I am very surprised I didn't die of a heart attack in high school.
Because I am an unadulterated nerd, while all the other kids I knew were busy doing authentic teenagery things, like having sex in the back of Camaros, and getting drunk on Boone's Farm, I chose to pursue things like band, speech and debate, mock trial. I matriculated through high school basically walking around with a full body chastity suit made out of marching band uniform and encyclopedia and reeking of Eau de Social Retard.
Not only were the activities I chose largely uncool, but they were also super stressful. People in debate and band took their business SERIOUSLY, and so for at least twenty weeks out of the school year I was actually at school from about 7-5 each day, and I spent my weekends bussing to and from various metropolitan areas, pushing around one of those little rolling briefcase things, and living out of suitcases in hotels so I could live out my life of pretending to be a pharmaceutical sales representative, except with cheap shoes and without the never-ending supply of those cool pens with the herpes medicine logo on them. On top of the incessant travel, the late nights and early mornings, the McDonald's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner unless our teacher was feeling generous and took us to Shoney's for "something special", and the sense of never being clean because you basically spend 36 hours of your life each week sitting on the floor of high school gymnasiums in polyester business suits and pantyhose, there was just the stress of actually performing at these things. The stomach gnawing, have to go pee RIGHT NOW oh wait never mind, body chill inducing, can't sit still or I'll die kind of nervousness never, ever went away, no matter how good I got or how many times I had seen my opponents. I was a walking nervous breakdown in patent leather Mootsie Tootsies, and I kind of liked it that way.
I can count on one hand the number of times I've been that nervous since, but it's never quite approached the restrained hysteria I used to feel in high school. I think I got shaky at my first real job interview, and I know I thought I was going to throw up during my divorce proceeding, but that's about it. I am such a cool cucumber now I'm practically comatose.
But yesterday, as I maneuvered my steamboat on wheels into a parking space next to the Presbyterian Church that hosts the weekly tango milonga (yes, THE milonga where I have been humiliated and tortured and have whined about it here many a time), I got a huge case of the old high school panic, to the point I could barely pull my keys out of the ignition because my hands were shaking so badly. I really don't know what possessed me to go, other than the prospect of my spending yet another night with my cats watching Clueless on HBO2 making me want to off myself, but there I was, hooched up with stilettos in hand and staring through the doorway at the very same man who always makes me cry every time I go. I knew tonight was going to be pivotal, because it was the third time I went to this particular milonga, and I kind of also knew in the back of my head that if I ran out tonight like I had the last two times, I wouldn't ever be back.
This time was different, though, for two reasons. First was a conversation I had with the friend who introduced me to tango in the first place, and who's endured my venting about how difficult it was for a year now. She told me that for her, tango absolutely sucked every single time she went for a really long time. It was hard. She was embarrassed about her body. She hated herself. And then one day she realized she had to get over it and it started sucking less and less. And it was very nice to hear that B had gone through the same shitty experiences I had, because I really thought I was the only one who felt too massive to do this.
I had also decided to just stop having such a defeatist attitude about everything. The big conversation with The Friend on Friday made me realize I have the right to stand up for myself, and to get the things I want, and I really want to tango. I'm allowed to tango. It's not my problem if the men in the dance hall don't like my body. It IS my problem if my body isn't in shape to dance the best that it can right now, but my appearance isn't tied to that at all. It IS my problem if I shoot myself down before I even get a chance to figure out if I suck or not, and it's my problem if I decide before I even get in the door that the night's going to be a failure.
So I decided to try, no matter what, and I decided to make sure my body language and the way I interacted with everyone communicated that I belonged there. I practiced for the hour we were supposed to practice, and then when the actual social dance part of the evening happened I resolved to sit there and wait for someone to ask me dance no matter what instead of scuttling out the door after the first five minutes and crying in the car for being a pathetic freak.
And lo, it totally worked. The panic set in after the first round of dances ended and no one had asked me yet, but there were seven women to four men and one of the pairs was dating so they were always together, and two of the other women were ballerina types , and the other three were just plain fantastic, so I was obviously the low girl on the tango pole for the evening. So I just kept sitting and smiling and trying not to look desperate when Hell officially froze over because the Tango Nemesis walked up to ME AND ASKED ME TO DANCE. In front of everyone. In front of people who might see him dance with big-assed, no experience me. Internets, I nearly shat my gauchos right up in that Presbyterian church basement.
And honestly, it was a lovely dance and he even murmured "Bravo" a couple of times to me and didn't criticize me once except to say I needed to get different shoes and we danced an entire tanda and then he ruffled my hair like he was Ward and I was The Beaver and that was that. And you know what? Since he danced with me, another man danced with me and said I did a good job, and another and another until I had danced with every single person in the room. And I was soaked with sweat and out of breath from never resting and wobbling in my heels, but it was totally awesome. Even with the guy who kept burping Nachos Bell Grande in my face and definitely was picking his nose over by the water fountain when I thought no one was watching.
I just can't get over how powerful actually being determined, and positive, and persistent really are. I always kind of chalked it up as Norman Vincent Peale self-help bullshit, but making a conscious effort to stop telling myself "no" every time I get an idea has made a monumental difference in just this weekend. I might actually dig this whole healthy, happy thing after all.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I am very surprised I didn't die of a heart attack in high school.