Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Salsa Queen of Princeton

“Grandma thinks you’re an asshole.”

I looked at my 12 year old daughter; what was worse, being told my mother continues to consider me the village idiot, or that my daughter needs to remind me of this fact?

"She says you’re stupid for going to a dance class. She says you’re wasting your time looking to meet someone because you always pick losers anyway.”

My mother has never forgiven me for being born without a penis. I tried to think of an answer that didn’t sound defensive.

“I like to dance. It makes me feel good about myself. Going out one night a week isn’t selfish.”

The single mother’s albatross around the neck, putting herself first.

“I go out for me, not necessarily to meet someone.”

“Yea, but if you met someone he could help you pay the bills,” chimed in my 15 year old son. “It would be nice I we could afford to have cable TV, internet connection, a better cell phone plan.”

How comforting to realize my son viewed relationships for their financial possibilities. I guess I should just settle on the candidate that would bring about the best economic reform.

“You’re a romantic” I said to him.

“No,” he replied, “I’m a realist. Not having cable sucks. We live like the Amish, no cable, no internet. More money makes life easier. You need a boyfriend.”

Why I was going to this class, I thought on the ride into work? I never meet anyone at these things; I join a book club and its ten women and one retired man, a cooking class and there’s more estrogen than tarragon in the room. The idea of meeting someone new seemed possible when my marriage first ended, but now, ten years later, the chances seem slim to none. I didn’t want to give up hope, but was it asking too much to meet a man you could have an adult conversation with? When does being realistic about your chances to meet someone decent turn into giving up hope and settling for someone who bathes on a regular basis?

Hope. Love is important in life, but hope is essential. Hope is what gets you out of bed in the morning, what comforts you before you fall asleep at night. It drives you through the day, whether it’s a mundane hope of “I hope I get to work on time”, to something akin to a profound prayer, “I hope I’m not screwing up my kids’ lives”.

When Pandora finally gave into temptation and opened the box that released all the evils into the world, she slammed the lid shut before hope flew away. Sometimes hope is all we have left. When we loose hope do we loose everything? Is there any point in going on without hope?

As 5:00 pm drew near my confidence began to wane like the setting sun. Why was I going to this class? I loved to dance, but my previous experiences with Community Education dance classes hadn’t been very enjoyable. The tango class last spring made me uncomfortable. Tango is full of machismo control with the man moving the woman around, she having to wait for him to initiate the movement. It brought back feelings of being trapped in a relationship with a controlling and abusive husband. Would a salsa class be better or a variation on a theme I didn’t want to repeat?

I drove home, made dinner for the kids, took a shower and changed into an appropriate outfit for the evening, half way between confident and trying too hard. The class began at 7:30 at the community center in town. My mother would arrive at 6:30 to watch the kids for me; that would give me plenty of time to drive back and find a place to park.

"You look pretty,” my youngest said, “I like that dress. Those earrings are pretty. Can I have them when you die?”

My son wants me to marry to increase our economic possibilities, my older daughter contradicts everything I say, and my youngest daughter is taking inventory of my possessions.

“When I’m dead you and your brother and sister can fight over all of my stuff. I’m not promising anything to anyone.”


My mother had arrived and was voicing her usual disapproval of the way I expressed myself around my children. Forty seven years of mutual disappointment.

“Will you be late coming home; I don’t like to drive home when it’s late?”

“No, the class ends at 9:30, so I should be home by 10:00. Unless I meet someone.”


That was her “how presumptuous” click. My mother could say more with a click of her tongue than any great orator.

“Remember,” my son called from his room, “It would be nice to have cable.”

The drive took less time than during the morning commute, so I arrived at the community center with way too much time to spare. This isn’t good; I thought to myself, I’ll only start psyching myself out. I sat in my car, and wondered who was all ready inside.

Well, you could always go in and find out , instead of sitting out here in your car noticing that your shoes are a little too tight and your skirt is a little too short, wondering why you put yourself through this. It’s just as easy to stay at home at night, working a full time job and raising three kids on your own, that’s a long day, no one would blame you if all you did was sit on the couch. Yes, I said, interrupting myself, someone would blame me. Hope. Hope would blame me for not trying just once more.

I opened the car door and made my way towards the building. I heard music through an open window; saw people milling about the dance floor. I opened the door, took a deep breath and went in. We went in; me and Hope.

©2008 VL Sheridan

1 comment:

  1. The one that started it all. This originally appeared in the 2008 US1 Summer Fiction Issue.