How I Learned to Dance
Written by Rick
Twice in my life, Dancing has
helped rescue me from a serious crisis. For
example, back in 1986, I used Whip Dancing to recover from a deep
depression brought on by my divorce. It is an
interesting story. (201
However, this 1973-1975
saga is even more remarkable because I started my
a much tougher place.
You will read
how learning to dance Freestyle helped me climb back
from the deepest hole of my entire life.
As you read my story, I am sure you will agree some
of those events were pretty unusual.
The story begins in September 1973. I had been
accepted as a graduate student in the Clinical
Psychology program at Colorado State University.
I had a full scholarship and was brimming with
confidence. Even better, one short month after
my arrival, I began dating a stunning blonde lady
who worked in the department. I was on top of
forward to May 1974. Following two enormous
setbacks, I returned to Houston in the pits of
despair. I was deeply depressed with no
idea how to get my confidence back. At this
point in time, I was little better than a zombie.
Due the discovery of an odd little paperback book, one day I decided I wanted to learn to dance. I had never danced in my life,
so I was surprised at how strong the desire was.
Unfortunately, after one lesson, I realized I was
absolutely terrible. This wasn't going to be
as easy as I hoped. Although I was
discouraged, I decided to continue. Even
though learning to dance was always an uphill
struggle, I practiced with a relentlessness that
I didn't completely understand.
I often wondered why I took this project so
seriously. I certainly never imagined that
pursuing a skill like freestyle would accomplish the
miracle of resurrecting my shattered confidence.
Nor did I have any idea
that dancing would
help pull me out of my terrible downward spiral.
I might add I encountered some devastating setbacks
right from the start. No matter how bad these
omens were, I refused to
I got on the path for no better reason than
it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
Then I discovered I felt
better about myself when I practiced my dancing.
learned to dance, I noticed my depression was slowly
dissipating. That was all the reason I needed
to stay with it.
MY DEPARTURE FROM COLORADO
In May of 1974, I received a
letter from the head of my
Clinical Psychology Department. The letter said I would have
to leave my graduate
program at Colorado State University. This blow
the bitter conclusion to an entire year of misery.
Looking back, it certainly is a
lot easier to
accept the events of that year now
than it was then. As I left Colorado
State, I felt pretty
much like Jimmy Stewart at his lowest moments in
It's a Wonderful Life.
So where's the nearest bridge?
No, I wasn't suicidal, but I
was incredibly depressed.
I had failed in the two most important areas of my
life - love and career.
Nine months earlier I had entered the Colorado State graduate
program as one of their shining stars. As the result of
grades at Johns Hopkins and excellent GRE scores, I was
given a full scholarship. I was excited to begin
training to become a therapist.
Up to this point in my life, I had always been
a top-notch student when
it came to academics. Therefore getting thrown out of graduate school
a year later was a
massive blow to my
self-esteem. I had never failed at anything
in my life!
Actually, my failure had nothing to do with
was thrown out
because two of my professors said I had 'personality
did not think I had the
to be a good therapist.
This was not
what I wanted to hear at the time.
I was crushed. It felt like they were saying I wasn't a
good enough person. They said my personality was far too aggressive for a
gentle profession like Psychotherapy.
I didn't agree with
them. I had just as much ability as anyone in my class and
plenty of determination. In my opinion, they were
punishing me for being outspoken and assertive.
So if I was such
a good student, how did they get rid of me?
I was given a "D" in an Interviewing
course. A "D" in graduate school is fatal.
So how do you get a "D" and claim your
failure is not academic? They failed me in a course that had
no tests! They based my "D" on their subjective
opinion of me, an opinion which obviously wasn't very good.
In my other eight courses, I received an A- average.
Out of 9 first-year
graduate students, only one person did better than me in those
same courses. So
if you ignore the D, I was second in my class.
I say this not to brag, but to
support my case that I had the
talent to belong in that program.
The curious D grade was a scam.
There was no written exam. The only test
was an mock interview at the end of the course.
I was supposed to
"interview" an advanced graduate student
from the Psychology Dept who pretended to be
a guy coming in to talk about his problems.
I was supposed to
Interview him and "listen" using the skills I had been
taught to encourage him to open up and express his feelings. The Interview was videotaped, then graded.
They gave me a "D" based on what they said
was a poor job of interviewing.
I was mystified by my grade. I thought I had done pretty
well in my mock interview session. I sought out
Jeff Besser, the graduate student
who I had "Interviewed". Jeff frowned when I showed him my grade.
Looking over his shoulder with a hint of paranoia, he whispered that I
had done the second best job
out of the 4 first-year grad
students who interviewed him. He
said this grade was a hatchet job designed to get rid of me.
But Jeff's opinion wasn't the one
that counted. The professors had a different point of view. They could give me any
grade they wanted to. The beauty was that no one
could disagree with my grade. It was based on their 'subjective'
The consensus among
Jeff and the
other advanced grad students was
that I wasn't given a fair shake.
But they also pointed out I wasn't blameless. It was my
lousy office politics
had caused my undoing.
the instructor of my
was my strongest critic. Since Dr. Suinn was also the Chairman of the
his low opinion of me was fatal.
It was true I didn't have a clue how to behave around
him. For one thing, I never learned to keep my mouth shut.
While everyone else in my class stayed quiet,
I was outspoken. I
would do things like ask questions, ask him to explain something further, disagree with
him on an interpretation, and defend my position or ask him to defend his.
Stupid me, I acted like we were
colleagues. I actually had
the nerve to debate points with him in class!
I was a fool. It never dawned on me that I was cutting my
own throat the whole time. Dr.
Suinn was a cold, authoritarian man who had few kind words
for me. I bristled at his harsh criticism and handled it poorly.
The consensus was that I was
Well, guess what, they were right.
I had a very thin skin.
It wasn't just me.
I wasn't the only one who chafed under Dr. Suinn's authority.
All the first-year graduate students disliked his sharp
tongue. But they had the sense to stay silent in
class and keep their opinions to themselves. Not
chirpy me. I spoke up all the time. My big mouth
had a death wish.
Interestingly, a fellow student named Michael dropped out because of
that same Interviewing class. He dropped out in the first
month of the program. Michael told me he couldn't
stand the way he was being put down. I admired him for
his courage to be so sure he was doing the right thing.
But losing Michael turned out to be a bad break for me.
After he left, it became my turn. I became the new
I fought back, unaware of the price I would have to pay for
my outspoken ways. I suppose in the process I did the
other students a favor. With me as the lightning rod for
by fighting back I allowed the rest to hide in my shadow.
Looking back, if I had known to keep my mouth shut, it might have been a different
story. But then that wouldn't be my style, now would
Playing the Game
I failed because I never learned how to play the game.
Now that I am older and wiser, I can see my mistakes
clearly. Too bad I was
clueless back then. Throughout my life, I always seem
to be forced to learn my lessons the
I didn't deserve the "D", but
then I probably wasn't
born to be a therapist either, at least not by their
definition. According to
them, the best therapists are good listeners. In
their opinion, I talked too much.
I didn't see it that way, but when I disagreed with them,
then I was being defensive. How do you argue without
being defensive? I couldn't win. They
held all the cards.
Some of my fellow grad students urged me to fight the
decision. One grad student said a professor he was
close to had confided to him the faculty was divided almost
50-50 on what to do with me. Nevertheless I threw in the towel. I just couldn't
bear to grovel any more. I tried once during the year
by going to talk to Dr. Suinn, but I could tell he really
didn't want me there.
Even if I protested to
some sort of Graduate program supervisor, what good would it
have done? I
would always be
locked in an uphill struggle
trying to conform my talkative nature to their ideal of the quiet
only professor I trusted, pulled me aside. He said that
I had a ton of talent, but in
some ways he agreed with his colleagues. He said the
same things that Suinn had said, but in a nicer way.
He pointed out I had a very
strong personality. I liked to talk a lot. As a
therapist, a person needed to be more on gentle, quiet side.
He said I could struggle hard to conform to their vision of
the 'good therapist' graduate student, but ultimately he
felt I was better off moving on. He suggested I become
a teacher. That surprised me because I had been
thinking the same thing.
had seen me teach a couple times and thought I had a unique
talent for it. This parting compliment cheered me up
immensely. In retrospect, he had me pegged right on
the nose. Teaching was definitely my talent.
dismissal meant the end to a dream. Sad to say, I
didn't handle it very well, but we will get to that story
Colorado State was
not the right place for me. I bristled
under the constant lash of criticism. A
softer approach would have made all the difference in the
world. I was an angry kid in those days and
didn't have the right attitude about criticism... especially
the cutting kind as opposed to the constructive.
Everything Dr. Suinn said seemed to have a bite to it.
I had the brains and
I also had a good heart. With a little more faith
on their part, I think I would have matured.
I have told this story over the years, people have commented
that they would have assumed a "Psych Department" would be more
nurturing and patient with one of their own. After
all, aren't they in the business of teaching people how to
deal with personality issues?
can only assume they thought I was too far gone to fool
They made it clear it wasn't their job to burp me and
change my diapers. They had a picture of what sort of person
succeeds in this field - patient, low-key, quiet - and they
saw noisy me as too big a gamble. My personality was too
aggressive to ever bend to their image.
Although I did not realize it at the time, there was one
silver lining in this vast wasteland of disappointment.
Like Dr. Weigal pointed out, I was an effective teacher.
was where I first made this discovery.
was my responsibility to be the teaching assistant to one
professor each trimester. The professor would conduct a lecture
to 300 students, then I would hold weekly seminars of my own
to review the material. I not only enjoyed teaching, I
had a nice touch for it. I expressed myself well and
cared about what I was doing. I went out of my way to
make the material interesting by showing how famous
experiments in Psychology could relate to the students
themselves. In return, I received the ultimate
compliment - my review classes were strongly attended.
Although this was the first time that I ever realized how much I
enjoyed teaching, my discovery was not a complete surprise. I
had dreamt of being a teacher back in high school. The
problem was that I had never
figured out what I was good enough to teach.
After I left CSU, it would be three years until I eventually found
my niche as a a dance teacher. Thank goodness I
eventually stumbled into what I am good at.
thirty years as a dance teacher
has been filled with satisfaction. It
has given me the chance to
use my interest in dance and my verbal skills in a
positive way. Not only do I enjoy teaching, I use my
"therapy skills" too.... it is not an accident that so many people
met and got married at my studio. Using my psychology
background, I made my studio a safe and comfortable place
that was the ideal situation for making friends.
So it must be said that in the long run, things worked out
But at the time of my dismissal, oh
my failure at Colorado State Psych
program hurt terribly!
PORTLAND WOMAN WHO BROKE MY HEART
Now I have
another bitter story to tell.
In the process
of getting kicked out of graduate school, I also suffered a broken
By strange coincidence, I started dating
Jan, Dr. Suinn's
beautiful personal secretary.
In early October,
I bumped into Jan in the hallway of the Psych
Department. This chance meeting occurred one
month before I would learn of my failing grade in
Dr. Suinn's class.
Whether Suinn was upset with me
over this, I don't know, but I can't imagine it helped things.
I am sure he just added it to all the reasons he
disapproved of me.
Although Jan was Dr.
Suinn's personal secretary, I doubt she knew I was
Dr. Suinn's doghouse. If she had, I can't
imagine she would have been so much at ease talking
to me. Jan was my age - 23. I had
noticed her several times due to her beauty, but had
not acted on my attraction. Now as we talked,
I realized Jan was just as bright as she was pretty.
Jan told me she had been a student at Colorado
State. Jan had dropped out of school
last semester for a variety of reasons. Jan
told me she was planning to go back to school in January.
planning to move to Portland, Oregon, sometime after Thanksgiving.
The tuition was dramatically less in her home
state than here in Colorado.
I said my favorite song was about meeting a girl in
immediately intrigued, so I quoted a line from thir song.
little girl who looks lost and lonely backstage at
the show. I need me a Portland Woman.
Portland Women treat you right!"
Jan smiled and
said she didn't believe me. She accused me of just making that
up. Surely I was just saying that to flirt
I told her she
was wrong. This was the era of a new
Progressive Country sound characterized by the
Eagles' hit "Peaceful Easy Feeling". Another
group with a sound similar to the Eagles was the New
Riders of the Purple Sage. I said I listened
to their album all the time.
"Prove it!" she
couldn't help but wonder who's flirting with whom.
Maybe this chance meeting in the hall wasn't an
accident after all. Feeling the excitement
rising, I took her challenge
and hummed some of the words to Jan.
INTO PORTLAND TOWN
WE BEEN ON THE ROAD
ROCK AND ROLLING FOR THE CROWD
THREE MORE NIGHTS TO GO
BUT IF I DONíT FIND SOMEONE TONIGHT
I JUST WONíT MAKE IT THROUGH
IíM GOING OUT IN PORTLAND TOWN
AND SEE WHAT I CAN DO
YOU KNOW, ITíS VERY COLD IN PORTLAND TOWN
THIS TIME OF THE YEAR,
I WOULDNíT MIND IF I COULD FIND
SOMEONE TO HOLD ME NEAR
AND THEREíS A LITTLE GIRL,
SHE LOOKS LOST AND LONELY
BACKSTAGE AT THE SHOW
IíM GOING UP AND ASKING HER
HEY, WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO
YOU SEE I NEED ME A PORTLAND WOMAN
I DONíT WANT TO BE ALONE TONIGHT
I WANT TO GET ME A PORTLAND WOMAN
PORTLAND WOMEN TREAT YOU RIGHT
PORTLANDíS GONNA BE MINE TONIGHT
Apparently Jan was a sucker for a
serenade because she was grinning from ear to ear
after my rendition. Emboldened by her big
smile, I asked her out. Things moved swiftly
Jan and I had a powerful connection right from the start.
Just a few weeks into our relationship, Jan
said she was deeply in love with me.
And I was deeply in love
with her. Even though I knew Jan was
leaving for Portland in a couple months, Jan said
she and I would find a future together. So I allowed
myself to fall for her completely. I was head
But then something happened that Jan
didn't tell me about. Shortly after the night she
told me she loved me, Jan's "ex"
Kevin moved back into the picture.
It's one thing to compete
for someone's affections in an open playing field,
but in this case, I had no
idea what was going on. As a result, I
was completely blind-sided.
to no previous experience with women,
it was my tough luck to fall for
a dangerous one my first time out. Jan was a
very convincing liar and I was a gullible fool. I
was in way over my head and
didn't even know it.
In late October I started noticing warning
signs. Unfortunately I was far too inexperienced to
understand what they meant. Things
had been so easy at the start, but she had
mysteriously changed somehow. Jan said she
loved me, but she sure had a strange way of showing
I was baffled by the strange excuses
to free up time to see Kevin
without my knowing. Her actions and her words were
in constant contradiction.
My gut was always tied up in
knots with worry. Despite thinking about her
all the time, I could not understand her behavior.
I was furious that I couldn't solve the riddle.
Wasn't I supposed to be a Psych major?
In late November, I got the news about my "D" in
Interviewing. Knowing that
Jan was leaving Colorado to move home in about two
didn't make things any easier. I felt
disgraced over my failure. Hurt and
depressed, I didn't see much of Jan in the final
Over the Christmas Break I called long-distance to
Oregon to ask if I could
come to Portland to visit. Jan told me she
desperately wished I could come see her, but there
was a problem. Her ex-boyfriend Kevin
was in Portland. In fact, Kevin was staying at
Jan's words took
my breath away. This was preposterous. I
knew little about Kevin other than he was the star
third basemen of the CSU baseball team and he was a
good-looking ladies man. Jan had broken up with
Kevin shortly before we met. Jan had tossed him
because he was playing around on her.
Now Jan was telling me her ex-boyfriend had somehow
followed her all the way to Portland without
permission. I was even more incredulous to
find that Jan's parents had rewarded this behavior
by offering him the guest room in their house.
Jan continued. She said that poor Kevin had been unable to deal with losing her.
In desperation, he drove all the way to Portland after she left and
showed up on her doorstep unannounced. He was
depressed and having trouble coping. Her
parents were really worried about him, so they
invited him in. Jan
said Kevin was in too fragile a state of mind for
her to tell him about me just now, much less have me
How ridiculous was that story? I had spent
three months listening to the weirdest
excuses imaginable, but this was the first time I
realized what had been going on.
Finally everything made sense - Kevin had been
seeing Jan all along! I had known that
Jan had just broken up with Kevin when she began
seeing me, but I had no idea he had come back in the
picture... until now.
I slammed the phone down and screamed bloody murder.
I had just realized Jan had been deceiving me the entire
time. I began to seethe with rage.
consumed by waves of rage
and jealousy. I crumpled into my chair and buried my
head in my hands.
