Swing Your Partner to the Left!
Novemer 11, 2008

I was a slight anomaly in High School. Like many, I hated gym class, however, there was one thing I didn't mind about it: dancing. (Heh -- "didn't mind"? I loved it!)

I loved the waltz, the tango, the cha-cha, the fox trot, the box step, the complicated to say, spell, and learn schottische, and square dancing. I loved them all.

I loved square dancing in particular. So much, in fact, that I was actually disappointed when the Southwest Sadie Hawkins dance didn't have square dancing, and -- years later at my sorority hay ride date party -- I dragged my flannelled frat date away from drinking in order to force him into a square with me.

Yes, you had to touch boys you didn't want to touch and -- even worse -- you had to touch boys maybe you didn't really mind touching at all, but they would surely know precisely how little you minded touching them by your face or your hands or your inability to talk about anything other than agreeing how stupid dancing was. (Big lie.)

But I didn't care. If you had to touch boys, it was fairly brief. Also, our high school gym teacher was the type that let you choose your partners. It was only in grade school that we were forcibly paired up by Mr. "The girls need to use a beach ball for volleyball" Anderson. (To be fair, if he hadn't forced the partners, we would have all just stood there and stared at our shoes for the entire hour.)

If he was in my class, I almost always chose Matt Leebens for a partner, and he choose me. Since I had known and gone to school with Matt since kindergarten, we never needed to worry about all that boy-girl stuff. We were more like brother and sister. He lived a few blocks from me in a brown clapboard house on the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Chowen where we once played in a series of real life igloos that his father -- my 6th grade teacher at Jefferson -- had constructed on the avenue after a larger than usual snowfall. (Ironically, it was in one of those igloos that I lost my Hoth Ice Planet stormtrooper action figure.)

Matt and I were perfect dance partners. We both really liked it -- for me it was easier than running laps, being adequate at any sort of ball, and having to swim practically naked with the boys -- and we were both really good. We were so good, in fact, that when the rest of the class was still trying to master the steps to the fox trot or the waltz in a big paired-up circle, Matt and I would improvise and weave in and out of the circle, taking long steps and swirls that took us to the farthest reaches of the gym.

My parents were shocked (SHOCKED!) when Ms. Eckert -- she was one of those Mizzez who seemed to require the extra stress on the title -- told them at parent-teacher conferences that their daughter -- the one who fell down for no reason, ran into walls, and acquired multiple bruises in odd locations with no memory of how they got there but with suspicions that it was from walking into a coffee table or car fender -- was actually quite agile and coordinated on the dance floor.

All of the boys and probably most of the girls successfully endeavored to forget everything they learned about dancing as soon as they changed back into their school clothes. I didn't. I reveled in it. When we waltzed, I sang "I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream!" along with Tchaikovsky's music.

I still do.

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  Copyright © 2002-2008 Stephanie Vander Weide