Steal my Sunshine

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Subtitle:  How a lesson goes bad.

OK last night sucked and I’ve got a lot of left over negativity that I just have to get out. For the most part, Z and I work well together but when it goes bad, it becomes toxic. Ever had an argument with someone where you were always wrong and always the one at fault? Yeah, it was like that. But there’s so much more. (Language warning – in drafting this, I found “freaking” wasn’t cutting it, so I used the alternative. You’ve been warned)

To begin, we have to go back in time to when the heats were first put up for Showcase and I noticed she had me down to do 3 West Coast Swings with 3 of 3. A little strange since (a) we hadn’t worked on WCS since the last Showcase and (b) I don’t dance WCS with 3 of 3. At first, Z was going to take them off but I said I’d give it a shot. MISTAKE #1. For lots of reasons, I didn’t get around to trying WCS until a week ago and, while it wasn’t bad, there was a lot of rust. I figured why add stress by trying to shake the rust off when it was only 3 heats and WCS is a minor part of my overall program. So I told Z last Monday that I was dropping it and she got all weird and said I need to talk to 3 of 3 because she thought things went well.   Fine, so I talked to her later in the week and she told me I couldn’t drop it and that she’d play a WCS at party on Friday and all would be good. I agreed. MISTAKE #2. Well the party was even worse than the lesson because you couldn’t stop and reset. We get done with the song and I tell her that WCS is out but she starts arguing with me. Wait a minute! Who’s paying the freaking bill here? It’s my money (and you’re getting a lot of it already) so if I don’t want to pay for three heats in a dance I don’t have down cold a week out from Showcase, then that is My Perogative (cue Bobby Brown). So I guess I got a bit forceful in telling her it was out but she wasn’t taking NO for an answer.     I paid for Showcase on Friday (minus the WCS) and walked out feeling fine. Monday night, Z wasn’t there and I had a good lesson with the Body Double and there was no mention of the WCS.

Last night, I got to my lesson a little early so I watched the last formation practice. Some of the people were having fun – some weren’t but it was still fun to watch. So I’m in a good mood and Z walks up to me and starts talking about my “freak-out” on Friday. I guess 3 of 3 texted her (Z and OwnerGuy were out on Friday) and went into theatrics about what happened. You have to understand that Z likes to give little jabs to everyone which is fine because I’m normally can just blow that stuff off. But I made the mistake of trying to defend myself which didn’t help. And then Z starts going on about how happy she was that someone else got a taste of what she deals with and how nobody else believed her when she talked about me being difficult and now others have seen it. In the light of a new day, I can try to believe that was just another joke and/or attempt to irritate me which she seems to like to do from time to time. Last night was a different story. My first thought was “well if I’m so fucking difficult, why am I still your student?” What’s the fucking point if I’m causing you all this emotional stress? I don’t fucking need this. To be fair, I know I’m no bed of flowers when the panic takes hold but do I really need to have my low points shoved in my face like that? Is there nothing about working with me that is good? Yes, she hit a nerve and it wiped out all of the good vibes from last week. And this was before we actually started. You can imagine where we go from here.

Then she asks me if I want to do smooth or rhythm. Since “I don’t fucking care” wasn’t an option, I went for smooth since the Waltz and Tango are still the roughest dances left. Well, she will never admit this because I’m just a lowly student who is always wrong, but she was amped last night. She was hitting all the big shapes and pulling me through parts when I got off time or when I hesitated a bit if I couldn’t remember what came next. Later, she explained that this was because we are a partnership and that she can help me through things and I need to let her do this. And that is was a way to keep me moving rather than stopping which isn’t an option when we get to Showcase. And her logic is undeniable but I wasn’t ready for it. I thought she was amped up before but last night was another gear. It was like everything we had done before was two hand touch and now we were full pad tackle football.   So, naturally, I started to feel pressure to do things right because I felt she was just getting irritated with my little mistakes since there was no communication, she was just dragging me through things. Well that just hit at my insecurities. So my mind starts thinking that I have to be perfect or I have no business being on the floor with her. And, of course, I can’t be perfect but the little pep talk I gave myself last week just went bye-bye and it magnified the importance of every mistake in my head.

