Guest Column: She Dances on the Edge 

Source. Pexels.

by Jennifer Miller

I have done a lot of crazy things in my life trying to “find myself.”  I mean now I understand this is an ongoing process it’s not like one day you show up at 11:30 in the morning on a Wednesday and you’re done.  The angst of being a teenager turned into a deeper search mostly when my kids were out of diapers (before then I too exhausted to think about anything besides fantasizing about a nap). Once they were old enough to have their own lives, I began to think more about my own.  I recommend this otherwise you may wake up when they’ve moved out and discover you have no idea who you are anymore besides being a mom.

If I may digress for a minute… I’ve seen both types of moms–the martyr, self-sacrificing mother who lives through her children (my ex-mother-in-law) and the career woman who was fed more from her work than her kids (my mother) and I did my best to land somewhere in the middle. But it’s impossible to find the right mother formula especially when you have a husband who doesn’t mind the second income, but also lets you know just how selfish you are. Looking back, I wonder if I could have been satisfied staying home and baking cookies all day…it certainly would have been less demanding/stressful than juggling kids, a career, plus a second job at night.

After the intensity of child-rearing was over, I realized I was bored (and exhausted). My then husband had grown fat and complacent, and I wanted so much more. My mother’s early death blew everything apart and for the first, and last time, of my life I had an affair. This was not acting out; this was both quiet desperation and trying to find life again after such a devastating loss.

It’s hard for me to know what that relationship really was besides a dalliance with a hot-blooded young Russian, but it was more than just a distraction.  He had lived in our house as a refugee, and we had given him work.  It was also a pivotal time in his life if the government would renew his visa or he would have to return home. Being privileged it was a world I couldn’t possibly understand how the government had him by the balls. His Visa wasn’t extended so, despite wanting to stay, he had to leave.

My family was invited to visit, but I was the only one who went to Russia. I naively thought I was going to meet my Russian lover, but quickly realizing it was a family visit. He had told me to pack light which, of course, I didn’t listen to. It was one of the grand adventures of my life (and I wanted to look right…lol) discovering a whole new world on the other side of the planet.  After getting over the idea that my Russian lover was going to sneak into my bedroom and make mad passionate love to me, I found myself less preoccupied and more awake to what was going on around me.

It’s funny what you remember… not so much where my Russian lover lived, but more sitting in the back yard holding his grandmother’s hand (it was the only way we could communicate). I recall a pack of boys playing in the alley (clearly there was no such thing as zoning since they worked in a car wash across the alley) when they weren’t busy working and smoking (these kids were YOUNG) they were playing soccer only problem was there was no ball. When I went shopping, I changed that little problem and bought them a soccer ball. None of them spoke English, but we got by pantomiming things like an airplane.  They were curious about my life in American, but there was no way to really tell them how different it was.

When I returned home, I wasn’t the same. My ex and I tried unsuccessful to open the marriage. It was then I started my crazy tantric phase flying to see a tantric healer in Arizona, attending a workshop called “dearmoring” to break up body armor (external and INTERNAL body work) to release sexual trauma and Quodoushka (Sweet Medicine Sundance Path of Turtle Island–“discover our true sensual selves through understanding our unique sexual anatomy type and discover the sweet medicine of sex”). All this exploration changed me, and all this exploration did not change me.

It’s sort like online dating you must open to possibilities, and you also must have your bullshit meter on its highest setting. Sexual energy is our most powerful form of life force, and, like money/power, it can be highly corrupted.  Was this all some advanced, cutting-edge healing or was this a lot of hocus-pocus (and some serious ass cultural appropriation)?   Both.

By the time the Interfusion Festival rolled around I had my expectations set low. I wasn’t going to fall in love, nor was I expecting some radical transformation, all I wanted to do was dance. Dancing was a way of (potentially) connecting deeply without the pretension. I was staying in the room with my dance teacher (who had given me one private lesson, but never responded to my request for a second lesson) so was curious how that was going to work.