LEARNING THE TRUTH
did not handle this discovery well. I could not get
her out of my mind. I obsessed day and night over our
three months of tainted love. I was mad at her and mad
at myself. I could not stop thinking about what a dumb fool
this woman had made of me. I missed her and hated
her all at the same time. The same woman who said she
loved me had been lying to me for three entire months!
How could she do that to me?
Even worse, the signs had all been there and I was too
stupid to figure them out. Sure I was suspicious, but
I had never had the guts or the sense to confront her.
I hated myself so much at the knowledge that it had been
right under my nose and I missed it.
I was overwhelmed
by the power of my emotions. I could not find
any kind of peace. I obsessed about every
detail, every lie over and over again. Most of
all, I hurt because I thought I was special to her
only to discover I was nothing but an amusement.
It also agonized me to realize this man had stolen
her away from me. I was a chump and a loser
all rolled into one. And I was a failure in
graduate school for good measure.
About a week
after my painful
discovery, I found out the entire truth from a woman
named Jean. Like Jan, Jean worked as a
secretary at Colorado State. However she
worked in a different building. I knew that Jean and Jan
were close friends. Maybe she would tell me
what had been going on.
School was still not in session due to the Holidays, so the
campus was practically deserted. However I knew that
Jean still had to show up for work. So one day late in the
afternoon I dropped into Jean's office when no one
else was around. I told her how I had learned
about Kevin being in Oregon. I looked Jean in
the eye and begged her to tell me the truth.
Jean stared at me
without saying a word. I just stood there
trying to read her mind. Then she frowned and looked
out the window at the Rockies in the distance.
Finally she looked back
at me. By her expression, I could tell that
Jean was sympathetic.
Shaking her head
in disgust, Jean said, "I always
knew it was going to come to this. I told Jan
she had no right to lie to you like that."
Jean took a long breath, then said,
"Okay, Jan's gone now. I think you have the
right to know the truth. You tell me what you
know and I will try to clear it up for you."
was kind enough to fill in the background details so I could
finally know the entire story behind Jan's deception.
I would ask questions and Jean gave me what she
I told Jean when I met
Jan, she had already made a decision to return to
Oregon to resume her education
at Portland State in January. I told
Jean her parents
lived in Portland and the tuition was peanuts
compared to what she would have to pay in Colorado.
Was that the truth?
ironically. "That's just a cover story, Rick.
Jan is a resident of Colorado too. She could
have gone to school at CSU for the same money.
Before she met you, Jan made a mess of her personal life.
She developed what you would call a 'reputation'
around this place. Kevin
was just the latest in a long string of
disappointments. Jan moved to Portland for one
single reason - she needed to start over in a new
I told Jean that my romance with Jan
had developed like a wildfire.
It was intense and passionate.
Jean nodded. She
told me that part was true. However, what I didn't know was that two weeks after Jan started
seeing me, Kevin decided their breakup was over. One
night Kevin knocked on her door and Jan let him in.
Kevin talked his way
back into her arms and spent the night. Apparently Jan always had a
weakness for this guy. But at the same time, Jan was surprised by the
intensity of her feelings for me and didn't want to give me
up. Now she had her boyfriend back, but she had me
too. What to do?
Knowing that she
was leaving Colorado in six weeks, Jan decided to
keep us both.
That would be the easiest way to solve the
problem. Jan decided it was easier
to juggle both men than deal with the pain of
hurting one of us. However, Jan understood the
only way to keep us both was not to tell either guy about the
Jean said that
Jan was very good at this. In fact, Jean didn't think
Kevin had ever learned about me.
Jean confirmed that Kevin got the lion's share of the
attention after he returned. My shoulders sagged and
my face wrinkled into a death mask of pain. It took
everything in my power not to cry and embarrass myself in
front of her.
Jean frowned again. This wasn't much fun for her
seeing how much pain I was in, but to her credit she didn't
brush me off.
Jean said she had
argued with Jan about her decision on several
occasions. Once she had come close to telling
me because she was so mad at Jan. Jean knew
how much I cared about Jan and couldn't bear seeing
me get set up like that. But Jan warned her
not to say a thing. Jan said I would never
have to know. After she was gone, I would move
on. That was the best way for everyone.
that since she barely knew me, she would stay out of
it. She asked me to forgive her. Of
course I did. In fact, I was deeply grateful to her.
How many people get closure so crystal clear as this?
It was a huge relief knowing the truth.
As I left Jean's
office, I was grim and bitter.
After our talk, I
went home that night and sat in the depths
of despair for hours on end.
But I definitely
felt better knowing the full picture. At least
now every strange thing Jan had done finally made
sense. It was comforting to know now that I
was confused for a good reason.
the days to follow, my hot anger turned to depression.
Jan's lies and deceit set the stage for the biggest heartache of my
life. Now that I knew the whole truth, I was upset to
discover that Jan had deliberately treated me so coldly.
Jan knew right from wrong. What had I done to
deserve such open treachery?
have always lived by the thought that I am my brother's
keeper. If I see an animal or a human being in
trouble, I will try to help them. Nor will I
intentionally do something to put another person at risk.
Apparently Jan felt no need to follow these simple rules of
No wonder I was so beaten down. I faced the
fact that I
had failed at my chosen career and I had lost the only woman
I had ever loved. Adding to my despair was my jealousy
over losing to another guy and knowing she had
deliberately deceived me.
this point, the only thing that kept me going was the fact
I was allowed to finish out my
year at CSU. One of my professors said that if I
performed well, I might rescue my situation. So I
clung to that slim hope like a life ring in the ocean. I
spent the final trimester at Colorado State trying to
make amends for my poor performance in Interviewing.
was a waste of time. The faculty never gave me another
chance. They had me pegged and just let me go
through the motions. It was all a charade. My
fate had been determined all the way back in November.
In May, they sent me packing.
I crawled back to Houston to pick up the pieces.
I was in very bad shape. I was a broken man at
this point in my life. I had no idea what I would do
next. My confidence was completely shattered.
JUNE 1974. BACK IN HOUSTON
Burdened with an vast
array of chips on my shoulder and
suffering from clinical-level depression, I
sought out the kindness of the Clark family. Polly and
Allen Clark had been surrogate parents to me for my whole life. Now in
my darkest moment, I sought refuge in their home.
What wonderful people they were! With three kids of
their own, there were no guests rooms in their house.
But no matter. Polly said if I wanted, I could sleep on their living room
couch. Since their main living area was the den,
the family practically never walked through the living room.
It was exactly what I needed, so I gratefully accepted.
Little did Allen and Polly know they had acquired a mental patient.
For the entire month of June 1974, I lay on that couch
practically the entire day. As I listened to the sad
music of the Moody Blues Tuesday Afternoon
album, I would throw a baseball in
the air and catch it on the way down. I repeated this
ritual time after time.
The only time I ever left the couch was when I dropped the
baseball or needed a peanut butter sandwich to survive. I wasn't catatonic, but I was close. I was in so much
The only time
I came alive was at night. By chance, the Clarks lived
next door to the Jewish Community Center. Every night
I would put on my basketball shoes and play endless games of
pickup basketball. Sorry to say, I played rough. Anything to deal with the pain and
let off some of my hatred towards the human race. I was the
angry young man.
The next day
would be the same thing - couch baseball in the daylight,
angry basketball at night. This went on for 30 straight
days. I wallowed endlessly in my self-pity.
I would like to point out that not one time in that entire
month did the Clarks ever say a harsh word to me. Not
once. Here was this unhappy, miserable blob who laid
on their couch for hours on end, but they never said a word.
They simply let me be.
Who lets a
mental patient stay in their home for an entire month
without any end in sight?
What incredible patience!
Don't ask me how, but one day my life force kicked back
in out of the blue . In early July, I was alone at the
kitchen table eating cereal. I picked up the paper.
After I finished the Sports section, I noticed the Help
Wanted section. On a whim, I started to look through
it. That afternoon I went out and got
a job as a social worker investigating child abuse.
This would not turn out to be a fun job. I took it because
at least it offered the chance to help people, something I
still wanted to do.
Now that I had an income, the next day I found an apartment.
I used my meager savings for the deposit. The next day
I moved in. It didn't take long. After all, I
didn't have any furniture. I bought a rectangular
piece of foam rubber and slept on that for the time being.
all happened in the space of three days. I clearly
wasn't living in style, but I was alive. As they say,
that beat the alternative.
Rat-a-tat, just like that the time had come to get on with my life.
I suppose when you are in my position, you take inspiration wherever you can find it.
All it took was one dollar to open the door for my
Now that I was on my own again, I took stock.
A couple nights alone on that mattress in my empty
apartment swiftly reminded me how lonely I was.
Even though I grew up in Houston, I had been away now for
six years. I had only been close to a couple guys
back in high school, but they were long gone. I didn't know a soul
my own age.
One day I
visited a bookstore. I noticed a used paperback
titled "How to Meet Girls". It
crossed my mind that whoever had first read it
thought so little of it they had gotten rid of it.
However, this was clearly a subject I needed help with so I glanced
through the book. A couple passages caught my eye.
at the price tag. $1. I rolled my eyes.
Why not? So for $1, I purchased the book
that would change my life.
I took it home and began to read.
Chapter Three was titled "Develop
Interests Which Facilitate Socialization."
listed the three easiest ways to meet girls:
1) Learn to talk to women, develop an outgoing personality,
be charming, be a good listener.
2) Be a great
cook, invite them to your apartment for dinner, then
seduce them after the meal.
(that's what it said; I am not
making this up)
3) Learn to dance.
"cooking" first. My idea of cooking was to heat a hotdog or make a
peanut butter sandwich. I didn't have a bit of
I studied the
"conversation" option carefully. I had thought
"talking" was one of my strengths. Then Dr. Suinn used
my outspokenness as a reason to ditch me.
However it was
Jan who had completely silenced me.
Even since my confidence was
still shattered from my lethal
relationship with Jan, the very thought of talking to
women scared me to death.
In the same way a boy recoils from a dog after being bitten
once, I had developed what could be best described as a
"phobia" towards women.
definition from one of my texts, a phobia is a "persistent,
abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or
situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the
awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous".
A normal person
might say a pretty girl is not harmless, but I knew better.
Just the sight of a woman with blonde hair from across the
room would send a sharp bolt of anxiety shooting through me.
If the pretty girl came closer, I would literally get so
nervous I would have to move away. That's how bad it
was. Like the proverbial Pavlov's dog, I had been
shocked so badly that now I trembled when someone I was
attracted to approached me.
I was a complete
mess when it came to women. I knew I needed
companionship in the worst way, but I was too afraid to try
again right now. The thought of "talking" to a woman
literally scared me to death. I felt completely
What I needed
was a way to get a girlfriend without talking to her.
The only thing left was
dancing. Was it possible
that I could at least say, "Would you like to dance?"
Maybe. Maybe not.
The idea of dancing definitely intrigued me. I
studied the advice of Suggestion #3
with the fervor of a Bible scholar leafing through Genesis.
certain skills which on occasion might stimulate a girl
to turn her head in your direction instead of the other
guy who is competing for her. Dancing is one of
them. I don't say that everyone can be a great dancer,
but most men can be good dancers.
situations there is no easier way of meeting a girl than
asking her to dance.
The stakes of the game being
what they are and the effort involved being as slight as
it is, there's no reason why a man should not learn to
become a good (or at least a tolerable) dancer."
I read that
passage over so many times I practically had it memorized. The first line in that passage caught
my eye. If I was reading this right, the writer was
that 'dancing' was a skill that might turn a girl's head in
my direction instead of towards the other guy who is
competing for her.
Since I had just come up on the
short end of a contest for a girl's heart, I was all eyes
and ears for any trick that could turn the tide in my favor
the next time around.
I thought about it for a while.
It dawned on me that I had nursed a secret ambition to learn to dance for a
long time dating all the way back to high school. But I had always been too busy with school
to take the time to learn. Well, school was definitely
I picked up the Yellow Pages and thumbed the pages for
MY FIRST DANCE CLASS EVER
After calling around, I discovered there
was a Saturday
morning Disco Freestyle class at a studio known as
Dance City USA.
Located on Richmond one block outside the West Loop, Dance
City has been extinct for many years.
However in 1974, Dance City was one
of the best known dance studios in the city.
Ballroom studio, one of the Dance City instructors named
David had fallen in love with Disco music. Several
ladies who took Ballroom lessons from David saw him dance
Freestyle and had begged him to teach them how. When I
phoned, the lady said David's class had only been going for
about a month. She said David's class was one of the
first Disco Dance classes in the city.
I had never even
heard of Disco music. Considering all I ever listened
to was the Eagles, I didn't know anything about the music.
But the lady on the phone insisted this was the class I
needed, so I took her word for it. I would soon learn
that Disco music was practically brand new. In the
beginning Disco was a fusion of Jazz, Latin syncopations and
R&B music that featured uncomplicated lyrics and great dance
rhythms. Later Disco music would add a strangely
hypnotic electronic background that I really liked.
A lot of people
think that Disco started with Saturday Night Fever.
That's actually not true. A groundswell of interest in
Disco music had been building across the country since 1973.
Disco would really break loose in 1975 when Donna Summer and
KC and the Sunshine Band released music that became huge
hits. However it was indeed the movie that turned both
the music and the dancing into a national phenomenon.
When I showed up
at Dance City in August 1974, I was at least one year ahead
of everyone else. Trust me, I would soon learn I
needed all the head start I could get.
Till now I had danced
in public maybe three times in my life.
There had been one chemically-induced experience at
my senior prom which technically should not really be called
dancing. In addition I also danced
a couple times in college, but each time I was sober enough
to be painfully aware how poor I was.
As I read the book's advice on dancing, it occurred to me
I had been interested in learning to dance long before I had
ever read this How to Meet Girls book.
A long lost memory surfaced when I remembered asking a girl
in high school to show me how to dance. Since I only
received one lesson, I can only assume she didn't
think I had much of a chance.
Then I remembered
trying to teach myself to dance in college two years ago.
in my Senior year I turned on the stereo in the living room
when none of my roommates were around. I just flopped
around trying to dance. I quickly made the sad
discovery that it was no use. They say practice makes
perfect, but not when you have no idea where to start.
didn't know any steps and I didn't understand music or rhythm.
It's hard to
practice something if you don't know what to do. I
soon gave up.
Therefore I was already painfully aware of my dance
inadequacy. Not surprisingly, I was very nervous as I walked in
the dance studio. After inquiring at the registration desk, I paid my money for the class and
headed to the
RUNNING THE GAUNTLET
Dance City was primarily a
Ballroom Dance Studio. Saturday mornings were
prime time for giving private ballroom dance
lessons. Just past the registration desk, I noticed a group of
ten men lining the open walkway that I had to use to get
to my room.
The men were standing side by side in front of a
This small barrier served as a
separation between the walkway and the main dance
floor. I guessed these men were dance instructors
waiting to greet their students
as they arrived. The men
were standing at that particular spot because it
served as the entrance to the main dance floor
where they taught their private
none of their students had shown up yet, so the
whole gang stood there with nothing better to do
than look me over. As I walked up, they
eyeballed me so closely that I was definitely taken
aback. What was this all about?
As I got closer I did a double-take.
I realized each man was more than likely gay. In my heretofore sheltered
life, I had never seen more than two gay men together at the
Now there were ten of them and every one was staring
intently at me. And they had the strangest expressions
on their faces.
I groaned to myself. I
was already nervous enough and now this! For my purposes it did
not help to find 10 gay dance
instructors eyeing me up and down at the entrance.
could see the
only way I could get to my room was to walk past them.
They were definitely checking me out. At
the time, it did not occur to me the reason might have been that I looked like a
giant hillbilly from the Ozarks, but I
will get to that in a minute.
All I knew was
that all eyes were on
me and I didn't like it one bit. I felt very uncomfortable.
An incident from my freshman year in college flashed before
my eyes. Johns Hopkins was a men's school in 1968.
In order to have a dance, they had to bus girls in from
several women's colleges in the area. I remember how l
joined 400 of my freshman classmates as we formed an impromptu
welcoming line along
the sidewalk. The line stretched all the way from the
bus to the
gym where the dance would be held. We were there to greet the girls as they
got off the bus. This became a nightmare.
ladies had no choice but to get off the bus one girl at a
time to the cheers of hormone-crazed teenage boys. We gawked at each girl and evaluated them in the
same manner these dance instructors were looking at me.
I am ashamed to say we made a lot of noises too, some appreciative,
some not. It was a horrible experience for these
girls. How pathetic! The girls were miserable
having to undergo the scrutiny of these immature young men
as they walked to the gym. I felt so sorry for them at
Today the shoe was on the other foot. It was my turn to
see what it felt like. My only other choice was to turn around and leave.