At one point, we’ve looped the waltz and she stops and says to me “that was 2 minutes”. I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. She might have been having a running dialog in her head but I wasn’t a part of it so I asked “what does that mean”. It was an honest question because I had no idea why she made that statement or what the significance was. Well I guess my tone wasn’t to her liking because she first tells me that it is unlikely that the heat will go on that long so I don’t need to worry about doing too much after the loop. OK, that’s all I needed to know. But then she goes into a “woe is me” complaint about how she was just trying to make sure I wouldn’t be too freaked out about having to go too far past the loop so if we didn’t rotate a step enough it wouldn’t matter because the heat would end before we got there. All I did was ask a single question. Sorry I couldn’t follow what was going on in your head.

But we got through the Waltz – basically cause I didn’t want to do it anymore. Then we moved to the Tango and it was the same thing. She’s pushing me through the opening because I wasn’t doing it fast enough and I wasn’t ready for it and the chain reaction made some of the other parts go a bit wrong. Then, the second time through, when we are supposed to be in shadow position, I didn’t get my hand in the right place and I got a bit of underboob. I figured she would use that to make my life a living hell so I dropped my hand and then faked my way through the rest of the routine. By then, she realized things weren’t going right so we stopped and she tells me that she felt me quit and wanted to know what was going on. Couldn’t really open that door but I did try to explain how she felt different and it was freaking me out just a bit. Let’s just say the ensuing conversation just kept leading back to it being all in my head and how she was just the innocent bystander in all this. So here’s the vicious circle. She wants me to communicate. I try to explain what I’m feeling, which is not easy. She stomps all over it telling me that what I’m feeling is wrong. So then I weight the cost/benefit of future communication and decide silence is the best option. That makes her upset and the death spiral is on.

Bottom line is she isn’t a therapist. Some days she can be supportive. Some days, not so much. So when her non supportive days overlap with the days that my demons are running loose, it is not a good combination. Guess my takeaway is that if it is related to a specific dance step, then I can ask. Otherwise, I’m just going to have to say “Just some shit I’m dealing with that you can’t help me with – I’ll work it out”.

And let me throw another little thing into this giant shit pile. She starts trying to remind me of the goals – which is to show more of me and to convince the judges that I can lead. But then she tells me that if I can’t remember timing, then she can move my ass for me. In fact, she tells me that I’m paying her to move my ass. Well, I get that you can help me out of rough spots but if you are effectively leading then how does this help me meet the goal of showing that I can lead?? This was the logical breakdown I couldn’t get around but there was no point in bringing it up so I just sat on it. I wanted to say that I’m really paying her to teach me so I don’t need her to move my ass because I should be able to move my own ass. Guess I really don’t have this whole “partnership” thing down. There’s a fine line for me. My male pride and ego wants to do it all. Me Tarzan, me lead. You Jane, you follow. I know it isn’t that simple. But then it picks at another insecurity of mine. If she’s doing everything, then what am I there for? Am I all just an illusion? A dummy propped up by the woman pulling the strings and making it seem like I’m actually dancing? OK, I know that’s stupid. If I can do a reasonable Quickstep with the Body Double who isn’t as advanced as Z, then I’m not just an illusion. But that’s something I can see in the light of day when things have settled. Last night was a different story.

On a positive note, we did end up with the Fox Trot and Viennese Waltz and those were fine. We even worked in a Bolero which was mostly OK. Two more lessons tonight. I hope this post has flushed the toxins from my system. I go in knowing a little better what to expect. I plan to start with Rumba – it is the dance I know best. And then we’ll go from there.


  1. Sounds like she’s trying to motivate you to keep pushing yourself and at the same time trying to relieve worries of screwing up because if it happens, that is when she’ll be there to get you through it. The whole partnership concept is definitely more complicated than just lead and follow. My teacher has told me during a lesson that he wants me to provide the direction, power, drive, etc. and I always get confused because how am I supposed to direct when he’s the one leading?? Hang in there, I hope this post was cathartic for you, I find writing helps me. You’re not dancing alone, so you shouldn’t be doing everything. Maybe think of her as a safety net. You go out and dance your best, but don’t worry if you falter, because she’ll be there to catch you! And breathe! When I stumble during a performance, I think about breathing so my anxiety doesn’t cause a complete downward spiral. It helps me get back on track quicker.

    1. Oh you are so right. For me, I want to believe she cares about me as a person and enjoys working with me. Some days that is easy to believe. Some days she says things that leave me guessing. I hate feeling like some insecure little high school boy but that’s sometimes where it ends up. Weird.

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