Exercise in confidence building
If a woman wants to get ahead these days, she’s expected to exude confidence, so when I read a newspaper ad stating I could build confidence by enrolling in a series of low-cost dance lessons, I took $50 from the cookie-jar and invested in the lessons. This was a bargain. I could build confidence and learn a social skill at the same time.
My instructor was young and handsome. We took our dance positions and began the basic two-step pattern: one-together-two, two-together-three. My thoughts gravitated to the excruciating pain emanating from the corn on my little toe as it pressed against my left shoe.
Ignoring my toe, I asked my instructor why his knees banged against mine as we circled the floor. “Because you’re in front of me. Move to the left.” I moved to the left. He casually let go of me and I fell backward. “See there, your balance is off. Lead with your nose.” I clutched his bicep and tripped on his foot. “Don’t anticipate,” he scolded.
We sweated through the first hour lesson and I made an appointment for another. Building confidence was messy work.
Several weeks later, I finished my series of dance lessons and was eager to experience the confidence gained as a result of my newly acquired social skill. Millie, ever helpful, suggested I attend the next single’s dance with her.
I felt optimistic about my new-found abilities when Millie arrived that evening to drive us to the dance; however, I felt less optimistic about our chances of getting there. Riding in a car with Millie at the wheel is done at great risk to life and limb.
“What’s the quickest route to the dance?” Millie asked as I got into the car.
“Take the highway at the end of 56th Street and avoid downtown traffic,” I suggested, but she wasn’t interested in avoiding traffic. Instead, we sailed through the center of town with me shouting cautions and Millie ignoring them.
“Look out, stay in your lane, slow down,” I cried as she clattered on about who might be at the dance. “You’ll get you insurance cancelled if you have another wreck,” I warned as she turned in front of an oncoming car.
By the time we reached the dance, my right leg was numb from putting on the brake and the optimism I felt at the beginning of the evening had seeped away. I was a nervous wreck.
When we entered the room where the dance was in progress, I panicked. “Millie, what if someone asks me to dance?”
“That’s the idea,” she snapped.
“I don’t know anyone here. I can’t dance with a stranger. I need my instructor to whisper the steps in my ear. Besides, I’d feel much better if we were doing something useful. Let’s find the kitchen and make lunch for this bunch.”
“Did you forget to eat supper?” Millie asked.
“I think so.”
“Do you want coffee and something to eat before you try your luck at dancing?” she wondered.
All I wanted was to leave. Immediately. Fifty dollars worth of confidence was not enough. I was living proof of a statement made by William Pitt two centuries ago that, “Confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom.”
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