How did a shy fifty-something grandmother with no rhythm end up in a small dance studio with her thigh between a man’s legs trying to learn the cha-cha?

So, I was going to take ballroom dance lessons and I didn’t even have to find a partner—my teacher would be my partner and the first three lessons were free.  Excellent.  Well.

In the first lesson, my dance teacher said
Ms. Moreland, you move really well.
Ms. Moreland, you must have done this before.
Ms. Moreland, who taught you to dance?

And I said
Oh, no, I am such klutz—you have no idea!  I trip on my own feet. (I have to confess I may have giggled here).
Oh, no, really, I don’t know how to dance at all, really (imagine averted eyes and red cheeks—unfortunately, the cheek color was the result of a hot flash).
Oh, well, I did dance with my dad when I was a little girl, and he is a very good dancer. (When I was a little girl?  That was almost half a century ago for God’s sake!).

Three weeks and three lessons later, I was signing up for six more lessons.  He wanted me to buy twelve, but I refused.  My mama taught me to take things slowly.

Six weeks later, I bought twelve more lessons and started coming twice a week.

Within six months, I was buying dance lessons and chiropractic adjustments fifteen at a time.  I was learning, cha-cha, rumba, salsa, waltz, foxtrot, and tango.

Just the names of the Latin dances—cha-cha, rumba, salsa—made me nervous.  They sounded like everything I had never been—sexy, sassy, flirty,and full of rhythm.  Rhythm.  When I was in elementary school, our music teacher asked us to listen to a beat and repeat it.  I had no idea what she was talking about.

My dance teacher not only wanted me to hear the beat, he also wanted me to do certain steps in time with the music.  Right.  Not only that, he kept telling me to stand up straight when I did it!  And hold my head up.  And, to move my hips in a way that my mother told me never to move my hips.  Never.  After all, I’m a good southern girl.

On the other hand, the smooth dances—waltz, foxtrot, tango, seemed safe.  There was no seductive, inappropriate hip moving, no sultry music. These were the songs my dad and I had danced to when I was little.  I was on familiar ground.

Until we moved into “The Hold.”  Suddenly, I was body to body with a man I barely knew—this was not how I remembered dancing with my dad.  Oh dear.  What would my mother say?

Then we actually started dancing and, next thing I knew, my thigh was between his legs.  Oh dear.  Then his thigh was between my legs.  I’m sure my face was red again, but this time there was no hot flash.

I was dancing and about to throw up, and my teacher was telling me to stand up straight and hold my head up.  I raised my head, but all I could think as I tried to keep my legs to myself was “Did I sign a contract?”

I was delighted and terrified, thrilled and disturbed.  I was doing something I’d always dreamed of doing.  I was dancing.  I couldn’t wait for my next lesson, and then, half the time, I couldn’t wait to leave my lesson once it started because I couldn’t seem to do anything right (my teacher keeps saying that’s the point of taking lessons, but it’s another thing I can’t seem to understand).

After about a year, everything in my life began to shift.  Before I knew it, I was no longer a grandmother who danced, I was a dance student who happened to be a grandmother.   Have I mentioned that I have a little trouble with doing things in moderation?  Yeah, well.

And, I can’t tell you how many times I have quit—most of them in my head.  I imagine it—frequently.  I even say it out loud as I stride, proud and stiff-legged, out of the ballroom.  I have also said it to my teacher, and he always says, “okay, if that’s what you think you should do.”  Clever, huh?

And, I always go back.

For the first time in my life, I’ve found something that I can’t quit even when I hate it, even when it makes me cry, even when my knees hurt and my neck is so stiff I can’t turn my head (Tango, in case you’re wondering), even when I’m scared I’ll never get it, even when I think I must be crazy to be doing this.  At my age.

But enough about me, what did you like to do when you were little? Maybe there’s not a ballroom dancer hiding inside you, but there might be a poet or an actor, a singer or a painter, a teacher or an architect.  It’s your life—why are you just sitting there?