Although I admit I hesitated for a moment,
I decided to stick it out. I
kept my eyes forward and pursed my lips
grimly as I walked
the gauntlet. I felt very
reception was just the beginning. I didn't know it,
but this was going to be a very bad day.
As a prelude to the next
part of the story, the thing to keep in mind as I entered my dance
class room for the first time was just how ridiculously insecure I
I felt like the world's
biggest loser. I had been rejected in a very hostile way by certain
professors at Colorado State. I had been rejected in a very
hostile way by a very pretty woman who had said she loved me.
Despite my ocean of
self-pity, there was a healthy part of me that knew I was very much
responsible for these two situations. I knew something was
wrong with me, but I didn't know how to fix it. I was angry towards the world in general and
deeply insecure around women thanks in large part to Jan. I
still did not understand why Jan had treated me so badly and I had
all lost all confidence whenever I saw an attractive woman. I
avoided attractive women like the plague.
Failure had taken its
toll on me. After my nervous breakdown in
June, I was still pretty shaky as I started my first dance class in
I suppose I was what you would call a "walking wounded". I
felt ugly, unwanted, and unattractive.
And I was lonely.
It was my own fault. As anyone will tell you, a person who
frowns can expect the world to frown back. "Lonely man cries
for love and has none."
Much of my low
self-esteem around women could be traced all the way back to high
school. I never dated in high school because I was the poorest kid in a rich
kid's school. My self-image was that I wasn't as 'cool' as my
classmates, so what girl would be interested in me? A very bad
case of teenage acne ruined any further thoughts of dating.
The rich had a way of
letting me know that I occupied the lowest rung in society. There are no dramatic
stories to illustrate my point, but small incidents taken from nine
years at St. John's had added up. For
example, I did not feel welcome at the school's dance parties.
The Saint John's Mother's Guild sponsored dance parties
after each home football game. These parties were held in
the mansions of my classmates
On several occasions I
had been greeted by subtle frowns and dirty looks given to me by
women when I entered their home for the dance
party. These looks said to me, "What are you doing here?"
The vast majority of
people at St. John's were class acts, but there were a few snobs who
acted like were doing me a favor by allowing me entrance into their
Trust me, given this frosty climate, I didn't dare come near their
why I entered college with virtually no dating experience
around teenage girls. It didn't get any better
in college because I went to a
men's college. I graduated with virtually no dating
experience around college age girls. And we already
know what little confidence I had around women was almost
in graduate school.
paperback book's advice, today I was taking this dance class
as my first feeble attempt towards rebuilding my confidence
As I entered the room, I was nervous
because I was pretty sure I couldn't dance a lick. The
Dance City Gauntlet had only served to unnerve me more.
However, nothing could have prepared me for the Arctic
Reception I received when I opened the door. As the door
opened, seven older women looked up at me. On cue, every
single woman began to frown.
I froze. Those 7 women looked like
they came straight from the Mother's Guild back at Saint
John's. As they glared at me with their patrician
demeanor, I recognized the same look I used to get when
visiting those mansions for the dance parties.
There was no place to hide. The
room was small and lined with mirrors on three
walls. There were
no windows. It was a showdown...
the seven of them against poor awkward me. I was sick
in my stomach. How could this possibly be any worse?
ladies were dressed straight out of
River Oaks high society. River Oaks was the
rich section of town. This is
where Houston's wealthiest called home. These ladies were in their
40s, perhaps a couple in their 50s. Their elegant clothes and perfectly
coifed hair gave them a wealthy, aristocratic appearance.
dance teacher was a nattily attired 5' 7"
named David. By his mannerisms and the way
he dressed, I was pretty sure David was
gay. He had a small colorful scarf around his neck
and the tightest hip-hugging pants I had ever seen on a man.
Fortunately, David wasn't as frosty as the women. David greeted with a warm smile and invited me in.
women realized David wasn't going to toss me, in a disgusted huff they turned
their backs to me in unison.
Personally, I just wanted to
leave. But I wasn't going to give them that satisfaction.
So I went to the back of the room to hide. Fat
chance of that. At 6' 1" feet, 200 pounds, I was
foot taller than anyone else in the room
and twice as wide.
I could see
their faces in the mirrors. Every single woman was staring at
me in the mirror with horrified expressions on their faces. Seeing their raised eyebrows,
I took a quick look at myself in the mirror
with shame the instant I saw myself.
It didn't take much to finally realize why the
women were staring at me in disbelief. I
suddenly realized how ridiculous I looked
compared to these perfectly dressed women.
I was quite a sight. I had
quite readjusted to living in Houston. In the back of my mind I was still living in
Colorado. I wore blue jeans, a red
flannel plaid shirt, plus my thick Colorado mountain boots.
No wonder the gay men had gawked at me. It
wasn't sexual attraction at all. Far from it. I was
Godzilla and the Creature from the Black Lagoon
rolled into one! My immense size didn't
help things. Compared to these petite women, I looked and felt
like a grotesque backwoods monster straight out of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".
worst part of it had to be the hair.
During my year at CSU, I didn't get a single haircut.
gone from a Prince Valiant haircut at the start of the year to some
bizarre Charles Manson look. It wasn't a pretty sight.
You have to understand that long
hair was 'fashionable' in 1974 Colorado. Lots
of young men had long hair back in those days.
But not in Houston... you
could not have poked
those women with a needle
and gotten more agonized frowns. They made it clear
they were unhappy with my
with embarrassment, I looked down
at the floor to avoid eye
felt a tension that was almost unbearable. I
noticed my hands were balled into
I could barely stand to look at
myself, but it was impossible not to. There
were mirrors on three walls. Everywhere I
looked, there I was, the wild hillbilly Mountain
Man. I clenched my teeth and
tried to live down the shame of
I did not appreciate the cold
River Oaks women made it clear they didn't like having their little
dance party interrupted by a rude country bumpkin.
Their frost was palpable. Well, tough. I had not
only paid to be here, I had a right to be here. I gritted my teeth and
decided to give the class a try.
MY INSURMOUNTABLE OBSTACLE: STEP BALL CHANGE
I cannot imagine a more
miserable start, but to my unfathomable bad luck, it got worse.
On that fateful day in August 1974, I confirmed once and for all that I was clearly
a dreadful dancer.
This was not a surprise.
It was something
I had long suspected. However, what upset
me was that I was much worse than I thought. I wasn't just bad, I
was very bad. I can honestly that in my
30 years as a dance
I saw perhaps a half-dozen
men who demonstrated less initial talent for dancing than I showed that
day. That is how poor a dancer I was.
I do not exaggerate.
I am completely serious
when I tell you I danced very poorly that day.
I moved with all
of a dump truck stuck in reverse.
Think of the
dancing hippos in tutus from "Fantasia" to help your imagination.
I will never forget the step that drove
me to distraction - the infamous "Step Ball-Change".
I didn't know it at the time, but this triple step move was the most popular
freestyle step in the
It is such an important move that it shows up in many
partner dances as well.
During class I made the same mistake over and over.
On the Ball-Change, whenever I put my foot behind me, I put
my heel down instead of using only
of my foot.
As a result, I consistently
slightly backwards. Losing my balance, I could not recover
fast enough to stay with the beat of the music.
Adding to my consternation, I noticed that I was the only one having
trouble. The rich ladies handled the move without
difficulty. As my frustration mounted, I could feel my
body tighten and my teeth
clench even more. I was practically rigid now with
fear and anger.
No one corrected me nor could
I figure out what I was doing wrong. Making
things tougher, David put this move in every pattern
he taught. My incompetence bedeviled me. I kept getting more and more
frustrated as I realized how bad
My inability to
master this move reinforced my feeling of
inadequacy. It frustrated me terribly that the River
Oaks ladies seemed to handle Step Ball-Change
without trouble. The harder I tried, the worse
I got. Nothing I tried helped a single bit.
it possible I could be a superior athlete and not do
this? My feet worked just fine when I
played volleyball or basketball. Why did
they fail me now?
angered me that I could not keep up with the River
Oaks Seven. Why were they so much better than
me? Was there something wrong with me? I grew
more self-critical by the moment. I
could feel my mood darken as a fog of self-loathing
Several times I thought I noticed the women
watching me using the mirrors, but it was impossible
to be sure.
Then I got my proof. After a particularly
spastic motion on my part, one the women burst out laughing. That was the last straw. I completely froze up from shame and refused to
move again. I wasn't in the mood to be a
I just stood there
for the last ten minutes
with my arms crossed. I wasn't about to give
them anything more to laugh at.
JUST WHEN YOU THINK THINGS CAN'T
I kept my eyes to the floor
as the women said goodbye. Each woman hugged David and
systematically kissed him on the cheek.
Dapper David was clearly their precious little pet. Judging by
their behavior, they considered this class belonged to them. No
one wonder they were upset to see me. I had
obviously interrupted their private party. I idly wondered where the tea
set was hidden.
I stayed behind after class
in hopes that David might be able to help show me what I was doing wrong
with that tricky move.
David had won my Citizen of the Year award for smiling at me when I
entered the room. He could have just as easily won points with the
Beautiful Women by frowning at me, but had chosen to be nice to me
instead. So he was already my hero. Plus he definitely had
my respect. I had never seen anyone move like this guy before.
He was a real inspiration.
Now David was nice enough to
watch me and figure out my mistake on
that complicated step-ball-change. He knew exactly what the
problem was - I was putting my heel down in back. He told me
repeatedly what I was doing wrong, but I just didn't get it. Try
as I might, I kept putting that heel down.
David tried seven different
ways to explain not to
put weight on my heel, but none of his suggestions worked. I think
I was just too tense to understand.
When he realized how stuck I was, David made another suggestion - rather than try a step ball-change,
maybe I could switch to step-together-step. As I would come to
learn, this was one of the simplest dance steps in the book. You step sideways right,
close your feet, then step sideways right again. Next you repeat it to the left.
It was a good idea. However this suggestion didn't work either. I could not even do
the most basic triple step of all:
Step-together-step. What moron can't do step-together-step?
Well, that moron would be me.
I don't know if "tense" is the word for it. Is there a word for
Petrified? That was my state of mind.
With David watching carefully, I was so worried about
getting it right that I deliberately did the
three steps one step at time. On
each step, I watched my feet move as if my life depended on it. I
moved my feet verrrrry slowly.
But I still failed to get it. It seems
that every time I brought my feet together, I
would stop before making another step. Then
when I looked down at my feet and saw that
my feet were together, I wasn't sure which foot had
I did not even trust myself to guess which
foot should move next. Was it the right foot or the left foot that
moved last? Confused, I had to start over.
Step together step. What could be easier?
But I couldn't get it.
To David's credit, he
spent 10 minutes helping me and giving encouragement.
once lost patience with me.
Struggling mightily, I
appreciated that he did not make fun of me although I
am sure he was astonished at my ineptitude.
However David did have a rather bizarre solution
to my problem.
That is when the final shock
came - David propositioned me.
You would think my
grotesque appearance would have offered me some
natural protection, but apparently not. Maybe
Dave figured I would look better once my clothes were
David started his pitch innocently enough. He teased
me a little by saying maybe my mountain boots were
the problem. No argument from me. Those
things weighed a ton.
Then David said I was very tall. What
an insight! Good grief, I towered over him.
David said, "Can I ask you a personal question?"
I had no idea what he was up to so
I nodded okay.
"Is it true that very tall men like you are
I was astonished. Was he out
of his mind? Was this "Pick on Freaks" Day?
I numbly replied I
remark put me
on guard. It didn't take much to know where this was heading.
Despite my deep frown and crossed arms,
David was undeterred. He made another crack about body proportions, then went in for the kill.
me if I would like to come to his apartment. He said he would like
to help me some more, but he couldn't
stay here at the studio helping me because someone else needed the room.
Since he lived nearby, David said he could fix me lunch and get to know
me better. Then he could help me some more with my dancing.
Yeah, I'm sure fixing lunch
is a courtesy David extends to all his students. I could not help but see the
irony. David had all three techniques down - dancing, the art of
conversation, and cooking to boot. Just my luck to see the book's
principles in action and used on me for good measure. Well, it
I declined as best I could. If ever there was
someone who needed help with his dancing, that would be me, but I wasn't that desperate.
Last time I checked... and it had been a while... I still preferred women.
But this was the final blow.
Dave's proposition was the
stake through the Vampire's heart and sword through the Dragon's neck rolled into
one. In my state of mind, his ridiculous suggestion was more than enough to finish me off.
I was stunned that
this guy had the nerve to take advantage of me. With my hair, did
I look gay? I certainly didn't dress gay. Did I act
possible thing had I done to give him the impression I might be
figured if he put his idea to me just the right way, I could be his
afternoon road kill. I am sure it was obvious to him that I was
down in my luck. If ever there was a human being reeling from problems,
it was me. Why not take a shot?
I was stunned. What in the hell had I ever done to deserve this insult?
I had to get out of this place. I was in near total despair as I left the
KICK THEM WHEN
I stumbled out the building as fast as I could.
I was starting to shake. I felt dizzy and terribly out of control.
The world was spinning.
The instant I reached the sanctuary of my VW Beetle
in the middle of the parking lot, I collapsed in shock.
I was way too shaken to drive home.
I was too upset. In this
state I could easily have had an accident. Instead I laid my head on the
steering wheel and just sat there feeling pitiful.
Then I had an awful
thought... did he follow me to my car? I jerked my head up
and stared across the vast parking lot. Thankfully there was no
one in sight. It's pretty sad when suddenly I am worried about a
man half my size.
Wearing a flannel shirt with the ruthless
summer sun beating down on the car, I
was soon drenched in sweat. The car was hotter than a sauna.
I left the door open, but that did no good since there was no breeze. Soon I had no choice but to take my shirt
off. That didn't help either. The heat made me miserable as I sat
melting in the car.
No matter how uncomfortable
I was, I still was too shaken to move.
I numbly sat there
trembling in my car in the
middle of the parking lot inferno.
I turned on the engine a couple times to cool off, but I didn't have
enough gas to leave it on for long. I gripped the steering wheel
like it was a life preserver for a full 30 minutes.
First the gauntlet, then the disdain of the wealthy women, then my lousy
finally the proposition. I was unable to move. This
wasn't as bad as actual combat, but in a way I felt just as
shell-shocked. I had been attacked on far too many levels to walk
away from this experience unscathed.
This was not a good time in my
life for taking risks to begin with. I had already been a nervous wreck
before I even began my class and today's events had shattered whatever
was left of my already thin defenses.
As I sat in the car, I
hit rock bottom. I have never felt more worthless and pathetic
than I felt at that moment.
David's behavior was
appalling. During my life, I have had
many gay friends. By and large, most gays are kind-hearted, decent
people. If anything, they are more sensitive than the average
person because they have been discriminated against many times.
However, they will be the first to admit they have their share of
predators just like there are plenty of heterosexual men who prey on women.
The question that kept
running through my mind is why David had behaved like that. That
actually hurt because he had been so friendly. It
wasn't like I was putting out any sexual vibes when I asked David for
some help. Hardly. I cannot imagine what was going through
In retrospect, David hurt me
because I felt like he was trying to take advantage of my obvious
confusion and despair. To me, David's behavior was akin to
offering food to a starving dog, then kicking the helpless animal when it came
close. Considering how much I had been kicked around by Jan, this
just added to my losing streak.
Fortunately I wasn't
helpless. I had been through this before.
I grew up in Montrose,
an area in Houston popular with the gay community. When I was a
teenager, I had three awkward run-ins with gay men who tried to fondle
me in public swimming pools.
Confused, I would swim away and leave the pool. When I told my mother,
she would go ballistic. But what could she do?
Going to a men's-only college at Johns Hopkins
had taught me additional lessons. I learned the
hard way that my college had many gay students. I
was propositioned about once a year,
usually in the library and always
at random by someone I didn't even know.
What is it with gay men who
hit on strangers? In college, I not only didn't know these
men, I didn't smile at them, talk to them, wink at them, or give any
signal of interest whatsoever. Each time they came up to me completely
out of the blue. I would be reading a book and they would walk up and make their pitch. They used about as much finesse as
"Hey Joe, wanna give it a go?"
With an approach that
crude, they obviously couldn't have cared less about rejection.
I couldn't help
but wonder if they just went from one guy to the next until they found
someone who said yes. I suppose there are men who use the same
approach with women, but I hope not. I just remember how much it
upset me. The nerve. I remember shaking my head in disgust each time
These experiences had taught
me how to say no.
It helped that I wasn't interested in men.
David's proposition was the
final humiliation in a morning where everything that could
go wrong DID go wrong.
