It’s been years since my dancing days. Not that I was ever that good. In high school and college, going to dances was a social avenue to interact with girls. It was a daring mixture of trepidation and assurance all at once. The fear of rejection mingled with the safety in knowing that a song usually wouldn’t last more than three and a half minutes. She could tell me to bug off, and snicker with her friends while I slunked back to the shadows along the wall. Or she could accept the offer, and in a few seconds I’d realize that three and half minutes is really two hundred and ten seconds that click off one-long-dreadful-minute-gagging-in-her-cloud-of-hairspray-at-a-time.
I didn’t really posses any moves, but I had the fearless perseverance to keep getting back in the ring. Whether a girl would cast me aside, or one would engulf my hands in her enormous paws, I would come back for a new whirl with a different partner. Because dancing was a way to meet girls, and kind of figure out who I would eventually dance through life with.
Except back then, I was trying desperately to be cool. It was hard to know who I was looking for, because I had no idea who I was. It is hard to find someone else to be comfortable around when you aren’t even adjusted to yourself; who you are and who you’re becoming. And that is the beautiful cursed blessing of our youth.
There was one girl who really wanted to dance with me. Just once. It was our high school honors banquet. She already knew who I was, and she was completely comfortable with me.
She had known me all my life.
It was my mom.
And oh how Mom loved to dance! She was a teacher by day, but had the heart of a ballerina and a soul full of grace. Mom had toured with other actors and actresses who later went on to distinguished careers in Hollywood and on Broadway. But she set that passion aside to raise her 5 kids. A single mother, after Dad had passed at 42. And all she wanted was one last dance with me.
But I was too cool. Or trying to be. What teenage boy wants to dance with his mom in front of all his peers? The guys would have laughed me off the floor. And the girls would have thought I was such a dork. Or a momma’s boy. (I know that isn’t true anymore).
She asked me three times, and received the same reply.
Heartbroken, she left the dance, essentially leaving me to get a ride home (since I wasn’t yet driving).
I felt like a heel, but it would have taken too much of me to swallow my teen pride and dance with her. It would have taken the ability to see beyond my own insecurities. It would have taken a maturity I didn’t yet possess.
Then she was taken away by cancer a few years later.
I never got that dance.
I’m a dad now, with a teen daughter the same age I was when I passed up that dance. I know my daughter loves me deeply, but there are time when she has no desire to be around her “old” dad. I get it. It isn’t personal. It’s that twisted teenage identity stage that we all must navigate through. And I’m sure my mom felt the same way, knowing it wasn’t personal. I’m comfortable with who I am now. And I’m comfortable with who my daughter is, and who she is becoming. And that is cool enough for me.
But oh what I’d give to dance with her just one more time.