Tactfully, I was able to ask him about it and he explained it had all been a big misunderstanding.  Really!?  But as the weekend progressed, I learned he was one of those “nice guys” who tell you what you want to hear (he would give me “free private dance lessons”), but he was also the same guy who didn’t dance with me the entire weekend. He was WAY too popular to add me to his dance card but would confide in me how difficult it was all these women texting him demanding to dance with him (poor baby!).

I know my confidence shouldn’t have anything to do with him, but after my first dance lesson and then his not responding, my confidence was in the toilet (when people don’t tell me what is going on I make shit up).  This had to change, but the problem was I started noticing people wouldn’t even look at me and I’m talking about in the hallways, not just on the dance floor. The negative talk and isolation get hard to ward off.

I decided to take a class about ‘vulnerability in partnered dance’ and decided to mention my experience after listening to people complain about the difficulty of saying “no” when someone asked them to dance.   On and on they went.

“I WISH I had that problem,” I finally chimed in, annoyed. I aspired to be a dancing whore (and no I didn’t wait to be asked, because that never happened). I asked. The dances ran the gamut from “no” to sublime to awful, but still I asked. I didn’t discriminate. I didn’t only ask the “good” dancer who, of course, were always dancing with the hot chicks (including the men my age). I mean they were paying for their “good time” so why shouldn’t they be able to do what they wanted?!  This, of course, results in my “bad energy” which ultimately made it my fault that I wasn’t being asked.

I decided after the workshop to post a response about my being (mostly) invisible.   I wrote, “I’m not sure exactly how to do this.  My intention is something like a gentle reminder or for those of you who like it a bit rough (lol) a polite slap in the face.”  And the responses I got were as varied as the dances.  Not surprisingly, I got a fair number of replies about “MY” energy, including from a woman who had been in the vulnerability workshop.

This is where it got interesting.  Instead of taking in her “non-judgement” about MY energy (after meeting me for an hour making her an expert about MY energy), I realized that I get to choose whose opinion or point of view matters to me.  And, more importantly, if we focus on my energy (and how it was bad and prevented people from WANTING to dance with me) this completely side-stepped the real issue of AGEISM.   It seems to be the last “IMS” that we REFUSE to talk about.  Yes, I reassured them aging IS contagious.

The black/gay reader totally understood where I was coming from because no one wants to “exchange” energy with him either, but the young hot chicks basically told me it was all in my head and if my energy was better, I would have had a totally different experience.  This, of course, shut off any REAL conversation about inclusion which, of course, the Interfusion Festival is all about.  The problem I understand the reality of these “groovy” events.  There is just as much bullshit as sweat smelling up the dance studio.

I realize their reaction is only part of the equation and that I have my own internal- ageism.  I mean old isn’t sexy, and I know it.  But I at least wanted them to know that THEIR energy also affected me and it’s hard to be always on the sideline asking for a dance while maintaining my “positive” vibe!  I would wear my cheerleaders costume, but eventually end up back in the hotel room in my PJ’s… while Mr. Popular was out dancing the night away.  And just to make sure there was absolutely NO misunderstanding on my part one night be brought back a “cuddle buddy” to share his bed, not that he’s in any way responsible for my feeling alone and isolated.  But that self-absorption of youth will prevail!

It’s a real dilemma if I should put myself into that sort of environment again or just give up the dance which I truly love. It’s a high price to pay.  I did have a few sexy dances that at least tipped the scales in the right direction. I was floored when some guy in a workshop asked me to come find him later at the dance social.  I was so shocked I wanted to demand “who paid you?!”   We did dance later, but I was so concerned about screwing up the dance that I did just that. It’s in-explainable why I was terrible with some lead and others I was hot! I couldn’t look at them and tell, I just had to put myself out there and see what happened.  Occasionally there was magic and that keeps me coming back…for now.

That connection is sort of like online dating chemistry it is mysterious and illusive.  And speaking of dating, I’m getting ready for Italy and plan to see how/if Italian men are any different. But first I need to get myself to New York then on the plane to Rome.

Arrivederci!

Next stop Roma!