Lord knows I needed his kindness in the worst way. For a moment, his gesture to help
had seemed like an act of generosity, but instead it had turned ugly.
Considering how vulnerable I felt to begin with, his
flippant proposition left me feeling more alone and worthless than I had
ever felt before. I was just a piece of meat to him. It was
the ultimate indignity.
People are strange when you're a stranger,
Faces look ugly when you're alone
Women seem wicked when you're unwanted
Streets are uneven when you're down
The Doors, People are Strange
As a footnote to this
incident, during my 30 years of running my dance studio, there were a
few times when I met women whose self-esteem was so impaired that even the
slightest amount of attention on my part was received with overwhelming gratitude.
They were hungry for any kind of praise. As desperate as these
women were, I could see that their loneliness made them quite vulnerable
to me. Sad to say, at that point, they would agree to just about
anything if it meant getting a little more attention. That's what
acute loneliness does to people. I refused to take advantage of
these women, but each time I met one, I always thought of David.
propositioned was actually the least of my worries.
What bothered me far more was the utter
disgust written on the faces of the River Oaks
matrons. That was where my confidence was attacked the worst.
My nine years at Saint John's, a private college prep school located in
the wealthy River Oaks area of Houston, had turned me into a lonely
recluse. I was an absolute social zero. I was never invited
to anything outside of class other than school functions.
Consequently I grew up with
a giant chip on my shoulder, something about the size of the iceberg
that sunk the Titanic.
When I say 'poor', I mean
the kind of poor where we often had to move because my mother couldn't
pay the rent. I had nine different homes in the nine years I went
to SJS. Mom had trouble keeping a job, so the bills kept
mounting up. Sometimes I would come home to a dark home because the
electricity had been turned off. Other times it would be the
water. Sometimes we had to wait for my
father's monthly $100 child support check to buy groceries. That kind of poor.
So how does a poor kid go to
a rich kid's school? I had a full scholarship. All Mom had
to do was pay for meals and pay for books. However, even that was
too much for her.
My mother was so poor, I had to personally pay the final bill for books
and meals just to graduate. I used money that I had earned from my
job sacking groceries after school.
Don't get me wrong. I love
St Johns with all my heart. They have the best academic program in town. The fine education I received
there was the easily the
biggest break of my life. The instructors really cared about me
and practically raised me themselves. If you have a smart kid,
Saint John's is exactly where that child needs to be. It is a
However, the experience did
have its dark side.
Nine years is a long time to be the poorest kid in the school.
That was where my resentment of the rich came from. I spent nine years on the outside looking
in. Along the way, there had been several older women - mothers of
some of my classmates - who had always given me the cold shoulder in
subtle, yet discernible ways. My lack of social standing was
obvious to me and it hurt to have it pointed out.
school was six years in the rearview mirror when I
entered David's dance class,
but it seemed like yesterday the moment I saw the
disgust on the faces of the seven women. I connected their disdain with my lack
of acceptance by similar women when I was growing up. The
seven women looked at me with the same haughtiness
that made me feel like the
poor kid who never fit in.
The women's scorn hit me in another sore spot
High school carried memories of the acne that left
me feeling so unattractive in the first place.
chosen another man over me. I assumed it was
because he was more
attractive than me. Now I was so insecure about my looks that I was terrified of
appearing foolish in front of any woman.
perceived rejection was like a dagger through my
heart. I could not bear being reminded that I
was unattractive. Today the women's frowns had made me feel ugly. I had
received not just a dose of rejection, but a brutal overdose. Welcome to dance class, Quasimodo.
My lousy dancing was the final
straw. As I sat
in the hot parking lot sweating
I remembered how angry I was at myself for dancing so poorly.
Why was I so bad? What was wrong
with me? I started to cry. I
realized how badly I wanted to learn to
dance. Why did it have to be so hard? Was there some
reason why I couldn't catch a break once in a while? Dancing came
naturally to a lot of people. Why couldn't I have been one of
I broke down. In the
middle of the summer heat, I sat there sobbing as hard as I could.
I hurt in every part of my body.
The tears were a godsend.
I was a tough kid who didn't cry very often, but I sure needed the
release those tears gave me that day.
had put a lot hope into the book's advice in regards to dancing.
However that stupid book had set me up - it said learning to dance was
easy! (...and the
effort involved being as slight as it is...). Now I was discouraged to find out it was
going to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated.
Unfortunately, thanks to that
book, 'dancing' had already become directly linked in my mind as the
easiest way to get a girlfriend. I had already invested a lot of
hope into my dancing project ahead of time.
If I couldn't learn to dance, then how was I going to get a girlfriend?
Not very good logic, but these were the thoughts of a deeply insecure young man.
I was a lonely,
angry, overly serious 24-year old kid who was looking for direction.
morning's failure had put a spike in a lot of dreams.
There was no Plan B. Now
The tears released enough
tension that I was able to think straight again. Finally I got the strength to drive home.
I was exhausted and dripping wet with perspiration.
On my way home, I kept thinking about my
morning. Okay, I was a crummy dancer, but I didn't want to give
up. I certainly did not want to go back to laying on a couch throwing baseballs in the
air. This time I wanted to fight.
As I sat waiting at a stop light, a surprising thought
crossed my mind. I realized that no matter how shaken
I was, I was still determined to learn how to dance!
I was actually surprised to realize the strength of my determination.
That's when I had an idea. By chance, there was a hardware store
across the street. I decided to go in and buy
some decorative mirror tiles.
Back in the 70s, those tiles were popular. I would see them in
people's homes all the time. Personally, I thought they were
hideous. However at this point, I didn't care how ugly they were.
I needed a mirror.
As I stood in line, the
clerk eyed me suspiciously. My shoulder length hair was soaking
wet, my red flannel shirt was soaking wet, and even the bills in my
wallet were soaked. I was truly the creature from the black
lagoon. No matter. I was on a mission and didn't care how I
The moment I got home, I stuck
15 mirror tiles on the wall.
Now I had a mirror
3 feet wide and 5 feet tall.
Then I turned on
the radio to KLOL, a rock
music station. Standing in front of the makeshift
mirror, I started to practice what I had learned that day.
'step-together-step' over and over.
Now that the seven
ladies weren't frowning at my appearance
or my dancing, I could relax a little.
As I calmed down, I started to see where my
mistakes had been.
Sure enough, the mirror
helped. My problem was that I was too
analytical. I didn't trust my feet to move unless I
could see them! Mind you, I could play
basketball all day long without worrying about my
feet, but when it came to dancing, I was acutely
self-conscious. I discovered as long as
I could watch my feet in the mirror, I could let
them move without having to 'talk' to them. My
brain decided to quit worrying so much. Slowly
but surely, I let my feet begin to move without stopping.
I practiced and practiced.
Then I practiced more. Then I practiced the next night. That
week I practiced every night. 15 minutes, half an hour, an
hour, it didn't matter just as long as I practiced every night. I
didn't understand it completely, but this ritualistic dancing was something I
felt I had to do.
midst of the most serious crisis of my life, I dimly
thought that if I could learn to dance, I would
somehow pull myself out of the abyss.
WHY DID I TAKE THIS DANCE PROJECT SO SERIOUSLY?
While I practiced, I did some
thinking. My mind raced back to high school and those dance
parties at my classmate's homes after each home
football game. Even though I didn't feel like I belonged, I was drawn to these dances. I couldn't help it.
I wanted to see how my classmates lived. I wanted to watch the
My self-awareness as the
unwanted guest left me acutely self-conscious. While I was there, I
would spend most of my time in the shadows. I never came close to dancing. It was safer to stand still and be
inconspicuous than take the
chance of looking ridiculous and have someone make fun of me. And
of course the acne was a curse of the highest magnitude. Even
after it finally cleared up, it was replaced by serious scarring.
I thought my face resembled the craters on the moon.
I was so intimidated by my
looks and my low status, I deeply
feared someone - a pretty girl or a smartass guy - would make fun of me
if I danced. Instead for four years I watched in envy as my classmates had fun dancing to
the sounds of the Beach Boys, the Supremes, and Marvin Gaye. Gosh, I
wanted so much to join them! But I had no idea where to start and no one encouraged me
Now my thoughts turned to the time
had tried to teach myself how to dance. The
effort had been futile, but this memory was further evidence that I my
interest in learning to dance was a lot stronger than I had ever
That's when it
dawned on me. If I could learn to dance, I would start to close
the gap between me and my wealthy classmates. Yes, they were way
more self-assured than I would ever be, but this was a way to catch up.
If I could dance, then it could be me out on the floor dancing to Aretha
As I stared at myself in the mirror,
I made up my mind. Clearly this
desire to learn to dance had been with me
for a long time. This was the time to do it. Right now. Right here. I was 24.
Late start maybe, but I still had plenty of time. If I stayed with
it, the day would come when I could dance just like any other normal
I didn't want
to settle for 'OK'. I was still deeply afraid women would
laugh at me
exactly as the River Oaks woman had when she laughed out loud during
dance class. This was a constant fear of mine. To deal with this fear, I
decided that I wanted to become a very good
dancer. I would not settle for anything less.
As you can see, 'dancing' had become
linked to success with women in my mind. I believed every
word the Book said.
firmly believed that if I
could learn to dance, then I could become attractive again.
Until then, I would not rest.
I was not a quitter. Even though my first try had
been haunted by the most discouraging bad omens imaginable, I would not
allow myself to be scared off. This was something I could do if I
put my mind to it. My sense of commitment explains why a guy who could barely dance
magically made progress nevertheless. No
matter how long it took,
I was determined
to hang in there till I achieved
Of course I had no inking that
I had made the biggest decision of my life.
There is a saying attributed to Confucius, "Journey of a thousand miles begins with one
step." By vowing to continue, I had
just taken that step.
As we all know, thanks to
this decision, one day a man who was perhaps the
worst natural dancer imaginable would go on to develop the largest dance
studio in the entire country. Based on what had
happened today, who
would have ever guessed?
DUCKLING IS DETERMINED TO BECOME A SWAN
After my ordeal,
I accepted I now lived in Houston, not
Colorado. Between the heat and the long hair, it
was time to make some changes. I got a haircut. I
put away my beloved flannel shirts. Then
I put my
mountain boots in the back of the closet.
Each night that week I practiced
dancing in the mirror.
made another decision. I was going back to David's class at
I had a
special reason to return to David's class. I was bound and
determined to show those awful women that I could not only catch
them, I would pass them. They reminded me far too much of
standing in the shadows at those dance parties.
lacked natural ability at dance, I made up for it with innate sense
of competition. I had once taught myself to shoot a
basketball. It might take a while, but I was sure I could do
the same thing with dancing.
I would not let those
women intimidate me again.
A fire raged in my belly. This dance class was where I would
stage my comeback. I was going to conquer all my demons at
once - Jan, Suinn, rich people, and my feelings of ugliness.
So I went
back. To my surprise, the change was immediately apparent. For one thing, when the Gauntlet
stared at me, this time I stared back. Not only that, this time I
smiled. Why should I be afraid of
them? A couple men looked away and a couple more smiled
back. That was the end of that. The Freak Show was over.
David smiled at me as well when I came in. He made a
welcome me back. If
anything, he looked a little guilty. Obviously I had been on his
mind. The River Oaks Seven sniffed as usual, but I decided to ignore
them. Today I had my game face on. Bring it on.
The second dance
class was a turning point. Now that I stood my ground,
the River Oaks women begrudgingly accepted that they weren't
going to chase me off. So they left me alone to
practice my steps. No more snickering or dirty looks.
Furthermore, thanks to a week's
practice in my mirror at home, I could tell that I had noticeably improved.
I felt encouraged. That morning as I left my
second week of class, I knew then and there I was going to
keep dancing for the rest of my life. This was where I
was going to make my stand.
I would go on to take David's
class for the next ten months (he moved away at that point). I never missed a single week.
After David's class ended in May 1974, I found other dance
classes to take. Believe it or not, along the way I
even took dance classes from Patsy Swayze, Patrick's mother.
Patsy was one of Houston's most famous dance instructors at
the time. She was a sweet lady.
David never said another unprofessional
word to me again.
I think David knew he had done something wrong.
that he saw that I genuinely wanted to learn from him, he went out of
his way to be my teacher. He made it a
point to correct me when I made mistakes, but he always had
a smile to go with it. Consequently my thin skin was
not a problem. I always
accepted the criticism in the spirit with which it was
intended. We even became
friends of a sort.
One day David told me he had won the Dance City
Staff Freestyle contest
three years in a row. No surprise there. I had to admit the guy could dance.
His favorite song was
"Rock Your Baby" by
George McRae. When that song came on
in class, he moved his body in ways I never knew possible. I tried as hard as I could to imitate his moves,
but it just wasn't happening. That guy
had a real gift!
I knew I was certainly not a natural dancer like David.
Heck, I wasn't even an average dancer.
I was still
lousy and the River Oaks ladies still frowned
at me, but
so what? I hung in there.
In fact, those nasty women actually helped to
accelerate my progress!!
As angry and bitter as I was, practically everything
rubbed me the wrong way in those days. But nothing
bothered me more than the continued snobbery of the River Oaks Seven.
Those haughty women became as powerful a nemesis in my mind
as Dr. Suinn had been up at Colorado State. Out of
seven different women, not one of those society matrons ever smiled at me.
you know what else? Even after I had attended that
class for months, not one of those
ladies had ever spoken to me...
not even to say hello. Not even a nod. Why not?
We were taking a dance lesson together.
On this floor, we should have been equals. How hard
would it be to be friendly or simply cordial to a classmate?
Not these women. They refused to acknowledge I even
I don't know why they shut me out.
They obviously didn't appreciate having their class disturbed,
but I assumed they understood that David was not their own
personal property. Before
I came along, they had precious David all to themselves. Now
the equivalent of a homeless man had joined
their class. Making things worse, I was a pathetic
dancer. Maybe they worried if they got close, my
atrocious dancing would rub off on them. I should have
touched one of them just to see if she would scream.
Wouldn't you think once they saw how hard I was
trying that they
would develop a begrudging respect for me? One
simple smile would have broken the ice.
no, not once did any of them break ranks.
I shared the class
with them for five months (they stopped coming
after the Christmas Break), but
I can't recall one woman ever saying a word to me. Other than
glances with each other whenever I
struggled, otherwise I didn't exist. How did these
someone so effortlessly?
As insecure as I was at that point in
time, I took their coldness personally. Oh no, here
the clumsy oaf who can't dance or dress properly. Who
let him in? If I have to watch him dance one more
time, I might get sick. Where does that kid get his
clothes, Salvation Army?
I decided the problem boiled down to class
differences. I was poor and they were rich. Why
bother acknowledging my existence?
After nine years of being left out at my
rich kids school, these seven women had reawakened all my
feelings of inferiority from grade school. They became a
symbol for every doubt I had about myself. In their
eyes, I was simply not important or talented enough to bother with.
Just like my nine years at Saint John's, I was invisible to
these woman. I really resented their cold shoulder.
My pride had been wounded by Dr. Suinn. My pride had
been wounded by Jan. And now these women were taking
up right where those two had left off.
Ultimately the River Oaks Seven did me a favor. I turned all
my anger towards them into a passion to improve at dancing.
I was bitter that they laughed at me, but I was determined
to beat them at their own game. They gave me the exact
edge every underdog has to have to find the strength to
fight back. When someone disrespects you, don't get
angry, get even.
I channeled my anger into a decision to practice my dancing
every night no matter what. Every now and then I would
not feel like practicing. Then I thought of those
arrogant women and I headed straight over to the Magic
Mirror on the Wall.
- THE NIGHTLY
June was Feel Sorry
for Myself Month. July was Get a Job Month.
August was Start Learning to Dance Month.
it was September 1974.
I had put three months between Colorado and me. I was
alive, but I wasn't happy.
Living by myself,
becoming a real problem.
I realized I was going to have to make a friend sooner or later.
I went to a
dance club by myself one night.
My dance class ordeal one month
earlier had made me
painfully aware that I had no business getting out on the
dance floor, so I just watched.
I did not have the courage to ask a lady to dance.
on my struggles in class, I had accepted that my dance project
was going to be a long-term adventure. Dancing
wasn't going to help right now. To deal with my
loneliness, I turned to sports. Ever since my acne
stage in high school, my age-old solution to my lack of
companionship had always been to play sports. I was a fairly good
athlete in those days. Every night after work I would play
either basketball or volleyball.
Add Sundays to that. Saturday was dance class.
The only problem with playing sports every night was this was no way to meet girls.
I didn't need to read a book to figure that out. I told myself
I had to improve quite a bit before I was ready to make my move on a
September became my month of dreams. I dreamt of
becoming a very good dancer. I spent every night in
dancing in front of the mirror.
