again because for those moments together you can keep to your no-mirror-nearby illusion that you are still young and vibrant, and the world holds more possibilities than disappointments.)
My two evenings and one afternoon of possibilities came to naught. Well, not exactly nothing because I feel that I am truly okay if I dance (this is metaphorical now) and okay if I don’t. I could be in someone’s arms as we sway from side to side barely dipping, or I could turn off the lights when I am home alone and dance to my sense of abandon. Or I could do both, at different times or not.
Maybe I also understand the attraction of a cougar. It’s not about a mommy figure or how beautiful mature women are; no, it is about a woman who is in control of herself, even when she's in a tizzy (literal and figurative), and knows that that’s pretty darn impressive—alluring even.