‘Dance me to your beauty,” wrote the frisky poet Leonard Cohen, “with a burning violin.”
“Take ballroom dancing lessons,” said my determined little Mom, “or I’ll never cook fried chicken for you again.”
I was helpless in the face of that threat. If we are what we eat, I am chicken, a Rhode Island red, dredged in flour, fried to a golden brown and then steamed on low in a covered skillet, becoming tender, finger-licking morsels.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hold a woman in my arms, close to my body while twirling and dipping and dazzling her with my fast footwork. I did. Oh, how I did.
But I was the victim of a common teenage phobia. I was one of those boys who are afraid to ask a girl out, not because I didn’t desperately want to, but because I was certain she would say no.
I had seen myself in the mirror each morning, a scrawny, unremarkable kid. I wouldn’t dare ask a date with a teenage girl, let alone expect her to dance with me.
If you are a teen with similar doubts, rest assured you are not an automatic reject. I have known dozens of teen males braver than I who believed no girl would ever go out with them, but they finally asked.
Sometimes the girl said yes. Sometimes she said no. And when she said no, the boys didn’t sicken and die. They survived, temporarily a little bruised, but still intact and eventually successful in life and in love.
In my senior year of high school, I had a crush on a bright and charming girl. She was so popular that I dared not ask her out.
I finally did ask her to sign my senior annual on the last day of school. She wrote something, handed the annual back to me and walked out of my life. I frantically flipped through the annual, finally finding what she had written:
“I think we have something in common,” she wrote. “I don’t know what it is yet but maybe I’ll find out someday. Until I do, don’t get engaged.”
She really did seem to like me. But of course, chicken that I was, I didn’t run after her. She was probably just being nice. That was so like her.
My timid reaction was part of the reason my mother ordered ballroom dancing lessons. She and my father had met at a rural barn dance in North Dakota. The marriage clicked and for half a century they loved to hold each other tight and get physical to music.
The next thing I knew I was at a dance studio run by a husband and wife. There weren’t enough girls in the class for all the boys. To my horror, we had to dance with the wife and sometimes even with her husband.
To make matters worse, as I danced with that mature woman her belly bounced erotically against mine.
Years later, alone at mid-life, my chicken streak raised its ugly beak once again. A stunning woman in a cocktail lounge appeared to be making eyes at me across a crowded room. I tried to ignore her for days. She was too good to be true, and I thought she was too young for me. But she was older than she looked.
However, she began to think I was gay.
I was not gay, though when dancing with her I became totally cheerful.
And now, after 30 years of enjoying life and chicken together, I still don’t dance well. But in the immortal words of Leonard Cohen, “I still dance me to her beauty with a burning violin.”Bill Hall can be contacted at email@example.com or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501