I had a nightly ritual. Each night after
basketball, I would go home,
turn on the radio, and practice my dancing in front of the mirror.
While I danced, I spent all
the while dreaming
of the day I would feel good enough
about myself to ask a lady to dance.
Dancing had become the key piece in my road to
I was still licking my wounds. If I had learned any
lesson at all from my broken heart, it was that I wasn't
ready to play with the big boys and big girls just yet.
There were obviously some gaps in my Dating education that
needed to be handled first. Furthermore, if I had learned anything from getting kicked out of
graduate school, I didn't have a clue how to play politics
I simply wasn't
ready to make any big moves in my life until I looked back at Colorado
and figured out what in the heck had gone wrong.
As I danced in
the mirror through September,
I thought things over.
I slowly began to accept that losing my position in the Graduate
Program might have been the best thing after all.
Yes, they should have seen that
underneath my prickly, defensive personality I had a good
heart, but when all was said and done, maybe they were
I really did have a lot of anger
issues. And I really did have a thin skin.
I was a moody, self-absorbed kid with a lot of rough edges.
Given all my problems, what gave me the right to think I
could solve other people's problems?
one thing that kept repeating in my mind was Dr. Weigal's
I definitely had a strong personality. Of course he
was right. Why deny it? Now that I had calmed
down a little, I could now admit I lacked the gentleness and
soft touch that would be needed in such a delicate
profession. I was a born talker, not a born listener. I
recalled that every time I had argued with Dr. Suinn in the
class, the other graduate students remained quiet and
unassertive. There was no doubt about it - compared to
those guys, I was a bull in a china shop.
For the first time since opening that letter
informing me I had been dismissed from Graduate School, I laughed.
My professors were right all along. I probably wasn't
cut out to be a therapist. I was a square peg trying
to fit into a round hole. Considering I gave it my
best shot, there was no dishonor in finding out that maybe I
better suited to another field.
that moment, I felt a huge burden lifted from my shoulders.
I had finally come to grips with my dismissal. Just
like that, one of the chips on my shoulder was
Confidence is a fragile thing. Any cowboy will
tell you how hard it is to get back in that saddle
after a hard fall. Well,
psychologically-speaking, the fall I took in
Colorado had broken every bone in my ego. Now
I was scared to death of getting
hurt again. And I sure wasn't getting
back in the saddle until I figured out where I had
made my mistakes.
I was able to
accept my dismissal from graduate school, but try as
I could not reconcile my problems with Jan.
I was having a hard time figuring out what I
had done wrong. I had dated very little before
I met Jan and certainly no one even remotely in
Jan's league. I didn't know it at the time,
but considering how little experience I had with
women, dating an extremely pretty girl like Jan was
a real gamble from the start. For a while the
gamble paid off. She liked me a lot, there was
no denying that. I was
encouraged that I obviously had something going for
What bothered me was trying to figure out what I had
done to lose her. A pretty girl
like Jan is going to attract plenty of interest and
you better know when to stand strong and fight for
your position. I was the nice guy who
she started to lie to me, I accepted her excuses
rather than ask questions. I tried to
'understand her' rather than draw a line in the
sand. Cupid's arrow had once been
pointed at me, but my weakness had swung the arrow
back in Kevin's favor. That fact that
Kevin had made the big comeback rankled me no end.
I could not get it out of my mind that Jan had
chosen the other guy over me. That played
right into my inferiority complex. I hung my
head in shame.
The more I thought about Jan, the more
I worried that I would mess up
the next time I met a girl I liked. I really
did not want to get hurt like that ever again.
The simple explanation was that I had chased a woman
who was out of my league. But I didn't buy
that. Jan had fallen in love too. I
didn't go there by myself. So I concluded that
Jan had fallen out of love. I needed to find out
why I failed.
That was the
number one issue with me. What did I do to
lose Jan's affection?
Reading my book on 'How
to Meet Girls' didn't improve my confidence at all. If
anything, the Book made more aware of just how much
I didn't know. The book made me realize when
it came to "Girl
Skills", I didn't have many. I may have been
24, but in Dating experience I was closer to 18.
Once you've been
hurt, everything is more difficult.
The first serious relationship
of my life was darkened by my experience with an unfaithful
woman. Her memory still haunted me. Were all
women like that? Me and Sue and that guy too?
As I plotted my comeback, I was
When it came to
women, I had no confidence left. Zero. Nada.
My Book had
a section which explained a concept known as "Turf".
I don't care who you are, you
will be ten times more appealing to women who
see you on your Turf than elsewhere. Every
man looks his best and acts the most confident
in his natural habitat. Let a woman see
you where you are most at ease and where you are
doing what you do best, and it will make life
much easier for you.
Put a lifeguard on a beach and watch the girls
swoon, but put him on a ski slope and watch him
disappear. Put a rock star on a beach and
you have a skinny, pale kid who needs to look
for shade. But put him on his stage and
watch the girls scream. Let the
Piano Man make sweet music on his ivories.
Play to your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Find the place where you look your best.
Make this place your stage.
My plan of course
was to put this principle into action using dancing.
Practicing dance always made me feel better about
myself. Just the fact that I was working on a
skill I could use to meet women someday made me feel
I was headed in the right direction. This
period where dance practice became the most important part
of my day. It became my way of healing myself.
Unfortunately, I had one puzzle I could never figure
out the answer to. I called it the "Dilemma".
At this point I was gun shy when
it came to mixing women and dance. I wanted to
become a good dancer before I got out on the dance
floor. But how could I become a good dancer
without practicing on a
real dance floor?
I had the
same dilemma with dating. I knew I needed more
experience with women. However, how was I supposed
to get that kind of experience without risking getting hurt
didn't have an answer for that one.
I didn't want to start dating
again until I understood women better. But how
was I going to get experience with women if I was
too afraid to date them?
I did not know
how to overcome my cold feet. My problem was
the same as extremely cold water. Should I get
in the water a little at a time or should I just
jump in? The thought of jumping was out of the
question, but at the same time I couldn't figure out
a way to gradually get out on a dance floor slowly
or to gradually ask a girl out on a date.
Since it was all or nothing, I stayed stuck on the
sidelines. I spent my entire September unable
to figure out a solution to this dilemma.
I decided the
best thing to do was keep practicing in the mirror and hope for the
One day in October, my teacher
David was nice enough to tell me I had really
begun to improve. What a
nice compliment! I had been practicing my dancing
every night now for two months. I
had noticed some
improvement myself, but I appreciated getting
confirmation from my teacher.
Nevertheless I still had yet to dance
in public. The thought of another woman frowning at me
still had me worried. To say I
was overly sensitive would be correct.
At this point I had
improved to the point where I was at least an average dancer,
but that was still not good enough for me.
One night I skipped the Mirror Ritual. I went
back to that dance club a
second time. This time I saw average dancers no better than myself out on the floor all night long. But at least those guys had the guts to ask a woman to dance.
Not me. I kept
insisting to myself I had to improve some more. My fear of rejection
crippling, but I couldn't find a way to solve it.
For the umpteenth time, I
reminded myself I had to find a way to practice.
In October, I made a friend
His name was Mark Estes.
We both worked in
the same building at Ripley House just east of
Mark was the
director of a State Welfare
office down the hall from my
Child Welfare office.
I soon discovered
Mark was gay. So
what? I didn't care.
All that mattered at this point was that he
was friendly. Lord knows I needed a friend.
Mark was very outgoing and easy to talk to.
We quickly began to talk about everything under the
At this point, gays didn't scare me much any more.
That's a good thing because I was surrounded by gays
at work and at home.
Once I was
strong enough to move out of
the Allen and Polly Clark's home in July 1974, I
decided to move back to the
Montrose area because that was the neighborhood
where I had grown up. It had been seven years
since I lived there. I was in for a surprise.
Gays had always lived in the Montrose area, but they
kept a low profile during my teenage years. If
it hadn't been for those three swimming pool encounters,
I wouldn't have even known they were around.
However, that low profile had changed in the early
Seventies. This was the era when gays decided
to quit hiding from society. It was "Coming
Once I moved into my
new apartment, I found out that the Montrose
area had become quite the gay mecca during the years I had been
away. Every day I was surrounded by gay men
who lived in the same apartment complex as me. Shortly after I
moved in, to my shock, I realized I was the only
heterosexual male in the complex. Good grief. They were a little
weird sometimes, but I soon got used to their ways.
In some ways,
it was very amusing because they treated me like the belle of the ball.
propositioned me all the time, but mostly in a
joking way. A group would be sitting at the pool having a beer in
the evening. I would walk past them in my basketball shorts and
they would whistle in appreciation. Such long legs! They
said I was irresistible because I had such an athletic body. I
just laughed. I said that if
I was short and fat, they would
have simply changed their pitch. They would laugh and begin to
protest. Not true! Fortunately, since I was a good sport about
the flirting, we all got along fine.
as my new friend Mark was concerned, I outweighed him by a hundred pounds.
he going to do to me?
This period marked the first time in my life where I
was living outside the protective walls of a school or college.
Exposed to the Real World, I was starting to learn things about people.
As part of my job investigating child neglect
in some of the poorest parts of the city, I had to visit some pretty rough
places. One day I might be in a Hispanic home, the next day in an
African-American home, the next
day in a blue collar Anglo home, the
next day an Asian home. At night I played basketball
and volleyball with Jewish men over at the Jewish Community Center.
And now my entire
neighborhood was gay.
I was getting
a serious ethnic education on all fronts.
In the process, I was beginning to learn more about
the world and its ways. Now that I was exposed
to people who were really poor, most of my own
bitterness about growing up poor disappeared rapidly.
I now realized for the first time what poverty
really was. That was one more chip on my shoulder
that began to heal.
I was still very lonely. However I would not
be ready to date again until I conquered some
demons. My problem was that I was really
stuck thanks to my "Dilemma".
help was on its way. An old
Hindu proverb says that the Master will appear when
the pupil is ready. The proverb also hints you
may not recognize the Master when you first see
him... or her for that matter. The
Master will often appear out of nowhere.
I didn't realize it at the time, but Mark would
become my teacher. Little did I
suspect that my new friend would be the person who
would take me the rest of the way to my goal.
MARK TEACHES ME HOW TO
PLAY THE GAME
As I got to
know Mark, I began to develop an afternoon ritual to go with my
nighttime ritual. Practically every day I would visit his office for a chat. Since
Mark was the supervisor, he
didn't have to answer to anyone.
Mark had a special gift. He had the most uncanny ability to put people at ease.
That included me. Besides
his natural warmth, he was equally good at expressing himself and
Pretty soon we were talking
about everything and anything. As our friendship developed,
Mark helped me sort out the problems still haunting me from my
year at CSU. I give Mark a lot of credit for helping me
regain my sanity.
Mark Estes was the man who brought me out of my shell
once and for all.
I told Mark about the entire year at Colorado State.
It felt so good to finally get those stories off my chest!
One day a funny thing happened. I had started to talk about
the painful things
that had been bottled up much too long. I was going on and on
about how mad I got when Dr. Suinn would disagree with me or chew me out in
front of the class. Mark had been listening
intently to everything I said. He didn't interrupt a
Mark had put me so much at ease that now I
was telling him stuff that absolutely burned inside of
me. I got so angry it was like I was back at Colorado
State arguing with Suinn again.
Suddenly I stopped in mid-sentence and
stared at Mark.
This man had
practically hypnotized me. What magic did Mark have to draw all this venom out
In that exact moment
I realized that Mark possessed the
exact 'people skills' that my professors had accused me of
lacking. Now I finally knew what they were talking
about. This man was the best listener I had ever met!
Mark was the closest thing to a natural therapist there
could possibly be. I felt so sheepish. If I had
possessed just one-tenth of his talent, I probably would
still be in graduate school. I had finally realized the value
of someone who cares enough to listen.
Mark never judged me. He never criticized me.
Mostly he just listened, but once I came up for air, he
would often say something to make me think.
Mark was brilliant as
he helped me work through my problems
with Jan. Every time I would finish a story, Mark
would say, "Well, knowing what you know now, how would you
have handled the situation if it came up again?"
I would sit there and ask myself that very thing.
It wasn't easy at all to answer those questions.
day I complained to Mark about all Jan's excuses.
Whenever she needed to ditch me, Jan usually said something
quite plausible. Jan never made an overt mistake.
How was I supposed to know that I needed to confront her
about all these seemingly harmless change of plans?
Mark said that I needed to quit beating myself up all the
time. Mark had a favorite saying - 'Burn me once, shame on you,
burn me twice, shame on me'.
By that he meant
that Jan was able to fool me completely because I was
inexperienced. But now that I had discovered my
weak spot, Mark asked me what was I going to do to prevent it from
happening again. In other words, if someone tried to
burn me again and I let it happen, it was my fault because I
shouldn't let it happen twice.
told Mark that the next time someone said something that
didn't feel rightt, I would ask a couple of questions to see
what the reaction was. Mark nodded his agreement.
For the most part our culture assumes
that men do most of the cheating, but Jan is a prime example
that women lie too. I didn't realize it at the time,
but Jan lied practically any time her lips were moving.
I frequently furrowed my brows in disbelief at her tales.
Once Jan's ex-boyfriend Kevin
re-entered the picture at this point, all sorts of odd
things began to happen.
For example, one Saturday afternoon I was in my office
studying when Jan showed up out of nowhere. Jan was
crying. She said
she had accidentally run into Kevin at the CSU football game
that day and they had gotten into an argument. Kevin had said a bunch of things that hurt her
feelings. He told her about all the women he had slept
with as a way to deliberately hurt her feelings. So after the game, she came to me for sympathy.
While I listened to her story, I thought it odd that in a stadium of 50,000 people,
would run into Kevin. And why upon a coincidental
meeting would the conversation become so bitter?
I couldn't help but think there was more to the story, but I gave her the benefit of the
Soon enough, Jan was cheered up and
smiling again. That's when I
her what we were doing that night. After all, it was
Saturday and Jan was supposed to be my girlfriend.
Jan's eyes suddenly grew wide and a look of horror came over
her face. "Oh, I'm sorry, Rick, but the girls are
taking me out to dinner as a farewell party. It
wouldn't be right if you came along."
"Well, can't I see you afterwards?"
"Oh, sure, let me call you when we're finished."
That call never came. I later learned that Jan
had gone back to Kevin's apartment to begin the argument
again. Hmm. I guess they patched it up.
Another time Jan was having a garage sale in preparation for
her move back home to Portland. I offered to come by
and help, but Jan politely refused because her friend Teresa
was going to help. Jan added that unfortunately Teresa was a lesbian and
uncomfortable around men. Huh? That was just another
example of the odd excuses that Jan tossed at me that made
little sense. But I never challenged her.
The best story of all was the Cramps incident. One
day Jan and I planned a special all-day Saturday
trip into the mountains. The Rocky Mountains
were just a stone's throw from CSU. The campus was situated in the
foothills on the eastern slope of the Rockies. We drove to Rocky
Mountain National Park, did some hiking, gazed in awe at the
majestic snow-capped mountains, ate some lunch, and
had a great time. As we drove back, the plan was
dinner and movie and spend the night together. That
would be the perfect way to end a perfect day.
It was getting dark as we neared
around 6 pm. As we reached the outskirts, suddenly Jan doubled over in excruciating pain.
She could barely breathe. Jan whispered between gasps
that it was a lifelong curse - menstrual cramps!
said she had suffered from these sudden
attacks all her life. The only thing she could do was take a pill
and go straight to bed. She said to take her straight
to home. As she got out the door, Jan
said it was better if I didn't come in. She planned
to be unconscious as soon as possible.
Poof, just like that,
our day was over. It sure seemed odd. Jan had
been in perfect health and great cheer the entire day.
Bad coincidence or well-executed lie? At the time, I
accepted her excuse without challenge, but my gut was tied up in knots.
I was sick in my stomach with the idea that something was
wrong. But what? At the time, I had no
idea Kevin was even in the picture.
Later on when Jan told me Kevin was with her in Portland
over Christmas, that is when everything began to make more
sense. I went back and reviewed all the stories.
When I laid
the cramps incident side by side with a dozen other odd
coincidences, I realized she had been lying to me for months.
For one thing, the strangest
excuses always happened on Saturday. The random
encounter at the football game, Theresa the lesbian, and now
the cramps. The worst lie of all - the cramps story -
suddenly made complete sense. Jan didn't have cramps,
she had a date!! With me out of the picture, now her Saturday night was free.
When I finished unburdening my soul, Mark smiled at me. He said my mistake had been to ignore the pain in
my guts. He said I had spent all my life trying to use
my brains to solve every problem, but that I
should learn to pay better attention to my feelings.
