The Summer We Didn't Date
Like I said, I don’t really blame my friends for their confusion. I don’t think I really understood what was going on well enough to explain it very well, and the amount of time we spent together would have made anybody suspicious. Especially the amount of time we spent dancing.
Matt and I made great dance partners. I’m 5’10” and he was 6’2”. At those heights I often found myself with leads who were shorter than me, and he often found him self having to dance bent over so he didn’t break his partners arms. Together however? We fit perfectly. I was also one of the people who could keep up with his random style when he decided to get wacky. Add to that there were a couple of swing dance styles he had taught me that few people in the area knew, and we danced together a lot. I think if he had stayed in the area we may have become official dance partners. We just worked that well together dancing.
Matt is also the first guy I ever really slow danced with. I grew up pretty sheltered, and I had never danced by the time I moved out on my 21st birthday. When I did start dancing (not long after) I preferred to keep a safe distance between me and the guys I danced with. Swing dance doesn’t require a great deal of closeness for the most part anyway, and so there was a good deal of time before my walls broke down.
I think it was inevitable that I did eventually become comfortable with dancing close to my dance partner. It’s hard to avoid in the dance world, and I’m a very touch-orientated person anyway. I did always keep some boundaries though. I never became a skanky dancer and I was always picky about what guys I was willing to dance close to.
The first time I slow danced was a memorable day for many reasons. It was Father’s Day, but both of us had plans to celebrate the day with our Dad’s on a different day for some reason, and Matt suggested we hit up a park in Portland where they’d been holding weekly out door dances for free. So we climbed into Matt’s car and headed into down town Portland.
We had a rudimentary knowledge of where it was that we were going, well, we at least knew the address, and we had a map, so we should have been fine right? Wrong. What we didn’t know was that there was a big parade going on that day, so streets were blocked off, and parking was scarce. It took us 45 minutes to find a parking spot that was even remotely close to our destination. And by remotely close I mean 10 blocks away.
Relieved to finally be walking to the park, we headed off to cross the 10 blocks, neither of us talking much, just determined to get to our destination. Then we hit yet another snag, the parade itself, and what a parade it was! Apparently Portland holds their annual “pride parade” on Father’s day for some unknown reason. What’s a pride parade? Well as far as we could tell it’s a display of pride in sexual freedom of all sorts. The two sights I remember the most vividly were a bunch of toweled guys in a fake shower, and the girl who wasn’t wearing anything up top except a couple of strategic stickers, Matt wanted to know if that was even legal or if she should be arrested for public indecency.
As we stood there, trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the parade, I saw a girl with a basket headed our way. I couldn’t see what was in the basket, but I could see that she was pulling small objects out of the basket and handing them out to people as she made her way along the sidewalk. I did the first thing that came to my mind. I hid behind Matt!
I was really glad I hid too, because it turned out she was handing out condoms. I don’t remember what she said as she passed them out, I just remember watching Matt turn to the guy next to him and say, “Want some extra’s?” And then take off across a gap in the parade like a he was on fire. I quickly followed, dodging the nearest float as it approached, and we walked stiff-backed down the next block, neither of us quite knowing what to do or say. Finally Matt said, “That wasn’t awkward.”
“No, not at all.” I responded.
We were silent the rest of the way to the park.
There weren’t very many people at the dance event, which made sense since it was Father’s Day, and while we did recognize a few dancers, none of them were dancers that we knew very well. I think we started out dancing together, and then got brave and started dancing some with the people that we didn’t know. I do remember that we danced together a lot though, because there weren’t very many options!
Finally, after we’d been there for a good span of time, they started playing some slow music. At this point I pretty much avoided all slow dances. I just didn’t trust most of my dance partners, or my own ability, enough to want to dance that slow and close. It wasn’t something I’d ever made a big deal out of. I had just always found some excuse to back out like saying, “I really need to sit this one out.” Which, come to think of it, most of the guys probably saw right through because one function of slow dances is to let the dancers catch their breath!
I don’t remember what excuse I made when Matt tried to convince me to slow dance with him, just that whatever it was, it didn’t work. Matt was there to dance and he wasn’t taking no for an answer! I tried to protest, but he was so cute as he coaxed me out on the dance floor. Besides, I told myself, this was Matt, and if I couldn’t trust him on a slow dance I could never trust any guy.
At first I was really tense. Even as a dancer I wasn’t quite used to being this close to a guy and it was a total sensory overload, both from his touch and from the smell. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t stink, but he had been sweating, and his “manly smell” was over powering!
To regain my mental balance I began to focus on the music. They were playing a song I knew, “Dancing Cheek to Cheek,” and I focused on humming along and moving to the music until I slowly relaxed and began to melt in Matt’s arms. That dance was magic. I forgot all my inhibitions about dancing close to a guy and just enjoyed the music and our interpretation of it.
It sounds romantic, and I suppose in many ways it was. For that one song I was in love. Not with Matt specifically, but with the music, with the dance, with the moment.
I still can’t hear that song with out thinking of Matt and that summer.
The summer we didn’t date.