1997 was a good year and I was a happy man. My health, marriage and finances were in good shape. My passion was golf. I was living my dream walking my favorite golf course 4 to 5 times a week. Then it happened! It didn't seem like much--it had happened before. It was December 1997, Carol's birthday month and, of course, Christmas. Many times in the previous 33 years I asked Carol to give me a clue as to what she would like for a present. Sometimes, she would be mean and give me no help at all. Other times she would give a little direction and I would venture out like an explorer into the unknown worlds of Art, Music, or some of Carol's other exotic interests. Ah, to make my wife happy and to continue to play unlimited golf, I would always persevere.
That December she looked at me, smiled and cooed, "Sidney, I want us to take
dancing lessons. We start in January. The course lasts three months but we only have to pay one month and if we don't like it, we can stop. I have looked into this and this is what I want--nothing else." My immediate response was "No, what else?" Her answer was "Nothing else." Well, I thought about it for a while and concluded that this was a good deal. It won't cost us a lot of money, there is no exotic shopping involved and how much golf do I play in January. I said "yes."
I had said "yes" in June of 1964 and knew my life was going to change forever. I didn't realize that when I said "yes" in 1997 that I was willingly surrendering my days on the fairways for evenings of ballroom dancing.
Reluctantly on a Monday night in January of 1998 I accompanied my bride to St. Mark's Church Hall in Asheville to the DanceLovers Ballroom class. The hall was full of people of all ages and sizes. A pretty lady with short hair and a big smile welcomed us at the registration table, her name was Judi. We wandered around this room full of strangers. Their faces revealed a mixture of anxiety, nervous smiles, and pure fear (like mine). A loud voice proclaimed "Everyone clear the seating area." Judi joined a big man in the center of the room. The big man said his name was Foster and that Judi and he would teach us Social Ballroom Dancing and he hoped we would all have a good time. The hour and 15 minutes flew by.
Carol and I drove home four feet off the ground. During the next few days I was in utter confusion. I enjoyed that class so much. How could I feel so good off the golf course? How could Foster and Judi move so well together? Carol loved it too. It was all we talked about. One of my favorite lines about golf was "It is the most fun a man can have with his clothes on." Was I wrong? Is there something better? Is it dancing? I could not wait to get to the next Monday night class to see if I had made a mistake. I hadn't. The Ballroom Dancing is as good as it gets! I must give a lot of credit to Foster and Judi who create an atmosphere of fun and playfullness in their classes. This combined with rotating partners really helped me to get comfortable making mistakes and then moving on to learn dance patterns without making it feel like work. Some of the dance teachers in the area do this at our USABDA monthly dances and it really contributes to my enjoyment.
Things happened quickly in 1998. I set up a TV, VCR, and a boom box in my basement to practice with the video and audio tapes from DanceLovers. After a few graduation dances and tea dances with the Lamperts, we ventured out. We found the Harvest House on Wednesday nights, the Blue Ridge Ballroom and Opportunity House on Friday nights and Sundays, and USABDA and the Starlight Ballroom dances on Saturday nights. We also joined three dinner dance clubs that meet monthly in the Hendersonville area. Before I knew it I was dancing every day except Thursday.
A metamorphosis had occured. I have played golf in rain, sleet and snow. Over a 25 year period, I had rationalizations and justifications to play golf under any circumstance. I suddenly found myself making excuses not to play golf. "It is too windy; the ground is too wet; it may shower this afternoon." The truth is that I would rather spend a little practice time on a Saturday afternoon with Carol to try a step at Greer that night then get all tired out chasing the white pellet around 18 holes and dancing tired at night.
My favorite golf partners finally confronted me with "Sidney, what is going on?" Without hesitation, I replied, "Friend, there are three good reasons why I would rather dance than play golf. One, I would rather swing a pretty lady around the floor, especially my favorite partner, Carol, than pound a golf club into the ground. Two, the weather does not prevent me from dancing, and Three, nobody's keeping score."
I am a social dancer because I love it. I enjoy watching competition dancers. I enjoy watching dance teachers do demonstrations with their especially talented students. But my real joy comes from social dancing. Dance class can be hard or easy but it is always fun. It is wonderful spending so much more time with Carol. But whether it is Carol or my favorite 83 year old lady, or any of the many neat ladies I dance with, I feel what I see. I see a sparkle in their eyes, a smile and glow on the face of someone who has left the cares and concerns of the world somewhere else--just for this dance. And, I can't help but break out in a laugh when, among the many funny things that happen in a dance class, Foster will catch my eye and say "Use the other left foot, Sid." Over the years, I have carried my worries and my physical aches and pains to the golf course and played badly. I carry them to the dance floor and they disappear. Golf is a great game; social dancing is a great life. I don't ever want to lose, "My other left foot."