He said that 'instincts' are the soul's early warning
Mark said that gut feelings usually show up way before we
can actually understand what is going on. If we wait
for the details to surface, by the time we learn the truth,
the damage is done.
I wouldn't have gotten hurt nearly as much if
I had not deliberately overridden my own natural defense
against deceit. I continued to trust Jan even though
my guts were screaming something was wrong. Listen to
Mark asked what I would do if I had another shot
with the cramps incident.
I said I would tell Jan I would be back at 8 pm to check
on her and see how she reacted. Or perhaps I would
drive away and drive back to watch for a while. But then I stopped and
looked at Mark. I said, "You know what, Mark, I
did not even have a clue that Kevin was hiding in the
shadows. All I knew was that when all these strange things
started to happen, I did not understand what was going on. I had no
previous experience with lying or cheating in my life. What would
you have done?"
Mark said that he had a theory on events that make no
sense. He called it the "Three Strikes Theory". One time
is an incident, two times is a coincidence, three
times is a pattern. If something that doesn't seem
right happens three times, this is a very dangerous sign.
Don't ever ignore it.
I had simply laid all Jan's strange excuses side by side, I
would have realized almost immediately that Jan was up to no
Jan had long ago passed the "Three Strikes"
limit, but rather than
back off, I hung on out of blind faith. Mark said you
have to trust the one you love, but not 'blindly'.
They should earn that trust!
Mark continued. He said my mistake was to let my
feelings go too far for this girl without enough collateral
commitment on her part. He said emotions should be
like playing cards. You always have to take some risks when your
heart is concerned, but that doesn't mean you have to gamble
foolishly. When things look good, gamble a lot, but when
things don't look good, gamble a little. He said by
continuing to care so much in the face of all those weird
things that went wrong, I had taken too big of a chance.
One day Mark said something that really stung.
He told me I needed to learn how to make people respect me.
He said you can never force someone to like you, but you can
always be sure they at least respect you.
Mark had a theory that romantic love is based on a balance
of power. He called it "Playing the Game". Mark told me I
had lost Jan because I had not stood up to her when I
suspected she was lying. That put me in a position of
weakness and she lost respect for me. That's how I
lost the game. No one can love someone they don't
Love requires a "match" or an "equal".
Mark said that lovers are like good sparring partners.
People mess with each other just to see how they will react.
It is a form of testing.
Countries do it in politics and lovers
do it in relationships. If the other person stands up
for themselves, then the games diminish and a foundation of
However, if someone fails to call the other person on the
games for fear of losing the person, then this shows
weakness. It opens the door for the games to get
nastier. In my case, Mark said Jan perceived me as
weak because I let her come and go as she pleased. I
bought her bullshit without challenge.
concept is that no one wants to acquire a clinging vine for
a lover. If someone is too needy or dependent, better
to find out quickly and move on. Or in some
cases, try to have your cake and eat it too.
If someone thinks they can cheat and the other
person will stick around even if they find out, then
the relationship is badly out of balance. That
is when abusive behavior begins.
that a good relationship requires that both people
demonstrate they can and will walk away if
the other person mistreats them.
took Mark's advice to heart. It made sense. What
I should have done was
acted on my misgivings
immediately. I should have confronted Jan on each
issue that brought up that sick feeling in my belly.
It would have been much tougher for her to lie to me this
Mark added one more thing. Even if I had confronted Jan,
I might have lost her anyway. He repeated that love
always involves risk. The other man might have been the
better choice for her. However if she did choose Kevin
over me, I could at least hold my head high because I had stood
up for myself. Instead I lost not only the woman, but my self-respect
Mark pointed out that Jan had been gone for nearly a year now, but I still didn't
have my self-respect back. This was where the real
damage lay. In relationships, you have to
maintain your self-respect above all else. Mark called
standing up to people the number one rule in "Playing the
He added that healthy love is based on a balance of power.
The moment you 'need' someone so badly that you look the
other way, you are in big trouble. You have become the
underdog. You have given the other person permission to use you as
a doormat. In Jan's case, she could get away with
whatever she wanted to do.
In therapy, there is a technique known as "confrontation".
Well, I had just gotten a strong dose of it. These
comments really hurt, but I agreed Mark was right. Jan
had gained the dominant position in the relationship and
used it to push me around. I knew something was wrong,
but I was too needy to have the guts to confront her.
I burned for a long time as I
processed his words. I mulled over what Mark had said
about "Playing the Game". It hurt to admit it, but I knew he was right.
I had really screwed things up with Jan. Once I calmed down, I made a silent vow to never
let anyone, man or woman, walk on me like that again.
I might lose them, but better to lose someone who has such a
casual attitude than lose my own self-respect.
This was a powerful lesson. Ever since, I have always insisted on the truth in every
relationship. As long as I think the other person is
honest with me, we are cool. But when someone seems
evasive, I back off. In other words, I gamble a little
but not a lot.
Mark had become my mentor. I don't know who wrote the 'Book
of Love', but Mark easily could have written some of the chapters.
I took his suggestions to heart because I trusted the man's judgment completely.
It didn't matter that he was gay. He knew more about relationships than any person I had ever
Slowly, my biggest fears started to dissipate. For the
first time in my life, I felt like I had a handle on how to play
the game. From now on, I would listen to my gut and speak my mind whenever
Thanks to Mark, I no longer felt defenseless. I
felt myself finally letting go of my obsession with Jan.
Another chip on my shoulder had just been healed.
if I could only learn to dance...
NOVEMBER 1974 - THE
PARTY AT MARK'S HOUSE
As I said,
as big a mess as I was, at least I had the sense to
take inspiration anywhere I could find it. Whether it was my goofy
"How to Meet Girls" book or a charming gay man half my size,
I never forgot the Hindu adage that
Wisdom comes wrapped in many forms. Mark Estes was the man
who became my unexpected guru. His listening skills allowed me to
release my anger and his advice helped me calm the fears left over
Thanks to Mark,
I had begun to heal inside. As if that wasn't enough, Mark played a
significant role in my life.
Mark was the person who solved my Dilemma.
opened the door to the next step on my path.
was late November 1974. After David's compliment about
my dancing in October, I had hit a dry spell. My
Saturday dance lessons with David and my nightly dance
ritual in front of the mirror were not working their magic any longer.
I didn't see any improvement at all. I knew what the
solution was - go out to a club and ask a girl to dance -
but my phobia about rejection blocked any chance of that
happening. The Dilemma was still there.
Mark succeeded in getting me over this hurdle by playing
a simple yet clever trick on me.
Mark invited me to come to
a party at his house
that coming Saturday.
frowned. He knew I wasn't gay.
What kind of fun would that be? Mark quickly reassured me there would be
lots of women there
in addition to his gay friends. Women? Really?
I relaxed a little and said okay, I would be
there. I certainly had no other social
opportunities to choose from. Going to a party
sure beat staying at home on a Saturday night. Plus
there would be girls!
It wasn't till I arrived at the party
that I realized Mark had the sense not to tell me the women were a
lesbians. Silly me. I was so lonely I just went ahead and
believed whatever I wanted to believe. Well, now that I was here,
I might as well make the best of it. It was this or go home to my
The house was packed.
I discovered that
Mark was extremely popular in his world. Now that I thought
about it, I shouldn't be surprised.
Using his natural warmth, he was an excellent host.
Mark made everyone feel welcome.
As usual, I was pretty envious of his people skills. Watching him
in action, I took mental notes.
I wistfully speculated whether the day would ever come when I would be as outgoing as he was.
Tonight was the first time I met
Mariah. Mark had told me a little bit about her.
Like Mark, she was a supervisor in the Welfare
department. She worked in a different part of
town. Mark referred to Mariah as his 'common
I thought it was kind of odd for
a gay man to have a female wife, but I decided not
to pry. I had assumed when I met Mariah I would
figure it out. I was completely wrong.
When I met Mariah, I was floored. Mariah was a
babe! In fact, Mariah was the most attractive
woman I had met since Jan. What was Mark doing
with a woman like this??
Mariah was reserved and quite
beautiful. There wasn't anything about Mariah that
gave even the slightest hint that she might be a
lesbian. She wasn't feminine, but she wasn't
masculine either. Mariah was a no-frills girl.
She wore no makeup nor did she fix up her long brown
hair. Her clothing was simple. She
didn't smile, but she didn't frown either. She
wore a mask that revealed nothing. Mariah was
something of an ice queen... pleasant yet
We exchanged a polite hello, then
Mariah excused herself to attend to her duties as
hostess. As she walked away, I just shook my
head in disbelief. Who was this mystery woman?
Casa Mark and
Mariah, the dance music was playing
the minute I arrived. Gloria Gaynor was the most popular singer at the time and Van McCoy's "Do the
Hustle" had just come out. Lots of people
were dancing. I was mesmerized. I sat
down on the couch
the dancing and watched. And watched. And watched.
This was ridiculous, I thought to myself. Here I had been taking lessons for
yet not once did I have the guts to dance in public. Tonight
was no different. I hated my cowardice.
Then it happened. Sara,
one of the ladies at the party, came over
and insisted I get up and dance with her. Naw, I better not.
To my surprise, Sara would not take no for an
answer. She grabbed me by the arm and started to
tug! Then she asked a girlfriend to come get the other arm.
They both started pulling me up. Good grief.
Finally I gave in and
got up to dance. I was terrified!
Was Sara going to laugh at me when she saw how bad I was?
I was so nervous I did
nothing but my easiest pattern. I moved my feet
side-touch, side-touch for the entire 4 minute song.
That's right - 4 minutes. I had been practicing lots of
patterns for four months, but
I was so nervous I could only do one move to
the entire song.
Is that sad or what?
But the woman didn't frown and she didn't make fun of me.
Best of all, as
Gloria Gaynor belted out, "I will survive", I
laughed at the coincidence. I had managed
I went back to my
gloated. I did it! I
had danced with a real live woman and she didn't faint
or laugh at me. Nor had anyone else. In fact, no one had
paid a bit attention. I felt so silly. All this worry and no one cared a bit
how I danced. I really could be a dork sometimes.
Insignificant as the incident sounds, I crossed a real mental barrier
right there. I discovered I could dance in public
laughing at me.
Despite my triumph, I found
out I wasn't completely cured. A little while later, the group
got up to dance the famous
line dance known as the
people were trying to show some of the
guests how to do it. I got up
and tried a couple steps, then sat back down in
frustration. Too complicated.
Of course as I
would later learn, the Four Corners is the easiest line dance in the history of mankind, but I was still
terrified of looking foolish in case I couldn't figure
it out. The scorn of the River Oaks
Seven came to mind. I did not want anyone laughing at me.
Still, overall, the night had been a success.
Sara came back and asked me again. After
she left, I managed to dance
a couple more times before the night was out and this
time I did the asking. I even
branched out into a couple more moves. Best
of all, I had fun. This night had been good for me. I
was glad I came.
Right before I left, something
caught my eye. I noticed that Mark and Sara, the lady who had asked
me dance, were whooping and hollering in the kitchen. I waved
goodbye to Mark and noticed there was something odd in his
expression. He looked like he had just gotten caught with his hand
in the cookie jar. Hmm.
Mark had taught me
people about misgivings. So the next Monday I marched into his
office and got Mark to confess he had put Sara up to it.
Mark quickly gave it up. He said he had been watching me rooted to my seat all night. He was sick of
seeing me sit there, so he decided to take things into his own hands.
I forgave him quickly and we both laughed. In reality, he had done
me a huge favor. There was no way I was going to leave that couch
otherwise. Although I came into his office prepared to chew him
out for being so sneaky, I ended up thanking him profusely for his timely
intervention. My whole night had improved as a result.
STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
The party at
Mark's house had
given me something else to think about. That night I had seen
feature of the gay world I
not previously been aware of. Like
Mark had predicted, there were actually plenty of women at his party.
When I first got there, I noticed two women who were obviously
lesbians. It wasn't hard to pick them out - they were kissing!
But after that I wasn't so sure.
Half the women
at the party didn't seem like they were
lesbians at all. For example, when I asked a couple of the women to dance, they reacted
just like a girl would react to a man - they blushed a little and smiled
coyly. They seemed flattered to be asked to dance.
fact, there were two women named Jill and Lucy that I was almost certain
were straight. They weren't exactly my type. They were
both plump, plain, and much too old for me. However, I
couldn't help but like them because they were funny and friendly to
me in a non-sexual way. I enjoyed their company because they
were sarcastic and knew how to make me laugh. I couldn't
believe some of the things that came out of their mouths!
Pretty soon I was making wisecracks too. Then I fell silent
for a moment. How long had it been since I had laughed with an
actual woman talking to me? Not since Jan. This
was amazing. These two women were bringing me out of my shell.
I loved them for it.
Mark and I talked about
Jill and Lucy for a while. He confirmed my
suspicions. Yes, those two women were indeed straight. Mark explained that
women were just as terrified of men as I was terrified of women.
That surprised me. I couldn't imagine
anyone being more scared of the opposite sex than me!
He said these women
enjoyed socializing with gay men for several reasons.
The gay men did not threaten them.
The women weren't sexually interested in the
men and the men weren't interested in the women, so they could all
relax and have a good time without any sexual tension in the air. The girls loved the vicious catty sarcasm that gays
are famous for. They all seemed to think the same things.
No surprise there. After all, some of the more effeminate gay men were
practically 'girls' themselves. When they got together, it was Cindy Lauper time - Girls just want to have fun.
Most of these women were not particularly attractive.
They didn't seem to care about their appearance
and they were invariably overweight. They
wore dresses so big they would have fit me too.
It's like these women had given up on fixing themselves up for the Dating
Game. However, they still wanted companionship.
The Gay community was perfect. The women appreciated having a
fun social outlet where they would not feel threatened.
Mark told me gays have
nicknames for these women: Fag Hags, Fruit Flies,
Floor Whores (meaning 'dance floor').
As cruel as the nicknames were, the truth
was the women in Mark's
group of friends really enjoyed hanging out with Mark and his gay
friends. Mark was mother hen to a wide circle indeed. Of the
30 or so people who floated in and out of his parties on a regular basis, I would guess
ten of them were women.
better, there were at least five women in the group who I suspected were
straight. Or maybe they were bi.
Heck, I don't know. I never asked. What I did know was
that they were just as lonely
as I was in their own way. I was still in my ugly duckling stage
and, like ugly ducks of a feather, we were drawn to each other.
I felt very much at ease dancing with them. Since I wasn't
attracted to them, they didn't
At the next party, I
needed no prodding. I danced all night.
a few women in Mark's group were clearly lesbians, but
now that I was a card-carrying part of the group, I discovered they didn't mind
dancing with me. They just needed to know I was safe.
comfortable asking all the women to dance because I wasn't
interested in any of them.
In a strange
way, these women were perfect for my
needs. The Dilemma was solved. I was finally getting my
much-needed chance to practice my dancing in the Real World.
It wasn't exactly the Real World of my nightly mirror fantasies
where beautiful women lined up to ask me to dance, but
it was doing the trick nonetheless.
As they got to know me,
Lucy and Jill decided to adopt me. Anytime they wanted to dance,
either Lucy or Jill would come grab me and haul me out there. I
didn't mind a bit. Sometimes all three of us danced at the same
time. In freestyle dancing, three is not a crowd.
One night after lots of dancing, we were all too tired to dance for
a while. So I struck up a conversation. Lucy and Jill
were both much older than I was. I was 24 and they were in their 40s.
I finally got brave enough to politely ask if they were "together".
They both laughed and said no. They had been friends forever,
but hadn't "crossed any lines". That was their term for
they were taking a break from men for a while. Lucy called it
a "siesta". Jill said she had sort of
given up on men, but figured if the right guy came along, she would try
again. I had to smile. I felt like I
was in the same boat as these two women. I hadn't exactly "given
up on women", but I was definitely taking a break for a while. They asked
me what my story
was, so I explained my situation.
When they heard about my odd relationship with
Mark, they gasped.
They assumed we were an 'item'. "You mean
you're not gay?!?!" Both women were incredulous.
Gee whiz, they almost had a heart attack! I could have told them I was an Alien from Planet Mars and
they would not have been less shocked.
The three of us became fast friends in a
non-sexual way. They called me their "Boy Toy".
They told me they were going to find me a woman. Oh, great!
I said it do more for my self-esteem if I could find one myself.
Nevertheless I was amused. They always made me laugh.
fact, I quickly became friends with everyone in Mark's group,
be they gay, straight, bi, or just plain mixed up like me.
They were all friendly to me. That was
all that mattered.
