Author’s Note: This post is a direct result of what happens when a comment rattles around inside my head for awhile. I have some mental notes but this is going to end up being more free association and I have no idea where it will end up. Remember that you were warned!
The comment just flew out of her mouth so easily and then it just hung there. Again, we were talking about our open routines and my standing tall so that everyone could see me and I made a comment about the tallest nail getting hammered down first and that’s when she said “What are you afraid of?” I had no response because I was stuck between saying “I don’t know” and just screaming “EVERYTHING” which would have sent her head over heels like Lucy in the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Technically, he screamed “THAT’s IT” but it was in response to Pentaphobia – the fear of everything.
I was also lost because how does one adequately capture years of doubt and some self esteem issues and explain that to a very young lady who doesn’t have a lot of life experience. Besides, the whole “dance instructor as therapist” scene doesn’t work so well. But, ever since then, the comment has been bouncing around inside my head. I’m still no closer to an answer so the next best thing is to just get some thoughts out there and see what happens.
I don’t know why I should be afraid. I’ve done many solos in the past. I’ve danced in an Egyptian costume, I’ve tossed cheap sunglasses over the ballroom, I’ve played a pilot drunk on a plane and I’ve gone down the Highway to Hell. All of those were definitely situations where I was saying “Look at Me”. The more showy and outrageous the dance/costume was, the more comfortable I felt. Strange but true. So why does the thought of doing these new open routines stir up these emotions.
I can tell myself that with the solos, I’m just playing a part. I mean I’m not an Egyptian, or a pilot or a rock star so part of it that they weren’t really seeing the “real” me in any of those routines. The other part is that I was doing those for the audience. Yes, the comments and critiques were important but the real fun was in the audience reaction. The cheers and comments and feedback and knowing that I had given a good show. Why my mind partitions things this way, I don’t know. Sure, I always had doubts about my abilities to pull off the routines but once I got the choreography down, getting into character and doing the show was the easy part. In these open routines, the beginning choreography is simple – I mean the Rumba starts with some second position breaks – but it is trying to capture the look of the dance that is just terrifying. Or should I really say, trying to actually look like a confident male lead is the real issue.
These routines are different than the open routines I did with Z. In each of the three, OwnerGuy has us start apart. I’m alone, isolated, naked, vulnerable and exposed. No partner to hide my mistakes and make my frame appear more solid. I have to stand tall and be there and I have to do it on my own. And, as they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If my posture isn’t there, it will be obvious and I’ll be all by myself with my bad posture and it will just be that easy for the judges to dismiss me and never look back. So all the “wow” choreography that they’ve put in and that has been giving me fits in practice won’t really matter because I’ll be dismissed out of hand at the start of the dance because I’m not comfortable extending myself. There is no safety net and the “Look at me” just becomes scary. I don’t want to be the center of attention in that situation.
I’ve spent most of my life being in the background and it is comfortable there. I’m much more the behind the scenes chief of staff pulling the strings than the leader out front. I can do that part when necessary but it is only comfortable in those situations where I feel like the expert. Give me an audience to talk about something where I feel I know more than anyone else and I’ll be that guy.
They tell me I’ve got to own my spot and claim my space and that’s all part of this. I guess it comes down to what a proper lead should look like. Dance seems to be tied up in classic gender roles. The ladies wear all the bright colors and do all the dramatic moves and the men are MEN. Maybe it is to fight against the impression that ballroom is not a sport that the male role has to compensate for that.
To me, some of that just feels like ego run amok. It goes against my hard wiring which is to not boast and not call attention to yourself like a strutting peacock with his feathers all puffed out. Frankly, I see guys like that, and my main urge is to burst their balloon not to want to be like them. Yes, this seems silly because that’s not really what I’m trying to do but it is certainly what it feels like I’m supposed to do. It doesn’t help when Kid T makes comments like being a man. No, she doesn’t say that specifically but it is implied.
Yeah, I’m not the most macho kind of guy. Who knows, maybe there is some femininity in my brain. And, trying to channel that while standing there and doing these steps just feels WRONG. I can’t explain it. I can’t control it. I can’t express it all that well. It is just there. I try to do it and so many voices in my head start screaming at me to stop. My forte is smarts and a little bit of sarcastic humor. I’ll out think anyone in the room and I’ll come up with a snappy comeback but I’m not going out-macho anyone. And it feels stupid when I try!
Now, I’ve put this out there and I just feel even more stupid and wrong. All she’s asking me to do is stand up and take up more space. But won’t the judges just see right through me. Won’t they know this isn’t my natural way. Am I kidding myself that I can really pull this off.
Well, this hasn’t really helped like I thought it would. I’m still no closer to why my brain seizes up when I start thinking about standing on a floor with actual judges and trying to be the strong leading man. And I still don’t have a good answer for Kid T’s question.
Then again, I can think of what I told one of my staff when I asked her to do a presentation in front of a group. I knew it was going to scare the hell out of her but it was necessary to push her to help her with her career interests. I used the phrase “growth opportunity” which loosely translated means doing something you absolutely hate to do because someone tells you to do it. Yes, I could always go to OwnerGuy and say I’ve changed my mind and that I don’t want to go down this path anymore. But the internal competitor in me isn’t going to let me quit. My overall goal still remains to become the best dancer I can be and if that means learning to be comfortable standing out there on my own, than that’s what I have to do. It is my own growth opportunity and it is going to suck. But I’ll figure a way to work it out. After all, “no matter day or night, I’m shining, bitch, I’m a star”. (Someday I may believe that)