I've spent the past week trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong with the ballroom thing. Ye Ballroom Instructor is busy producing a show and the Eccentric is on vacation, so this has consisted mainly of googling variations of "TF am I missing here?" Whether this is helpful is kind of a crapshoot. Sometimes I just get a page full of eHow articles that all say the same useless thing seventeen slightly different ways.

In this case, it kind of was. I've only been to casual events so far, and they attract a mix of the usual people you find in low-impact physical activities -- young people looking for cheap entertainment, middle-aged people trying to get out of the house more, little old ladies coming to socialize with their friends, and the small but annoying contingent who pretend they're trying to pick up a new hobby while actually trying to pick up a date. But if you get into the blogs of serious social dancers, they start talking about something they just refer to as connection. It's heavily dramatized and romanticized, sometimes to a degree I find rather uncomfortable, but essentially what they're talking about is a state of shared psychological flow. They seem to think it's something magic unique to dancing, but it's not; it's a combination of physical synchronicity and high-speed subtle non-verbal communication that you can achieve in a lot of contexts. I'd be shocked if it's not a thing in team sports, I just don't do those and don't know what it's called there.

This is good news, and bad news. The bad news is that my original assessment was right, and my ability to follow is going to be very person-specific and rare. I can probably learn to lead pretty well, especially new dancers, who really just want a lot of space and to not be steered into support columns while figuring out their feet. Following, however, involves a degree of mental intimacy that you cannot force. I neither like nor trust most people anywhere near that much. It's not a problem in everyday life, since most of the interactions there take place up at the talking-about-things level, but the list of people I will be able to follow well will probably always be countable on my fingers.

The good news is that, with that short list, my problem is just that I'm still tripping over my own feet. Once I figure that out to the point where I can have a couple of drinks and not faceplant us both into the snack table, this is going to be a lot of fun. I've had my moments with both instructors, so I know it works; I just need to stop interrupting it by fucking falling over.

This also explains quite a bit about both of the pros I seem to have acquired.

When Ye Ballroom Instructor started talking to me, the impression I got was that he wanted my attention very badly. He wanted to make contact, and he was gunning for it very hard. I spent several weeks trying to figure out what this was in aid of. I never did come to a conclusion; I just decided I liked him and he could have whatever he wanted. Apparently, feeling that click is an end unto itself.

If that's what he wants out of friendships, he probably has a difficult time finding it. Wanting that click is something I stomp on very hard in myself. Most people seem to equate it with sexual attraction, or at least think it's an inevitable progression. I mean, they do go well together, but it's a separate thing. Trying to explain that tends to be met with 'the lady doth protest too much'. I can't imagine it goes all that differently for a pretty young man than for a pretty young woman.

I've been accused of being a liar (when the other person thinks I want sex and doesn't believe me when I say that isn't it), a tease (when the other person wants sex and I'm not interested), and a homewrecker (when an involved third party decides that this is emotional infidelity). I am perfectly capable of distinguishing between wanting to jump someone and wanting to play banter ping-pong with them, but nobody else seems to be, so this is one of the top entries on the master list of Things I Don't Get To Have. Or at least on the list of Things I Keep Very Firmly Under Wraps. I made a deal with myself a long time ago that I get to feel whatever I want as long as I can behave like a civilized adult. Keeps me equally well from annoying friends and acquaintances, and from mailing my panties to hot rock stars.

There was a decision point, with Ye Ballroom Instructor, where I had to choose whether I was going to try to give him what he was gunning for or not. (I could have stonewalled him. He's not a jackass; he would have eventually given up and gone away.) It was terrifying. I was having visions of trying to catch one of those rare things I suddenly wanted very badly, discovering it was a miscommunication or going to piss somebody else off, and having to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do with myself if I couldn't spend half my life at the dance studio anymore.

(No, I did not tell him any of that. It's not his problem. And no, he has no idea what that looks like to anyone else, or at least doesn't care. He is very gay and very taken and probably never thought about it. The Eccentric is aware enough that he made conspicuous mention of Mrs. Eccentric very early on, probably so I knew he wasn't creeping on me.)

One person does this, I'm quite prepared to believe he's charmingly weird. A second one starts in, and I start thinking this is somehow some kind of a thing? And apparently it is. All right. At least I'm awkward in an exciting new way now. It's difficult to go from an environment where you have to constantly defend yourself to one where people just sort of blink at you and go, "...ye-e-e-es, and...?"

I'd be very interested in finding out what made both of them focus on me in the first place. The idea of connection isn't unique or possessive, but it is personal. Etiquette posts for newbies tell them not to take it too hard if someone doesn't enjoy dancing with them; some people work together, and some don't. I'm also not sure if it's unusual for the two of them to be applying the idea outside of a dance floor. I technically met both of them in a work context (albeit work for all of us is at a theater/studio), not at a social event. Both treated me like a dance partner from the get-go, before any actual dancing was involved.


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