I became a
regular at Mark's Saturday night dance parties. Mark took his
parties very seriously. Every Monday I would walk into
Mark's office and we would talk about gossip and events from his latest party.
as we talked about the party a couple nights earlier, Mark
started to go off on some harangue about how this Fruit Fly said this and that Fag Hag did
I flinched as Mark casually rattled off what I
considered to be the rude
nicknames, especially when he referred to Jill or Lucy. Then something struck me. I wasn't a Fruit
Fly or Fag Hag.
what was I?
Mark what gays
called straight guys who hung out with gay men. Mark shook his
head in consternation. He couldn't think of a name. Mark said he had never
it happening before. The men he knew who still showed interest in
women were called "bi", short for bisexual. Mark
smiled and asked me if I
was ready to admit I was "bi".
I am not bisexual." Mark rolled his eyes. It was
standing joke that I was secretly gay but hadn't realized it yet.
I frowned. What was I doing here? I didn't belong, did
I? However, despite my discomfort with this
strange world, I stuck around because I was not
scared to ask the women in Mark's Circle of Friends to dance.
that mattered to me. I needed a place to practice my dancing
without fear of rejection. Mark's dance parties were exactly
what I needed.
myself I was just visiting in this world. As long as it was fun, so what? So I
continued going each week.
the only who sensed that I didn't belong. As my participation
continued, I was forced to deal with more suspicions that I was "secretly
gay". Jill and Lucy said that the men they talked
to were convinced
that even though I didn't think I was gay, I had to be
self-deceived. I frowned when Jill said told me they were
taking bets to see who would get me first. The money was on
Mark because everyone knew how much I liked him. I scoffed.
I told them Mark knew me too well. Jill looked at Lucy and
Lucy looked at Jill. They both smiled at each other knowingly.
Now it was
my turn to roll my
eyes. They could say whatever they wanted, but I knew better.
I had actually given this some serious thought. For some strange
reason, at this point in my life I was deeply immersed in the
Gay World. I had been propositioned at my very first dance
class. I lived in the Montrose area, the heart of the
gay community. Most of my apartment complex was gay.
They made half-hearted passes at me all the time. Many of the
people at my social work job were gay. Now my best friend was
gay. And I hung out with his gay friends every Saturday night.
any truth to their claim that I was self-deceived? Well,
I could certainly see their point. So one day I sat down and
asked myself that same question.
something that no one else did. Like everyone else, I had a
sex drive. Whenever I fantasized about sex, it was with women.
Whenever I undressed someone with my eyes, it was a woman.
Whenever I got turned on involuntarily, it came from being next to a
woman with an awesome body or watching a woman move on the dance
floor. These things never
happened with men. Never. Despite any Freudian theories
of latent homosexuality, in my case, my conscious desires spoke
volumes - I wanted to have sex with women.
I had spent
my whole life learning to control my sexual desire for women.
Social mores teach us that men can't have sex with every woman we
are attracted to. That meant if I was at a party and I
had just met a sexy woman I was really attracted to, I couldn't just
grab her like I wanted to. The rules of the game said I had to
be patient and wait for her signals before making an aggressive
move. Forgive my candor, but considering the amount of steam
rising inside, sometimes it was very uncomfortable to behave like a
As far as
men were concerned, there was no steam rising. Ever. If
I was secretly gay, trust me, it stayed well hidden.
turned out that Jill was right about those rumors. I was a
marked man. Sure enough, not long after our conversation, one day
Mark propositioned me in his office. He invited me
to come over to his house that night and share his bed.
He said it would be very innocent. We would
keep our clothes on and just cuddle. Nothing else,
I laughed out loud. I assumed Jill had been pulling my
leg, but she had been right all along. I think I hurt Mark's feelings in the process.
Frowning, Mark said, "What's so funny?"
I replied, "Can't you come up with something more
original than that? Between you and David, I see that you gay guys don't use
any better lines than straight guys use on women!
Fortunately, Mark laughed too. Thank goodness.
The laughter broke the tension.
The subject never came up again.
have spread the word. No one in his Circle ever approached me.
record, I never had sex with anyone in Mark's group male or female.
For that matter, no smooching, hugging, or fondling. The
closest I ever came to contact was holding Lucy's hand when we went
out on the floor. Like I said, I was there to learn to dance.
DECEMBER 1974 - THE
There was a new
development in Mark's life. He had a boyfriend. Jim was a
tall handsome blond man about 30. He was clean cut and very
friendly. I liked him. Mark had chosen well. As for
Mark, well, he was gaga over Jim. I could not get Mark to shut up
about the guy. Enough already!!
riding a hot streak. In addition to acquiring his handsome
boyfriend, his parties just kept growing and growing. There
was barely any room to dance anymore. Mark decided to make a
decided not to throw a party this particular Saturday night.
He explained to his friends that his group had grown too
big to fit in his house. Instead
he told the group to head
over to a gay bar called the Farmhouse.
the news to me in his office a couple days before the big move.
Would I like to join them?
This was quite a challenge.
My heart began
to pound. Me go to a gay bar? I had never been to
a gay bar before.
I had no idea what
to expect. I am embarrassed to say I told
Mark I would
only go if he would stay
close by throughout the night.
How absurd! I was six inches taller
and a hundred pounds heavier, but here I was asking
Mark to protect me! What a hoot.
Fortunately Mark understood what I meant.
promised to be my bodyguard.
That night I drove over to Mark's house. With
Jim, Mariah, and Mark - the "Love Triangle" - as my escorts, we walked up to a remodeled
mansion located a few blocks from Westheimer and Bagby. There was
no way I was going in that door alone. I was as tense as I have ever been in my life
as I entered the Farmhouse. 'Nervous'
wasn't the word.
'Panic-stricken' might be closer.
My heart was thumping. What was I getting myself into this time?
Good grief! I saw more gay men the
moment I walked in the door than I had ever seen in all my life.
There were easily three hundred men inside! I freaked out right there, but I told
myself to get a grip. It was a good thing I trusted Mark.
Otherwise I would have turned and run for my life.
I was there for one reason
and one reason only - I wanted to
practice my dancing. So dance I did!
night the crowd did line dances.
We did the Four
Corners, the Cha-Cha Hustle, the Freeze, the Electric
Slide, the Bus Stop, the LA Freeway,
and other dances with names
I have forgotten.
Whenever I wanted to dance freestyle there were five ladies
including Lucy and Jill who would dance
with me any time I asked.
all six of us would dance together.
I found you didn't
have to pair up to have fun. I was having a
blast! Despite my fears, this was going to be okay.
I went back the next Saturday. And the Saturday after that.
The only two men I ever danced freestyle with were Mark and his boyfriend Jim. The rest
of the time it was with the ladies. I never once partner danced.
No one in Mark's circle
knew how to partner dance nor did I. But I did learn every line dance in the book.
Guess what... I was getting good!
For the first time I
dance for the fun of it.
The music helped a lot. For one thing,
listening to the music
turned my brain off. Without knowing it, the moves were actually starting to sneak out
from my analytical left side
over to the intuitive right side
Once I began to dance without
"thinking about it", I developed a gracefulness that far transcended my self-conscious stabs in the mirror
home. I was developing
rhythm. My body was moving in
ways that were new to me.
I was becoming fluid.
starting to move my hips. The practice was
magically turning me into a good dancer.
JANUARY 1975 - BREAKTHROUGH!
My dancing improved rapidly at
the Farmhouse for several reasons. The old adage is to dance like
no one is looking. If I was dancing with a woman, I would have
been tense and self-conscious. But surrounded by gay men everywhere, I
couldn't have cared less what they thought. Watch all you want.
Besides, the gay dance style was far less inhibited than in the straight
dance clubs. As opposed to the average dancing I saw on my
scouting trips to the straight Discos, these gay men could really move
So I caught their energy and threw my inhibitions to the wind. I started to let
it all hang out.
Makes me wanna move my
body yeah, yeah, yeah...
With the rat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat on the drums, hey!
I was thrilled to spin to the music.
I wasn't average anymore. In fact, the metamorphosis was nearly
complete. I reached the level of
dancing prowess I had established back when I first started. Maybe
soon I could take my dreams and move to the next stage.
Thanks to my improvement, I noticed that the men had begun to watch me
dance. Fortunately this didn't bother me.
The Farmhouse turned out to be
far less dangerous than I had feared.
Other than an occasional smile, no one ever
bothered me. Not once. Nevertheless I was careful. I had a rule - I stayed strictly
within Mark's Circle of
friends. It was a good rule - no one ever
hit on me.
Furthermore, within the group, no one ever
bugged me about what my sexual orientation was. I
am sure they all continued to assume I was secretly gay. However they weren't going to press the issue.
If I said I was just there to dance, they accepted
my statement and
left it at that.
I didn't care what they thought. I liked them all. This group
was wonderful for me. I was a Stranger in a Strange Land. I
was very kind of the people in the group to accept an outsider like me.
In the meantime, I was on a mission. My nightly mirror ritual
continued, but now the energy was high again. To my surprise, I
began to see moves appear in the mirror that no one had taught me. I
laughed. There really was something to this 'turning your brain
off' stuff. As the clichť goes, I had taken my dancing to another
Now that my dancing started to come around, I began to receive compliments from various people in the group.
One night Mark and Jim pulled me aside to
say I was becoming one of the best dancers at the Farmhouse.
These kind words
gave my Colorado State-ravaged ego a much-needed boost.
As the compliments added up, I could feel my confidence surge. I beamed with pride at the
results of my hard work.
Lucy and Juicy (my nickname for Jill)
were my biggest fans. They raved
about my dancing. They went on and on how much fun it was to dance
with a big hot stud like me. Hey, bring it on!! These were
the nicest compliments I had gotten in my life. I knew Juicy
and Lucy were teasing me, but I also knew they meant it. As their
adopted "Boy Toy", they knew what I was trying to accomplish and they
were rooting for me.
It had now been six months since my first dance lesson with David back
in August of last year.
In that time I had practiced my Mirror Ritual practically every single
But it was the dancing at Mark's house and at the Farmhouse that had
turned the corner.
Three straight hours of dancing helped me go unconscious. I began
to move in ways that cannot be learned in a dance class or by staring at
Best of all, I
had outlasted my rivals. The River Oaks women had not returned to
David's class in
January. I took it as a sign of victory. Thanks to my
dancing at Mark's house back in November and December, I had noticeably
passed them some time ago. Not that they had given me any
sign that they had noticed, of course. However, I smiled with intense
satisfaction nonetheless. I had vowed to catch them and I did. Now
I could dance circles around them.
it just a coincidence when the disparity became obvious, they packed their bags
and moved on? Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever the
truth, I took their departure as all the evidence I needed to
signal my victory. There was seven of them against one of me...
but now I was the one who intimidated them. Another chip on my shoulder quietly
I loved to dance. And you know what? I
beginning to feel attractive again.
I was so proud of myself.
It was now February 1975.
I had been dancing on Saturday nights at the Farmhouse
for two and a half months.
February I showed up at the Farmhouse and
no one from the group was there to meet me. That's strange. So I sat in our usual place and waited.
I had the feeling that something was wrong, but I reassured myself that
someone has to get here first. Maybe tonight it was my turn.
However, I had a funny feeling what the explanation might be.
Unfortunately I would soon discover I was right.
Shortly after I
arrived, Mark and his boyfriend Jim
showed up. However Mariah was missing. Mariah had never missed a Saturday visit to
the Farmhouse. Hmm.
As Mark came over greet
he quickly apologized.
Apparently most of the group was at some private party tonight. Mark explained that he had forgotten
to tell me about the
other party. I
was disappointed that no one from the group was going to be here tonight.
Where was Jill? Where was Lucy? Who was I
going to dance with?
However I put
my own disappointment aside because something was
clearly amiss with Mark. He looked like he had been crying.
Jim was frowning and Mariah was
missing. I assumed
there had been a fight. I was right.
In the past
couple months, our roles had changed. During our frequent daytime
talks, now I was the listener and Mark was the troubled one. I had
been there back in late November when Mark first met Jim. Mark poured his
heart out about his love for Jim and how wonderful the guy was.
Soon after they met, they realized they had something special. Mark beamed with pride when he told me they had
decided to become exclusive.
This was a big
step for Mark. From what Mark
told me, monogamy did not come naturally to gay men. At this point
in time, the Gay community had elevated casual sex to a crescendo point.
It was not uncommon for an attractive gay man living in a big city to
count his lifetime of conquests in the hundreds, perhaps even the
had been with a half dozen women at this point in my life, my eyes
bulged in astonishment. Yes, I knew I had led a sheltered life,
but this disparity was shocking.
context, when Mark said that he and Jim were exclusive, I gathered
that limiting oneself to just one partner - something I took for granted -
was a big deal for him. Even Mark seemed amazed. He muttered
aloud, "I don't know if I even know how to be faithful!!"
I just shook my
head in bemusement. I tried to be open-minded, but sometimes the
Gay World was just too bizarre to comprehend.
Mark's life was
definitely weird, but one month later it got even weirder.
I raised an eyebrow in January when Mark told me that Mariah had joined Jim
and himself in their lovemaking. As Mark explained it, they
were now having a Three-Way. Mark grinned and added it was
incredible. He had never been so happy in his life!
As I listened to Mark,
I was glad that he was happy, but to myself
thought I had never heard of a stranger relationship. I thought he
was taking a big chance. In fact, I even said so. "Are you
sure this is a good idea?"
"Absolutely," Mark replied. "Mariah asked to join and
Jim said he was all for it."
Well, Mark was the Master. If anyone could pull it
off, he would be the one to do it. I still thought it
was risky. Sooner or later, someone was bound to get
the three months since I had met her, Mariah was still the
Mystery Woman. Mark talked about his own sex life all the time,
but today was the first time I had ever heard Mark mention Mariah and the
word 'sex' in the same sentence.
As frank and
candid as our talks had been, I had never once asked Mark
about Mystery Mariah. I was extremely curious about Mariah, but I never
brought her up in our conversations. Nor did Mark. I
sometimes wondered why he never brought her up. Instead he talked
about Jim all the time.
Here is what I
did know. Mark and Mariah shared the same house. They had met
through their job at the State Welfare Department. Mark described
Mariah as his common-law wife, but never explained exactly what that
Beyond that, I knew little about them. Mark would occasionally
throw out odd tidbits, but he never actually volunteered to explain the
true nature of their relationship. For example, one day Mark mentioned
that he and Mariah had sunbathed in the nude yesterday afternoon to get
ready for a party. My
eyes opened wide. I thought to myself, "Well, then what happened?"
But Mark left it at that.
didn't want to come right out and ask if they had sex
together, but somehow I doubted it. Mark struck me as
strictly as "AC", not "AC/DC". Now that there was this
"three-way", the question had come up in my mind again.
Just exactly who was zooming who and how? However, I
preferred not to ask.
Frankly, I was
baffled. Trust me, there were lots of questions I wanted to ask
but didn't ask. Why not? Because I was too scared to know what the answer was!
be blunt, it was much easier being around Mark's Circle the less I
knew about what happened behind closed doors. So I
deliberately chose not to pry open the lid. However,
since Mark's situation involved this strange woman who
actually seemed straight, I was curious to figure out what
her motivations were to be in this Triangle with two gay
of the things Mark had taught me was to trust my feelings.
Since I preferred not to pry too much when it came to Mark's
world, I had taken Mark's advice and used my
instincts instead. I had no idea
what Mariah's sexual preferences were, but
if forced to guess, I thought she was straight. I also
assumed that if she
was bisexual, then she leaned towards men. I could
have been wrong, but that what's my intuition said. I
never saw a bit of chemistry between her and another woman.
for all sorts of reasons. Her presence in Mark's life challenged my views on traditional male-female
relationships. What was the nature of their relationship? What was an
obviously gay man doing "married" to a woman? What was in it for
Mark? What was in it for Mariah? Did they share a bed?
If they did sleep together, did they have sex?
My curiosity was further complicated by the fact that
Mystery Mariah was so damn good looking. If she was
indeed straight, then that was a problem for me. She could have any man she wanted, including
probably me. I say 'probably' because I had all sorts of
reservations about getting near her.
When I watched her in
action at the parties, Mariah was "a-sexual". She just floated from
person to person. She was never long with a man, never long with a
woman, and more like a buddy to Mark than anything else. What
gives with this woman? If she was attracted to someone, I
would have never known. She kept her cards to herself.
