A couple of years later (circa 2010) my body started to decide that it was no longer willing to be as cooperative as it had been to date. I had a lengthy battle with bronchitis (that wasn’t diagnosed as such until a couple of months in), my other knee decided that it would start filing grievances with my body on a regular basis and as such I needed to wear another knee brace, and then later my lower back did something weird in late 2011/early 2012 that has meant my deep-dipping days are mostly behind me at this point, with rare exceptions (but man, they were fun while they lasted).
A little later on, I was saving up for a trip abroad and was unsteadily employed, so the trips to the diner fell away in the name of saving money. Unfortunately, the ongoing health issues also meant that I couldn’t keep up with the hot-shot line anymore, at least not consistently. I started dancing in the other lines more regularly, and meeting new folks that way (including a few who made surprised comments that I wasn’t dancing over in the far line). A few of the folks I used to dance with in the cool hip dancer line still sought me out, but most of them stayed over in the cool hip dancer line, dancing with each other, and I didn’t get to see them unless there was a gender imbalance, I was sitting out, and they were scraping the sides of the room for partners.
I'll be blunt: at first, this really stung. The folks I had thought were my friends didn’t ask to dance with me anymore, and they no longer even asked if I wanted to go to the diner anymore. I actually considered quitting contra at that point, since a lot of the appeal had been that community and my inclusion in it.
Somewhere around this point I was having a pity party for myself (complete with tiny violin solo) and Steve metaphorically smacked me upside the head: “When was the last time you asked them for a dance?”
Took me a little bit, but as much as I hated to admit it, he was right. In waiting for them to ask me, I’d been taking on a really awful attitude, and that was really not helping anything at all. Who the heck was I to demand that they bridge the gap instead of attempting to do so myself? They certainly didn’t owe me anything and while I certainly hadn’t thought of it that way, I could see where this interpretation of my lament had some legs. After this forehead-smacking “Aha!” moment, I resolved to make more of a point of seeking them out at least some of the time, instead of waiting for them to come to me like they had before.
It’s harder to get dances with a lot of the folks who used to be my regular partners as a lot of them book way ahead these days, and I’m pretty sure I pushed some of them away when I stopped going to the diner/stopped dancing in the far-left line because of the aforementioned bodily rebellion, but the frequency of my being able to dance with those friends went up once I got over myself and went over and asked them, rather than waiting for them to ask me most of the time. (There are some that I finally wrote off asking after being deferred indefinitely several weeks in a row -- I can take a hint, and I didn’t and don’t want to be a pest -- but many I still dance with at least sometimes.)
After six years and counting of dancing, even after the health issues resolved, I have unfortunately never been able to get my 22-year-old body back. Consequently, I now frequently steer folks I used to dance with into other lines where I run into less consistently vigorous/flourishy neighbors, but when I head over to the really vigorous line, I make a point of being able to keep up -- and I try and make a point of asking the folks who usually dance there to partner me as well. I’m accepting this in the interest of being able to dance for many more years (hopefully with at least some flourishes thrown in) and remain active in the contra community.
In the meantime, I’ve expanded my circle of “regular partners” and that’s all been to the better -- just through partnering them, the not-flourishy dancers are teaching me style points among other things, too, which are actually making me a better flourisher when I dance with the flourishy folks. We nurture the connections in different ways, kind of like when you have some friends you go hiking with, and others you go see movies with.
At this point I’ve established myself enough as a dancer who doesn’t have a “usual” line anymore that I’ve stopped getting the “what are you doing over here?” questions. I’ve been able to make more friends who aren’t exclusively in that line and while it’s been ages since I’ve been out to the diner (that whole hour-plus-each-way commute to work I mentioned in another post saps a lot of the energy I regained when I got better, and I’ve come to accept that), I’ve still found other ways to maintain the feeling of fellowship and camaraderie that have made me stay part of this community.
So my story has a happy ending. But it’s also a cautionary tale -- before you complain that “the cool hip dancers” won’t dance with you, ask yourself: when was the last time you went and asked them for a dance?
(And incidentally -- if you see me at an event, please do ask me to dance, whether we’ve met before or not, whichever role you’d rather dance, as I’ll dance either one or dance switch. Chances are good that I’ll say yes to an invitation to dance, whether you’re a Cool Hip Dancer or not -- and I’ll be making a point of asking around, too.)
- Rebecca Brightly, “Why Aren’t the Cool People Talking to Me?”