Monday, June 21, 2010

It Takes Two

Dancing is a wonderful training for girls, it's the first way you learn to guess what a man is going to do before he does it. - Christopher Morley
Anyone who has read Jane Austen probably remembers the Netherfield Ball when Elizabeth Bennet dances first with Mr Collins and then Mr Darcy.

“Mr Collins, awkard and solemn, apologizing instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. Her moment of release from him was ecstasy.”

With Mr Darcy, on the other hand, their dance begins even before they step onto the dance floor when he, -

“took her so much by surprise in his application for her hand that without knowing what she did she accepted him.”

Austen makes no mention about how he dances, which, in Austen speak means he’s an excellent dancer. Instead she focuses on how they communicate. Elizabeth’s good natured teasing brings him out of himself. Darcy leads Elizabeth one way, she reciprocates in another.

How a man and woman dance together, Austen implies, says a lot about what kind of couple they’d make.

With this way in the back of my mind, I went to a beginning tango class last Friday. Note to self: if I really want to learn to dance the tango, best not to dance with other beginners.

This being a small class, I had the choice between two dance partners. The first was a guy with such large feet that I found myself continually thinking, must steer clear of clown feet, must steer clear of clown feet, must steer clear of clown feet. Didn’t help. Kept getting stepped on anyway. Until the teacher came over to explain the obvious—because of our pretty marked height difference I had to compensate by taking longer strides.

Second partner, height was not the issue, his being only an inch or two taller than I am in heels. All the same, the dance did not go well.

“I want to do more turns,” he said, “but you have to loosen up more.”

“But, I can’t tell where you’re leading me.”

He responded by squeezing my right hand while his other hand remained as limp as ever at my side.

Well, he’s trying, I thought. Give him the benefit of the doubt.

But while we were pouring ourselves some wine another student had brought, he said, smiling, “That ought to loosen you up.”

Uh - huh,” I said, thinking, Excuse me, but I’m really starting to think you’re a dumbass. Then again, this was my first official tango class. What do I know about tango?

Then, dancing with a new partner, a latecomer, I made the mistake of telling him this was my first ever real tango class. “Okay,” he said, taking a teacherly tone, and suddenly I felt my every step being closely evaluated. “Okay,” he said again after a while, “First, you have to loosen up.”

Again with the loosening up?!! I thought. But was it really me? Or was it because I couldn’t tell where he was leading me either. From the few other times I’d danced with more experienced tango partners, I never had to guess where they wanted the dance to go. They led. I responded. It was fun.

But this...was so not fun.

But this also being my first official tango class, I just agreed with him. What if I had it wrong? What if the woman was supposed to lead as much as the man?

At least I tried to tell myself this. But my gut refused to believe—I was the one going backwards, after all. I couldn’t even see where we were going. The man had to take a stronger lead.

Dancing with partner number two again, and again finding myself playing guesswork against his indecisive lead, I told him about dancing the tango in Union Square not too long ago with some old timers who kept a firm grip on both my hand and my waist so that I always knew exactly where they were leading me. And of dancing, once, with a swing instructor. I didn’t even know the steps, but because he was such a strong lead, I found it easy to follow him just the same. But with his way of leading, using only one hand to direct my movements, I couldn’t help but feel uncertain about where to go. Straight backwads? Backwards left? Backwards right? What did he mean? It was really hard for me to tell.

He took it better than I thought he would. “I did not know that,” he said. “I’m glad to have learned something new.”

And, I was tempted to say, you were wrong for putting the blame entirely on me. Dumbass. But I didn’t.

Talking with partner number one during a break, I mentioned my little Austen theory, how you can usually tell what kind of partner a man will make by the way he dances with you.—(Like dance partner number two, I thought, but did not say, would be a total blamer. Anytime anything went wrong in the relationship, his first impulse would be to blame the woman. Probably an only son. And partner number one, a sweet enough guy, but...twleve or more steps to turn me around? Oh, so clueless I’d be tempted to send him to a professional for lessons. Also, needless to say, the weak lead thing...not at all appealing.)—And, only half joking, I said that every couple even thinking of getting more serious should be forced to take a tango class together first.

“Oh!” he said, “I don’t know about that. I know this one couple who never danced together at all. They even cut the first dance out when they got married.”


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Beauty of a Woman

From women's eyes this doctrine I derive:
They are the ground, the books, the academes,
From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire.
(Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost)

FWI: this post contains images of partial nudity.

Went to Dr. Sketchy's this week at 111 Minna. Artists gather there once a month to sketch all night and hopefully sell some work...

In the adjoining room, more artists gather to sketch burlesque performers. This time the models were the striptease duo, Fishnet Follies...

Truly Beautiful Women

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears,
the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes,
because that is the doorway to her heart, the place
where love resides.
(Audrey Hepburn)

Course, always wearing really gorgeous underwear---even if you're just running errands or playing in the park---doesn't hurt either! That way you're always ready to do a spur of the moment striptease! Hey, why not?

(Viola! Photoshop painting from a 20 minute sketch.)

From women's eyes this doctrine I derive.
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
They show, contain, and nourish all the world.
(Love's Labor's Lost)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blah, blah, blah...

