It had been six years since I went out. Yes. Six. Out. As in, after 8 p.m. —amidst a ruckus of all-human-shame-discarded, dancing, frivolity, the grown-up’s playground: the night club. I had served a fine, long sentence of being mother to a very young child without a single girl’s night out (make no mistake, the best years of a person’s life and the best lessons learned can be in prison). And now my husband gave me the go-ahead to catch up on my wild times for an evening. I couldn’t apprehend my nervousness as I got into my friend’s car when she breezily sped up to my door to pick me up. I sweat profusely and talked like a demented person all the way to the club.
Once inside, my friend, the sort who men find extra-extra appealing, was offered a dance within two seconds of our sitting down. I tried telling myself that I got no offers because I let off an aura of “married, not interested.”
But even after I was reticently offered a one-dance-contract by several guys who found themselves partnerless, the men bolted away the second the music stopped, while my friend was beating her partners away with her studded handbag long after the songs ended.
So what gives? I was getting more than tired of trying to fit in, I was bordering depressed. Then I saw the door leading to the smoking balcony. Well, how could I have been so daft!? In my six years out of the game, I had—-really I had!—forgotten my place in society.
The old adage of who you are in high school being your lot in life came flooding back to me and I joyously bounced toward the Balcony of Rejects and Misfits–the smokers. I giddily scanned my options once through the door, and noticed a trio of girls in the corner, Marlboros and disenchantment dangling from their fingers and faces.
I approached them boldly, inwardly knowing we already had a lot in common.
Unsurprisingly, their sassiness and bitterness began to pour forth and I felt rained in by acceptance and belonging. It had been a very long time since I quit smoking–after college it really failed to do me much good since my social life had ended at that point anyway. But these, I realized, were still my people. People taking a break from the goings-on of the world. Maybe, even,an indefinite break.
“There are NO guys, EVER, anywhere!!!!” They complained. We were at a cowboy dancing club, and I wondered if this was where they fished regularly, if the cowboys were their type.
“Not really—I like dirty hippies with long hair,” said the girl who was, in juxtaposition to her hopeless, jaded attitude, clad in an uber-hopeful Marilyn Monroe white dress knock-off. Somewhere under that skirt whirled the longing for love, but there were no subway grates to walk over to give those dreams flight.
We were in Albuquerque. The land of the lost and the end of the line as far as wistful romance goes.
“Why don’t you move to New York!?” I asked her. “Well, I want to…” she replied,with an expression on her face which lent her words the meaning they couldn’t achieve in plain English: but it’s a hopeless cause, isn’t it?
Something powerful, and long-forgotten in me rose from a sunken place as I witnessed her resignation.
That night, I was reunited with the outcasts of society, including a soldier from the nearby base who dropped a racist slur and received a moral thrashing from me for forty-five minutes straight until he heartbreakingly broke into a story of his gay father and the enumerable insanities of his Texan upbringing—and I felt most of all for everyone there, including myself, the necessity of boldness and courage required to break free out of these prisons of self-image.
Can there be anything worse than accepting a fate handed limply to you by an impersonal circumstance? The boy who was “just taking after his pa” attempting to fit in with his surroundings by acting cruel and bigoted (while he meekly admitted later on that he never felt that was who he was inside), the girls in a throng, maybe seven or eight years after high school, still stuck in the same town and asking themselves when things will change for them… While at first I pitied them, I realized quite soon that I was in the exact same boat.
I may be a thousand miles from my home-town, and seemingly taking charge of my own fate. But here I was still acting out the same tiresome role I had since grade school. I couldn’t kick it with the inner-ring kids so I made a cult following with the fringe folk by championing equality in their midst and challenging them to the limitations I zealously pointed out to them about themselves. I was aghast at this moment, knowing fully that I hadn’t moved an inch from where I was born.
Are we accepting our places in life passively (but not admittedly so?) or are we making a fresh account of ourselves and our dreams and desires?
We may think we are on the outside looking in at the men and women behind the bars of their own painful or disenchanted lives. But where do we really stand? Have we taken any risks lately? I say let’s do a jail-break, collectively, from the grimness of self-same-old prisons! The truth is that I want to get out on the dance floor and dance! I don’t have to resign myself to being the quirky gal who carries on philosophical conversations with strangers while my friends break a sweat having a carnal ball on the dance floor! I had made the mistake of thinking a departure from my nature was a betrayal to my essence—a vastly outworn mechanism of self-preservation which may have been needed to prevent annihilation of self-image in high school, but now I was supposed to be a free and self-created adult.
So since that night, I gave our landlord notice and have chucked all our recent malaise and ennui out the second-story window for the possibility of a new vista in a month’s time. And, I have signed up for two-stepping and Zumba lessons and I am going to stay put on that dance floor until my allure oozes out like a sticky trap and pulls those cowboys in. And well, if they won’t fall for it, I know my loving husband will… he always has, god bless him… But if were still single and hadn’t found him yet, by God I wasn’t going to find him in a cowboy bar as I mourned my sub-par sex appeal on a smoking terrace. I’d find him on a… a…. Hm. Wait… that’s exactly where I’d find him.