A few weeks ago, I posted a note on a prominent swing board urging dancers to “Just Say No” when they really don’t feel like dancing with someone. The gist of my note was as follows:
[…] I’d like to go against conventional wisdom and practice and urge people to say NO when asked to dance if saying yes would result in misery for both dancers.
With regards to the three awful dances I had recently, in each case, the follow accepted my invitation quite reluctantly. Maybe she just learned that her pet poodle died, maybe I look like her abusive ex-boyfriend, or maybe she was just really, really tired. But it doesn’t matter. In each case, her movements and expression while dancing with me evoked images of someone cleaning the bathrooms of Grand Central Station with their tongue, and boy, was that painful (dancing with her, but yeah, undoubtedly the imagery, too).
If these women had simply said, “No,” the following would have happened:
– We’d both have been saved several minutes of unpleasantness.
– We’d have had the opportunity to likely ENJOY several minutes of blissful dancing with a different partner (or a bit of blissful rest). […]
One of the key acknowledgments in my note was the fact that saying no to a dance request is largely considered taboo in the Lindy Hop scene. My note was an effort to try to turn the tide and make it socially acceptable to turn someone down… in particular, when the alternative is an unpleasant dance for both people.
To my great surprise AND mortification, I received an e-mail in response to my now-very-active “Just Say No” thread… from one of the very women with whom I had such a miserable dance.
When I read the first few words of the note, indicating that this was one of the people that had incited me to write the somewhat-nasty note, I shuddered in unpleasant anticipation of what she had to say in the rest of her note.
“Adam, you’re really an asshole. Maybe if you learned to be a better dancer, or smelled nicer, you’d have decent dances and you wouldn’t have to whine on a message forum.”
“What nerve you have complaining about our dance in public! Not only will I not dance with you ever again, but none of my friends will either. You’re certainly not welcome back [in this city].”
No, instead, this is what she wrote:
I am that girl that looked like she would rather have a root canal than dance (by the way, the analogy was really funny but true) :-). I apologise for making it so miserable for you. I knew I should have said no but like it was stated in the thread, social politeness sometimes rules out.
Again, I am so sorry that it was that horrible (and I knew it was when we finished) and after the eternal song finished I quit dancing for the whole night and turned down about two other dancers before leaving (I should have quit sooner, huh.) Hopefully I can make it up to you some other time.
Hope you have more great dances,
I was completely stunned. And largely speechless.
I took a few moments to gather my thoughts, and sent her a brief but sincere thank you, noting that I, too, hoped she and I would get to ‘make up’ for the less-than-stellar dance by having a much better one in the future.
So what lessons can we take from this? The kindness of strangers, even when they’re slapped? The potential perils of posting scathing but well-meant notes on public forums? I’m not sure. But at least now I have caught my breath and my heart isn’t racing anymore 😉