I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
– Janis Ian lyrics from “At Seventeen”
When I was in high school, I thought the song ‘At Seventeen’ was written for me.
Recently, I signed up for a salsa class at . Seemed like a fun class, and the course description insisted that you could sign up even if you weren’t part of a couple.
I showed up to class the first day a few minutes early, signed my name on a sheet and waited, sitting on a hard plastic chair inside a gymnasium where the instructor was setting up the music equipment.
My stomach tossed and turned, nervous that I’d never taken a salsa class before — what was I thinking?
Couples started arriving, smiling at me, the lone loner. Couple after couple checked in.
Oh dear Lord, I thought to myself. Am I the only single in San Ramon taking this class?
I felt suddenly transported back to the darkness of my high school gym, where I also sat by myself, too ugly to be chosen as a dance partner, tears trembling down my cheeks.
I had a long, long nose in high school that I’ve since had “corrected,” though I never did shake the ugly duckling feeling.
Fortunately, inside the Dougherty gymnasium, more and more people signed in, ready to start the beginning class.
Thankfully, the teacher separated us into a circle with men on one side, women on the other. He taught us basic, dancing-for-dodos steps, which I struggled to follow. One-two-three, one-two-three, “wiggle those hips.”
Almost everyone was a lousy as I was. That was the best part. Pressure was off. I could do this … sort of.
Then, the moment of truth. He asked us to “pick our partners.”
I froze. Here we go again, I thought to myself. Why am I putting myself through this torture? Will I never learn?
To my surprise I was chosen. Relief. We danced to the Latin music until the teacher stopped the music, demonstrated how to do the next step and let us rotate to the partner next to us.
Where was this teacher when I needed him in high school? If only school dances operated on the rotation system, life would be almost fair.
I love this class. It’s impossible not to smile when you’re dancing.
I'm not a good dancer yet, but I can dance without looking down at my feet. I can do a side step, a cross step, I can spin.
And for an hour a week every Friday night, I am doing something other than worrying about the aloneness of being a single mom.
When I missed a step tonight, I said, "I'm sorry" to my partner.
"Don't be sorry," he said.
I think that's how we all should cope with our singleness. Don't waste time sulking in sorry. Get out there and dance.