What I Want In A Man


Recently I was catching up on some posts on danceprimer.com, and I found the following quote in Amber’s interview with Jojo Jackson:

“I would consider my recent teaching partner, Dax Hock, to be one of the best mentors I’ve had in my career. Not only from the vast amount of knowledge he shared on and off the dance floor, but for his exceptional level of public interaction at every workshop weekend. On any given night, he will invariably be seen dancing with every single follow in the room, and if the energy starts to drop, he will boost everyone’s spirits with an all-inclusive group dance or jam session.”

When I read this I instantly thought of Sam, one of the first guys I ever danced with. He was the president of the swing club at the Other Big University in town, where I had my second ever swing dancing lesson. He asked me to dance as soon as the lesson was over, the first time I’d been asked to dance by A Guy I Didn’t Know. (The entire song he chanted, “Triple step, triple step, rock step,” and let me say, it wasn’t for his benefit.) Over the course of the evening he danced almost every dance, not sitting down until he’d danced with every girl there. He did this every night, every time he was at a dance. New dancers struggle with insecurity, wondering whether, if you go to the dance, anyone will actually dance with you. Knowing that if Sam was there I would have at least one good dance was a little anchor I could cling to, making it much easier to keep dancing through my insecurities and fears until I had a chance to improve.

Sam’s help didn’t stop there. He cared about my progress as a dancer, and encouraged me to be better. I still remember the first time he took me off to the side of a dance and told me we were going to work on this thing called “frame.” When I was terrified of being dipped, he worked with me, dipping me again and again until I started to relax a little. Other teachers have taught me more, but he was the first to care about me as a dancer.

Sam was a good lead, but more importantly, he was a good Leader. The fact that he danced with every girl at the dance is a little thing, but it made a huge difference in the club. I can remember watching a new follow leave the floor after dancing with him, looking flushed and happy, and immediately grab another new dancer, dragging him onto the floor for the next dance. His energy was infectious, and the dance floor was rarely empty. He traveled to neighboring school’s dances, and took us with him. He pushed us to move beyond the university club into our city’s swing scene. Several of the better dancers in our local scene got their start in that swing club. It was great while it lasted. Then he graduated, his successor wasn’t nearly of Sam’s caliber, and things fell apart.

It’s been a long time since I danced with Sam (the last time I laid eyes on him was when I dj’d his wedding reception), but he is still my gold standard of what a lead should be. It’s not just strength, clarity and precision, musicality and playfulness – although Sam had those in spades. It’s something more. It’s having an attitude of service, an understanding of what it takes to build up a swing community, and a willingness to do what that requires. It’s being willing to dance with the new follows so they can actually learn how to dance. It’s caring about other dancers. My ideal lead isn’t just a leader, he knows how to serve.

Yesterday morning I had to scrape frost off my windshield before I could drive to work. Last night I brought the rosemary and bay plants in off the back porch to what will be their winter homes on the kitchen table. I still have the front porch plants to bring in and find homes for. I’m not such a fan of this cold thing. There are parts of Fall I love: pumpkins, weather cool enough to break out my extensive collection of colorful scarves, wearing fuzzy socks, the trees suddenly turning glorious, and bright blue days with skies so high and clear you can see the moon at noontime. What I don’t like is having to wear a coat, and fingers so stiff with cold I wish I’d worn gloves (scarves I love, but not gloves, and I’m deeply ambivalent about hats. Or at least I would be if I could ever find one that looked good on my odd-shaped head). I really dislike scraping windshields. One time a friend told me about two sweethearts who worked at the same place far up north. Every evening right before the girl was about to be done for the day, the guy would head out to the parking lot, scrape the windshield of her car, and warm in up for her so that she could get straight into a warm car when she went home. I envied that girl so much, not so much for the boyfriend (although I knew the guy in question, and he was a truly excellent young man), but simply because she had someone who would scrape her windshield for her. I was told about this over three years ago, and I’m still sighing about it. A scraped windshield is worth more than roses any day, and you all know how much I love roses.

This afternoon I’m going to an actual college football game. I’ve never been to one of these. I never really wanted to. (“What is this school spirit thing you speak of?”) But my baby brother, Mikey, is crazy for football – a strange and wonderful thing in our artistic, academic family. So we try to encourage him. This afternoon a bunch of us are piling into the family van and heading off to the game. I used to say that I only watched football games for the marching bands. An awful lot of my university’s swing club kids are in the band. I guess now I can see what has been keeping them from going dancing on Wednesday nights. The only question left is what to wear: the traditional jeans and sweatshirt? Or should I go with jean skirt, my new ultra-snuggly knit footless tights, and a sweatshirt? Decisions, decisions…

In other news, I’ve discovered what is turning out to be one of my favorite things ever: Pandora Online Radio. You type in the name of a song or artist you really love, and they create a whole radio station of music like that. You tell them whether or not you like the songs they’ve picked, and it influences the programming. It’s so much fun. I’ve found an incredible amount of good music I would have never known about this way. For example, “Baby Workout” by Jackie Wilson leads to “I Could Never Be President” by Johnnie Taylor, and “Your Replacement Is Here” by Edd Henry, then “Twistin’ With Linda” by The Isley Brothers, etc. Right now I’m listening to what I think of as my lullaby station – soothing classical-ish piano music. I made it by typing in “Brahm’s Lullaby” and finding a version by a classical artist I’d never heard of. Good stuff!

Hugh with babyLast night at Tuesday Night Bal, one of the guys was talking about his experiences as an attractive young man substitute teaching for middle school kids. In the midst of various comments about little girls in the midst of their first crush, I said that the hottest guy I know is teaching 6th graders this year in A Large City Nearby. As I said this, I got a reaction from Trey that let me know that, until that moment, he had assumed he was the hottest guy I know. And, um, no. Trey is plenty cute and all, but Hugh is in a class all by himself. I had thought that there was no way he could get more attractive, and then he posted photos of himself with his new niece and goddaughter, whom he adores. How can one guy really be that hot? It boggles the mind.

The cool thing is that, beyond his looks, Hugh’s a great guy. He’s Catholic, and he takes his faith seriously. He has a social conscience. His dream in life (since a messed up shoulder destroyed his hopes of a pro-baseball career) is to run a soup kitchen. I’m not kidding. He’s respectful towards women. He’s funny. He extemporaneously quotes Walt Whitman while being completely heterosexual.

And, of course, he’s discerning the priesthood.

Remind me again – why do I have that policy against dating guys who are discerning the priesthood?  Oh, yeah.  Joe.