A low self-love in the parent desires that his child should repeat his character and fortune.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
Dr. Seuss

There is, I used to think, the me that I like best, the me who only comes through when I'm in a good mood, when I feel cute, when I've had enough sleep or enough to eat, when I feel a sense of all is well in the world and in myself. The me who can go to a party where she doesn't know a single soul and, because I am being the me I like best, others gravitate towards. She is sweet, funny and light hearted. She likes herself and she, you sense, likes you too just the way you are.

The flip side of this is the other me. The me I don't like so much because I haven't slept in two days, because my hair has decided to do its own thing, because I feel disappointed or worried or scared. This me tends to hide behind her sketchbook or her shyer, quieter facade because she is afraid you will judge or hurt her. This me must be coaxed out of her shell as if she were a wild animal. She longs to join the party but because she doesn't like herself, you instinctively worry she may not like you either.

It is an exhausting, sometimes maddening, push me pull you path between these two extreme me's. Because being the best version of me is always on condition of something else being this way or that. And so I waste a lot of energy trying to ensure that the conditions I encounter are supportive of the me I like best.

But, maybe because I've made myself suffer enough, maybe because the time was ripe, maybe because I sense deep down that the only way forward is to get off this roundabout path, it's dawned on me recently that the me I like best is not the me who appears only when conditions are favorable. That this me is simply me. The real me.

So...I visited my father a few days ago, not because I wanted to but because I was doing a favor for my brother which meant going to my dad's place to get a few items out of my brother's room---which is usually locked because my dad, using a logic all his own, likes to throw his children's possessions away when they aren't looking.

And when my dad, after finding I had locked the room behind me, began to scream about some guest he was having over, one of his coworkers who needed a place to stay for a few nights, so I had better fucking open that door or else---I naturally didn't believe him. Instead I pointed out that he was showing this (fictional, I thought) coworker more consideration than he was showing me, his own child. And he basically said, well you fucking deserve to be spoken to this way, you...

I tried to cut him short with a, "Don't talk to me like that!" Slam! But he followed me out the door continuing to say fuck you and other nice things until I drove out of sight.

I'm not laying blame here. I've long since forgiven my father for, well, being who he is. And I drove away more amused than anything else. Oh, asshole dad! There you go again! What I'm saying is that he, in large part, is how I learned to view myself in this either or way. If I am nice enough, if I do this or that, if this or that happens, then I am my number one fan and like to assume that everyone else wants to join the club. If I don't, if I can't, if conditions are not right then da fences go up again.

When I told this latest dad incident to life long friend, Lita, she said my response should have been, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Dad. That's all I hear when you talk to me that way."

"Ooo, wish I'd thought of that!" I said. "Next time."

Yeah! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, asshole dad.

And if I should find myself fretting because I have fallen back into the either or habit, I will tell myself, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Cheryl. That's all it is. Because you are love. You are lovable. You love.

I am love.
I am lovable.
I love.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lord, let me live until I die

Lord, let me live until I die. - Will Rogers

The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain. -Lord Byron

I hope life isn't a big joke, because I don't get it. ~ Jack Handey

I've been wanting to start a post off with quotes. For the heck of it. Speaking of which, not that I planned it this way, but I did a number of things this past week just for the heck of it. Like rappelling 163 ft down a cavern (with interesting/v. nice Christmas tree/dodgeball dude) despite my completely irrational fear of heights ...

Where does that fear come from? Did I fall off a really tall building in a former life?

Anyway, the worst part was, after making it down the first 30 feet to this natural ledge, I looked over and downwards through this small opening to see the other 130 feet I still had left to go, and all the itty bitty people who'd be looking up at my nice, womanly ass for the next twenty, thirty minutes. Stepping through that hole just might have been the single most terrifying moment of my life.

After that the idea of zip lining through the air didn't seem as scary...


Saturday, despite not having registered for the event, I snuck into a 5K marathon (See Jane Run) with my life long buddy, Lita, and her friends. The race started at 8:30 am. We finished an hour and twenty minutes later (we were in no hurry, believe me) and by 11 am we had enjoyed copious amounts of (free) champagne, sunshine (am sunburned now---ouch!) and girl talk.
One of her friends, by the way, was facing the imminent death of her mother from cancer. Though you wouldn't know it by her readiness to laugh which says a lot, I think, about her strength of character and maturity.

Later that day, Lita did a tarot card reading for me. Naturally, I asked ---Hello! Where the heck is my dream job? Whether you believe in this stuff or not, my answer seemed appropriate: 1. Faith - Trust that I'm where I need to be. Be patient and know that it is happening. 2. Flow - It's time to let go. Everything is falling into place.

Okay...I will do my best to have faith that my seeds are sprouting. I will trust in that answer.

Sunday afternoon, in the city, I danced the tango. Is there any better dance? The mutual give and take required is such a great metaphor for any human relationship. The more open, trusting, spontaneous and able to reciprocate you are, the more enjoyable and beautiful the dance...
One of my dance partners, by the way, was this very old man (at least in his late eighties) who had shuffled across the stage and down the steps just to ask me to dance. How could I say no? Halfway through the song, though, it occurred to me that I hadn't see him holding his other dance partners this close. And I wondered is this gentleman not quite so gentlemanly...or is this the best way for newbies like me to learn the tango? Whatever. I found him pretty amusing, in any case. Hope I'm that fully engaged and full of life when I reach that age.