The Ballroom-And-Random-Other-Things Dancer has inquired whether I'd be willing to trade hoop lessons for ballroom lessons. I am trying to decide how happy I ought to be.

I believe he sincerely thought it was a good idea when it emerged from his mouth. Many things emerged from his mouth over the three-weekend run of the show. He is charmingly loquacious and there is little he is not curious about. One night I tracked him down after the show and found him on the deserted stage, being so helpful that I had to tow him off by the elbow to let the crew clean up in peace. I was also once regaled with the long-form version of the theme song to a French-language cowboy show he recalled from his youth. Those of you who hang around STEM people will be unsurprised to hear that, before he racked up all the IMDb credits, he did his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering.

Lots of wonderful people thought trading hoop lessons for ______ lessons was a great idea when they said it. I spent 2017 trying unsuccessfully to follow up on it. Any of it.

You know how people say, "Do it for yourself"? This has been my every hobby since birth. I do plenty of things for myself. I didn't cram Japanese into my head because I wanted everyone to ooh and aah. I did it because it annoyed me that there were things in Japanese out in the world, and I couldn't read them. You lot don't know 95% of the things I get up to, because I'm entertaining myself and I can't be bothered to write it all out.

Not all things are like this.

Dance is literally a performance art. You dance for someone to watch. Maybe that someone is you, in the mirror. I've gotten sick of this. Maybe that someone is the other students in your dance class. I am rubbish in classes for procedural/pedagogical reasons and avoid them like the plague. Mostly that someone is an audience, either of random people who watch dance or of other dancers who probably know what they're doing.

A few randoms have seen me with a hoop, ranging from friends to the odd five-year-old waiting for their ballet class to start. People who don't know how to dance apparently think I'm impressive. But it's easy to impress someone who doesn't have the skill you're demonstrating. Everything looks hard when you can't do it yourself.

I can probably get myself on stage if I really try. The place I work is big on community shows. Depending on which one(s) I apply to, the threshold is anywhere between 'professional quality' and 'trying reasonably hard'. One of my friends once suggested that if I wanted to perform so badly, I should just produce my own show. I hate this idea. Aside from the fact that I do not want this to be one more thing that I goddamn have to goddamn do my goddamn self because no one else can be relied upon, it's not what I want.

The point is not that I want to be in the spotlight. That's easy.  I have been informed that I have many talents, and if I keep submitting myself for consideration someone will eventually want me as an employee. The point is that I want to be a part of something. I don't want to start my own club. I want someone to want me in theirs.

I want acknowledgement from the other dancers. I want them to decide that, while I might not know their skill, I clearly have a skill, or at least I might have some sort of skill at something or another, and it might be something that makes me worth working with.

I have asked people if they want to trade brain-toys and see if we can make something together. I have been offered the trade, several times. I follow up. I offer specific times, and tell them that if none of those work they can have a look at the rest of my schedule and see if something else will. I am friendly, I am enthusiastic, I give compliments that I really mean and I tell them what makes me want to work with them.

No one has followed through. I've gotten a couple of people to agree to be my student. It's lovely being acknowledged as enough of an expert to teach others, but it's not the same thing as having someone I already think is pretty nifty at this treat me like an equal.

Eight hundred people are about to come out of the woodwork to tell me that other peoples' flakiness is not a referendum on me. Bullshit. It's not a pronouncement on my overall worth as a human, no. What it is a referendum on is how important doing things with me is to them, which is evidently 'not very'. About six hundred of those people are now about to suggest that I go do whatever it is by myself. I already do this. I am tired of it. I am tired of being by myself all the time.

You know when you were a kid, you and your friends entertained yourselves out on the playground with those clapping games? Or double Dutch jump rope rhymes? (Or maybe you didn't. Those were girls-only when and where I was a child. But you probably saw the girls do that, if you didn't do it yourself.) Ballroom dance -- and pretty much any other kind of dance you get up to with a partner or a troupe -- is just the grown-up version of that. I have a pattern to move in; you have a pattern to move in; the object is to get those patterns to interact to make a bigger one. It is one of the few things in life that is physically impossible to do by yourself, no matter how determined you are. I have spent a year trying to get someone to play with me.

I really want this to work out. The loquacious charmer announced one night that he needed to warm up and promptly swept up the nearest girl-type person to do it, which happened to be me. And it worked. That never works. I have literally no idea what my feet were doing, and can't even reconstruct it from memory, but I have high hopes that if it keeps working I'll figure it out, and possibly be able to transfer this skill to dancing with other people. But this depends on getting both of us together in the same room at the same time for more than five minutes with fewer than twenty other things we both need to be doing simultaneously. And with my luck,  that will be the point where a giant meteor hits the planet and obliterates human civilization.


  1. Sounds like you've been learning (the hard way, because I don't think you've ever in your enient life learned something the easy way) the definition of a career: the job that lies at the intersection of what you want to do and what other people are willing to pay you to do.

    My wife and I have both had trouble with that second part, as you are now. For me, it turned ambitions of research physics into a career in teaching (currently, high school).

    I wish I could tell you that you are guaranteed to find that happy intersection someday, but it really is just luck, and so I wish you the best of it.


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