I have two friends in Dallas who are too cool for me. Stephanie and Candice actually go out on weekends, and I usually beg off because I’m working late, watching Netflix, or reading a new book. But since my time in the great state of Texas is running out, I agreed to go two stepping with them. This would allow me to do two things: hang out with friends in their natural habitat and experience a distinctly Texan entertainment.
Stephanie loaned me her cowboy boots, since I never did buy a pair during my three years here. The night of the two stepping, I stared at my feet, trying to imagine I felt normal in them. Nope. I felt like I was playing dress up.
Ten minutes after she was supposed to meet me, Lindsay texted and asked, “Can I bring Shipley??” Shipley is her golden retriever, famous for calming anxious minds. “Only if I can bring Rory,” I responded, since the idea of dancing with strangers was also making me crave some cuddle-time with my cat.
We arrived at the two stepping dance hall, and I froze. “Are we…do we dance in that??” I asked. There was an oval wooden track in the center of the massive room, with a bar and tables in a lowered middle section and counters and tables surrounding it on the outside. Everyone was always looking at everyone on the dance floor.
“Want to get a drink?” Lindsay asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
Candice and her friends had not shown up. “Have you gone two stepping before?” I asked Lindsay.
“Yeah,” she admitted. “It was awful. I always try to lead.”
I burst out laughing. “I never thought about trust issues playing out on the dance floor.”
“Oh yeah,” she said. “You want me to hold on to you, a male stranger? And walk backwards, trusting that you will keep me from hitting something or tripping or falling over? No thank you.”
“This is a nightmare,” I groaned.
Candice arrived, hands in the air and excited to see us. I plastered on a fake smile and ordered a second drink. “I’ve never two stepped before,” I yelled at Candice over the music. “Will you teach me?”
“Sure!” she said. After a quick lesson from her fiancee on how to lead like a man, Candice pushed me across the floor, smiling assurances every time I stumbled and stepped off-beat.
“Your turn!” I said, shoving Lindsay at Candice. She was just as awful, which was nice.
“I can’t stop leading,” Lindsay said. I stepped into the female role and we two-stepped together. I laughed. “Now I’m leading! Sorry!”
“Equality!” Lindsay shouted. We collapsed over ourselves, laughing loudly at our feminist humor.
Someone tapped my shoulder. “Would you like to dance?” I turned to see a short middle-aged man in a tall cowboy hat. Feeling good from laughter and drinks, I agreed. We stepped onto the dreaded circular track.
“I’m really bad at this!” I forewarned him. “This is my first time!”
“You are good,” he said, smiling constantly and guiding me expertly through the dancers as I stumbled around. I did find a rhythm eventually, though I had to look over his shoulder and avoid eye contact to do it. The song ended a couple minutes later, and he spun me into his arms. I froze and stared at him wide-eyed, face inches from his. I extricated an arm and patted him awkwardly on the shoulder. “Um, thanks!” I screeched before fleeing the dance floor.
“He was going to kiss me!” I hissed at Lindsay when I collapsed into the seat beside her.
“He was going to dip you,” she said.
“….Oh. OH. That makes so much more sense.” I laughed again, imagining his reaction to my pointless panic.
The music changed, shifting from country to hip hop, and Candice grabbed our arms and pulled us onto the dance floor. We hopped and shimmied and threw our arms around. I looked like an idiot, but for several blissful minutes I didn’t care. Then the dance break was over, and the two stepping began again. We left the floor to find more of Candice’s friends had arrived.
I had reached my giddy stage of the night, so I forced a cute boy to take Lindsay out dancing despite her glares, and I asked one of the guys in the group to dance with me. Once again, I prefaced the invitation with, “I’m really terrible at this.”
He took my hand and pulled me close. “Stop hopping,” he said. “Just glide your feet.”
I shuffled backward.
“Better, just…stop thinking about it.”
I stopped thinking, and subsequently lost the beat and started tripping over my own feet. I grimaced. “I’m sorry! I really am awful.”
“No, no. You’re doing great!”
I frowned at him and we laughed at his bald-faced lie. “This will be easier,” he said, and pulled my body into his. I was about to pull away in protest of this extreme closeness when I realized….it really did make dancing easier. Okay, so. This was a really effective move on his part. I shifted my hand so that I was half-embracing him as he shouted, “Where are you from?” into my ear.
“Peoria, Illinois!” I answered.
“I have family in Champaign! I go there every summer,” he said. He spun me out, around, back into his arms. I laughed giddily.
The music died and we walked back to our friends. He stood next to me and continued to talk. My heart sank, because I can only do intimacy with a male stranger for five minutes at a time. Dancing closely with someone who had connections to my home state was not acceptable.
“So do you come out here a lot?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “This is my first time.”
“What do you do on weekends?”
I stared at him, gauging my options. I decided to shut this down before it began. “I watch a lot of Netflix. I’m not really a partier.”
His face lit up. “Awesome! What are you watching?”
I frowned. This was not going well. I glanced over to see Lindsay, Candice, and the newly arrived Stephanie looking at us.
A new song started, and the guy asked if I wanted to dance again. “….Sure,” I agreed sullenly.
After the second dance, I beelined to Lindsay and threw my arms around her as though I had something important to say. One of the other people in the group cooed, “He loooooves you!” at me.
“We need to leave!” I shout-whispered in Lindsay’s ear.
“Don’t you like him?” she asked.
“He’s very nice and cute, and I want to leave.”
The music shifted to hip hop again, and Candice once again dragged us on the floor. All alcohol had left my body, and my dread over a pleasant interaction with a kind man made my limbs useless. Someone pushed me into the center of a dance circle, and I let the momentum propel me to the other side, shaking my head vehemently when they insisted I show off my dance moves. I accidentally made eye contact with the guy, who was dancing happily.
“I want to go home!” I shouted at Lindsay again.
“Don’t go home!” Candice and Stephanie screamed back. “It’s barely midnight.”
I feigned a yawn. “So late!”
Thankfully, the music went back to country, and our friends unhappily allowed us to leave. I shouted, “It was nice to meet you,” at the guy, then pulled Lindsay out the door. I had successfully escaped a potentially lovely and healthy male person. When we got into my car, I started laughing.
“What?” Lindsay asked.
“It’s no wonder I’m still single,” I admitted.
Lindsay nodded, thinking about her own reluctance to dance with anyone, I assumed. “Same.”
“At least we have each other!” I said.
“You’re the Leslie Knope to my Ann Perkins,” she said.
“No, you’re the Leslie Knope to my Ann Perkins,” I insisted.
“Let’s go home. I want to sleep.”