Out of the
assortment of a dozen
fruit flies, lesbians, what have you, Mariah was the only woman in
Mark's Circle that I was actually attracted to. When I watched her dance,
I would be mesmerized. Besides her considerable good looks and
body, Mariah had all the moves. Mariah was reserved in person, but
she turned into a temptress on the floor. She was a
regular Salome out there. When I felt myself getting turned on, I would have to
look away. Since I already knew I wanted her, I never asked her to
dance. It was my way of staying safe. I was the moth, she was the flame, and I didn't want to get
I was in a bind where
Mariah was concerned. Knowing
full well that the most of the people Mark knew had sex with everyone
on the planet,
did this include Mariah? Did Mariah have casual sex in the same
way as Mark? If so, I wondered if the day would ever come when
Mariah would hit
And if she did, how would I respond?
honestly did not know the answer to that question. The
problem was that I was climbing the walls to be with a
woman. It had been a long dry spell. In the
condition I was in, it was no accident that my eyes
continued to track the only woman I would consider having
sex with. The problem with excessive lust is that it
leads to poor choices. And Mariah spelled
Trouble with a capital "T".
biggest concern was
whether having sex with Mariah would obligate me to having sex with
Mark. Despite my attraction to Mariah, I did not have any desire
to expand my sexual horizons. Although I had my
doubts whether Mariah was a 'wife' in the usual sense of the
word, I decided that it was inappropriate to flirt with my best friend's wife.
I should just leave her alone. There were bound to be
pretty girls somewhere in my future. I could afford to
pass on this one.
So I avoided
Mariah like the plague. I didn't talk to her, I didn't ask her to dance
and I was careful not to let her know I was watching.
Mariah never paid a bit of attention to me. I could not have been
more grateful. Given the state I was in, I can't honestly say I
would have had the power to resist had she come knocking.
THE THREE WAY
weeks after the Love Triangle began, my
conversations with Mark in his office took a dark turn.
Mark was having romantic difficulties. Mark hinted that he
wasn't getting his fair share of the cheese any more in the bedroom.
I didn't pry, but I took that to mean he was getting the short end of
One day he broke down
in his office and openly wept. His Love Triangle was spinning badly out of control.
It wasn't just tears in his eyes
either. Mark cried his head off. I just sat there awkwardly
and let things run their course. Finally he composed himself
enough to explain.
Mark had come home early and caught them in the act. Given the
direction the sex had been going lately in the "Triangle", Mark
suspected this wasn't the first time the triangle had turned into a
duet. Following his habit of confronting his fears, he asked the
two of them what the story was. Upon questioning, Mark discovered
that Jim and Mariah had been going at it hot and heavy for some time, but
preferred to conceal it from Mark. Mark was absolutely crushed.
had no idea how much he liked sex with women until Mark invited Mariah
into their bed. Mark moaned that Mariah had awakened some sort of
latent heterosexuality! Out of respect for Mark, I
suppressed a grin. I had never heard of 'latent heterosexuality'
Now that the
secret was out, Mariah and Jim had gone from hiding the fact to actually
excluding Mark from their bed when they had sex. Mark gave me
the woeful details of how they had shut the door. Mark confessed
he had actually listened to them make love last night. He said it
drove him nuts.
was horrified. I tried to imagine how I would have
felt if Jan and Kevin had sex in another room and I was
forced to listen through the door. I could not even
conceive of it. I would have gone out of my mind with
jealousy. So I could not even begin to fathom how Mark
could tolerate his situation.
Well, judging from those tears, he wasn't handling it very
As the Three-way was moving towards a
Two-way, Mark was understandably miserable because he was the odd man out.
did not know if this could be repaired. He
wondered aloud if there was any way to rescue his Triangle.
Mark shook his head. More likely, he
was going to lose one of them or both of them. He was deeply worried they would push him aside completely.
Mark was terrified of being out in the cold.
I didn't know
what to say to Mark. I had warned him
long ago that
he was playing with fire, but I took no pleasure in finding
out I was right. I finally decided to ask Mark what
had gone wrong.
Mark explained the story, he and Mariah were more like best friends. They were
like girlfriends who were roommates. As long as Mark
had casual sex with one man after another, Mariah could not
have cared less. She wasn't possessive in that way.
However, when Mark and Jim started to fall in love, for the
first time, Mariah felt left out. Jim's presence threatened
the stability of her relationship with Mark.
Furthermore Mariah was the one who had to listen as Jim and
Mark went at it behind closed doors. Threatened by
Jim's increasing importance, Mariah confessed to Mark her fear of losing
him. That's when Mark came up with the brilliant idea
of involving her into the three-way.
worked at first, but then it backfired. Jim and Mariah
enjoyed making love so much, they had fallen in love. Now
Mariah didn't want to share Jim with Mark any more.
Mark going to do? His wife had stolen his
tried very hard to understand what Mark was feeling. I
looked back upon my own inadvertent love triangle for clues.
Not that I was any expert, but I
understood that it was possible to have casual sex with different
people at the same time if emotions weren't involved.
Then it becomes a simple game of physical pleasure.
You scratch my back; I'll scratch yours.
when feelings get involved, I had always believed that
feelings change the equation considerably. In my case
and Mark's too, the more the
feelings got involved, the more jealousy and possessiveness
came into play. I could not help remembering how deeply possessive I felt towards Jan. I
became intensely angry when I discovered she was having sex
with another man at the same time as me. All my feelings of being
special crumbled on the spot.
No matter how
much I tried to rationalize, I had no control over my darkest feelings
at all. My feelings of pride and
possession turned into humiliation and rage. I concluded that it wasn't possible
for me not to feel possessive towards someone I deeply cared about.
If I couldn't do it, then I didn't see how Mark could do it either. His
sad experience only served to reinforce my idea that most people have a hard
time "sharing" a lover when their hearts
I concluded that I never wanted to feel like this
again. I wasn't interested in sharing. Too much pain. I would not fall in love again until I was certain my woman was
Now Mark was
getting a double dose of what I went through. His man was cheating
on him, his woman was cheating on him, and the two of them had just
kicked him out of their triangle!! No wonder Mark was
miserable. I could not imagine how he coped with so much pain.
I watched this poor sad man wrestle with his emotions, I
thought it was strange that the same thing I had gone
through was now happening to Mark. What a peculiar
karmic path for us to travel together. I had been
given the short end of the stick in my three-way (although I
didn't know about it at the time). Now Mark was in the
same spot. We were both the odd man out.
was morbidly fascinated to discover that even in an open
relationship like Mark's where everyone knew the rules, it
had turned into cheating anyway! This seemed to
suggest that in all triangles, the two who click the best
together will eventually exclude the third.
After Mark's crying spree, I spoke to him a couple more
times during the week to see how he was doing. Not
Now tonight here at the
Farmhouse, Mark confided in me that he and Jim had been discussing their
relationship all day long. It wasn't looking very good. Mark
had asked them to consider inviting him back into their bed, but Mariah
was uncomfortable with the idea. Jim was torn, but if forced to
choose, Mark was sure he would opt for Mariah. In the meantime,
was having a hard time seeing the pain on Mark's face. She knew
how much her position was hurting him. Jim didn't enjoy hurting
Mark either. It was hard for both of them to bear. Mariah was
busy bawling her head off, so Jim and Mark decided to come to the
Farmhouse to leave her in peace.
I was depressed by
Mark's no-win situation. And disillusioned
too. Up to now I thought Mark was the man
with the plan. I thought he had all the answers. It
wasn't much fun to discover my guru wasn't perfect after all.
I wished that I could say something, but I had no idea what to say.
I didn't see
any way out of this mess. Mark wanted to restore the Three Way,
but I privately doubted there was any chance. This triangle had
gone humpty-dumpty. There was no patching this up. Someone
would have to go... and it would probably be Mark.
Mark interrupted my thoughts. Mark told me that he
and Jim were going to another place in the building so they could have a long talk.
I hugged him and wished him good luck. Mark gave me a rueful smile and
So now I was
alone. What was
I supposed to do?
for the line dances, I sat. And I sat.
And I sat some more.
Where was Jill and Lucy? I
could not believe they would go somewhere else and not tell me. Who was I
going to dance with?
I wanted to dance. That was what I was
Instead I just sat.
I was bored.
Mark and Jim had been gone for
thirty minutes. No one else had shown up.
I was just getting ready to leave
when a man approached me and asked me to dance.
I looked around.
Mark and Jim were still nowhere to be seen. Oh, why not? This was
not touch dancing. What difference did it make?
I wanted to dance.
This was the first time
I had ever broken my stick to the Circle
rule. It was a big mistake.
We went out on the floor and
began to dance. I noticed he was a
pretty big guy. He was definitely taller than me. One minute into the song
I glanced up and noticed he was smiling at me. That
made me feel very uncomfortable. I deliberately avoided
eye contact and I toned down my dancing, but it wasn't working. Now
he was actually leering. I expected drool would appear on
his lips any second now. I was disgusted. I started to
To my absolute shock, he put his hands on me!
The man grabbed me by the waist and
pulled my hips to his. He tried to lead me to match his hip movements.
Instead I tried to pull away and free myself. It didn't work. He was too quick. He
grabbed the top of my back with one arm and the small of my back with
the other. He pulled
into a chest to chest clench. My face was buried against his hairy chest! Holy
I tried to resist, but
discovered he had the
of a football linebacker. Smashed against his chest,
I struggled some more but it did no good. Time to switch tactics.
That's when I told him I had a boyfriend.
He didn't care.
He was the biggest, strongest man in the club. He could probably
pulverize any man in this place. No threat of a boyfriend was going to disturb his fun.
This man was
turning into a monster. His strength
was superhuman. For the first time in my life, I finally understood what
'brute strength' meant. I was being completely overpowered against my will
and I didn't like it one bit!
At first I was outraged, but my anger
was quickly turning to fear.
The more I tried to escape, the stronger he got.
I had been lifting weights since I was a teenager. Despite my
weight training, despite all my sports, and despite my powerful 200 pound
body, I was simply
no match for this beast. I was amazed at how
easily he manhandled me.
But I was not going to give up. Since it wasn't doing any good to
resist, I had to try something else.
I went limp in his arms.
I just stood there and didn't fight back.
That didn't work. He just kept grinding his hips against mine.
I stood there and let him make a fool of himself. It didn't do any
good to struggle.
Then I tried talking some more. I told him I
was not interested in him. Let
me go. Please.
He simply ignored me. His
arms around me felt like vise grips.
The brute swayed back and forth to the music with rag
doll me along for the ride.
The song ended. Abruptly he let
me go. Just like that I was free. He
grinned at me and asked if he could buy me a drink.
Buy me a drink?
I stared at him incredulously. Are you out of your mind?
I didn't say a word.
Instead I turned my back and
walked off the floor...
and out of the room...
and down the hall... and out the front
door... then across the street. When I reached
the sidewalk, I broke into a sprint. I raced to my
car parked a block away.
After one quick look to make sure I
was not being followed,
I jumped in, locked
the door and hit
the ignition as fast as I could. I was
very rattled by what had happened, so I took every precaution I could
think of. I did not want him to know where I lived. I took a circuitous route
home to be double sure I
was not being followed. I
nervously watched my
rearview mirror the entire time. I passed my
apartment building twice just to be sure no one was behind me.
Then I parked in a nearby apartment parking lot to see if anyone would
pull in after me. When no car appeared after five minutes, I
finally decided it was safe to go back to my own apartment and park the
That night I learned
first-hand what it felt like to be
overpowered. I was very afraid of that man. This
had to be
exactly how a woman must feel when a man becomes too aggressive.
Guess what - it is a horrible feeling. I
had absolutely no control over the situation.
Perhaps my fear
was irrational. After all, there were people around everywhere.
Surely if I cried for help, others would have come to my rescue.
Or would they?
I never went back to the Farmhouse.
That chapter of my life ended the moment the man grabbed
THE END OF A CHAPTER
The following Monday I
found out the fate of the
Love Triangle. Over profuse tears,
Mark said he had decided to move out of the house
for a while. He couldn't take it any
more. Sad to say, in the days to
follow, Mark would lose both of
them for good. I wished very much that
I could say something that would help Mark
the same way he had helped me, but this
situation was beyond saving.
Mark never asked me to go
to the Farmhouse again. Why not?
That chapter of his life ended the same
night mine did.
was definitely in no mood to go back there
and I wasn't either. I
thought it was strange that we had both
received such crushing blows at the
Farmhouse on the same night. I did not
tell Mark what had happened to me until
months later. At the time, I felt like
Mark had enough to worry about.
The time we
had spent together had been special for both of
friends with Mark, but from now
only saw him at work.
but surely, we drifted apart to pursue
separate destinies. I think we were
both sad that things would never be the
As a side note, about six
months later Mark met another man named
Steve. Steve helped Mark slowly put his life
back together. Not long after that,
the two of them moved to New York City.
I ran into Mark a few years later at a
mutual friend's house here in Houston.
Mark and Steve were in town for a
visit. I was pleased to see the two of
them were still together. Mark seemed
I often wonder
if Mark ever really knew just how important
a role he played in my life.
After my talk with Mark about the
Fall of the Triangle, I felt a strong sense of
closure. Both of our stories were
coming to an end.
As I sat down at my desk
after leaving Mark's office, on a
whim I called a
lady named Maggie. I
if she would like to go dancing with me that
didn't hesitate. Sure! Maggie
said she loved to dance. This sounded
exciting! I got directions to her
house and that was that.
I smiled. Asking
her out had been ridiculously easy. It
had been so easy, in fact, it seemed
like one of my fantasies inspired by the
Book. I had met
Maggie just a week
ago at the
Graduate Students Lounge over at Rice
University. I had
been studying the Book recently. It
suggested finding a place where people just
like myself would naturally congregate.
I decided that since I
was still basically a bookworm at heart, I
would probably feel right at home mixing
with Rice grad students. Since I was
the same age as most of them, it had
occurred to me I might even meet a lady
My instincts had been
right on the money. As it turned out,
the decision to head over to Rice was an
inspired choice. This was the ideal location
to make my new Turf. My only concern
was how to join a group I didn't actually
belong to. I had a stroke of luck.
On my way over to the Grad Students Lounge, I walked past a
group of students playing pickup
volleyball out in front of the Chemistry
building. Thanks to an early spring,
this was the first time they had played this
A girl saw me watching them as I
walked past and asked if I wanted to
didn't let it show, but I was thrilled to be
invited. Thanks in part to my volleyball
skills, I was quickly assimilated into their
surprise, I discovered they were all
graduate students! As I had hoped, I
fit right in. By the end of the game,
I was one of them. On an amusing note,
they even asked me to be on their team for
the Grad Students Volleyball league. I
accepted! They listed me as a guy in
their department who never left the lab and
I played for the whole season.
all went over to the Grad Students Lounge to
have a beer. Maggie was one of the
Chemistry students. I had noticed her
smiling at me earlier. We became instant friends.
As Maggie and I chatted up a storm, it
crossed my mind that I was suddenly able to
talk to pretty girls again. Whatever
happened to my fear of rejection?
Thursday after the Farmhouse incident,
we went to
a dance club near Rice.
The Second Office Club was located
at Bissonnet and
Buffalo Speedway. Maggie and I had a great time!
I don't think we left the floor once.
My night out with Maggie was the first date I
had since Jan left for Portland over 15 months ago. The
evening was significant because it meant that the misery of
Colorado State was finally
behind me. I was finally free of Jan's ghost.
I was not only ready to date again,
I was pretty sure my dancing was going to
play a major role in my future.
The experience with the powerful man at the Farmhouse was
never to be repeated. I had been a visitor in another culture, but now I was back with my
There were other changes too.
I was no
longer afraid to ask a woman to dance.
That was another fear that had magically disappeared. You see, I made an interesting discovery
that night while dancing with Maggie.
Back at the Farmhouse I
had moved up the ranks to become a better
than average dancer, but there were still
plenty of guys ahead of me. However, here among
the straight guys, I had no peer. Compared
to all these clumsy, rhythmically challenged
white guys, I was a whirling dervish. I was easily the best dancer
in the club that night.
days to follow, I would learn the Book was right. Now that I could
dance, meeting women would never be a
problem again. Even better, once I
learned how to dance, pretty soon I even
learned how to talk to them too.
been a long climb, but I made it.
I proved I could learn to dance despite the
long odds against me.
Looking back, I was
astonished at how perfectly my strange dance
project had turned out.
better, I buried all sorts
of demons along the way. The dance
project had healed me in more ways than I
could have ever guessed. I still had my rough
edges and, yes, there would be more painful lessons
but the crisis of my Colorado State failure was over. Considering
the seriousness of my illness, my comeback
was pretty remarkable.
always felt there was a mystical element
to this journey. I often wonder if
there is more to this world than meets the
eye. Right from the
beginning, I believed this was a path that I
had to take. Given my total lack of
dance ability, what I was doing didn't always make
sense on a conscious level, but I was drawn
to dance nevertheless. Looking back, I
honestly have to wonder if I was guided by an unseen
as it seems, while learning to dance, I also
found a way to grow up.