Archer's Note: My previous story
detailed how I used my social dance project to cure
a serious depression. Of course I didn't
realize at the time that was what I was doing.
In my mind, I was learning to dance strictly as a
way to meet girls, plain and simple. To my
chagrin, I never expected I would have so much
trouble learning to dance. That was the Cosmic
Joke. Too bad the joke was at my expense.
As a timeline, my crisis with
Jan, my two-timing girlfriend, took place from October
1973 to Christmas. My expulsion from Graduate
School took place in May 1974. I took my first
dance class in August 1974. I got my first
compliment on my dancing in March 1975.
After my problems with Jan, it had taken me 17 months to
work up the courage to ask a girl out again. As you
might gather, one compliment was not enough to
restore my confidence.
My self-esteem around
women was still pretty thin. Considering how
vulnerable I still was, you would think the Universe
would cut me some slack and send me an uncomplicated
woman (assuming one even exists). Guess what?
The Universe didn't do me any favors.
The next girl spun my head around faster than you can
say 'Exorcist'. Maggie was a young lady I had
met at the Rice University Graduate Students Lounge.
Maggie was the woman who had given me the
much-needed compliment on my dancing.
A Difficult Lesson
Maggie Has a
was now April 1975. Maggie and I had been dating on
and off for a month. We weren't serious,
but we had fun when we were together.
One afternoon Maggie
called me up.
noticed an advertisement in the morning paper. The
ad said the two
of us could take 4
half-hour Introductory Ballroom lessons for $5 a
person. Maggie wanted me to
take these Ballroom dance lessons with her at a
studio over in
the River Oaks shopping area.
Maggie knew I had been taking
Disco lessons to learn
how to "Freestyle".
In fact, she still talked about our first date. I had
been taking dance lessons for 8 straight months. I had
finally gotten enough confidence to ask her to go dancing
with me. Fortunately, my invitation had paid off.
Maggie said I was a great freestyle dancer. As she put
it, I was the only man she had ever met who had shown a
serious interest in dancing.
expressed hesitation about the Ballroom class.
All I knew were some freestyle moves and
a bunch of Disco line
dances. I had never 'partner danced' in my life.
As I listened to her pitch, I had serious misgivings. Maggie
said nonsense. I was a great dancer! Certainly
my Disco skills could be
transferred over to Ballroom dancing.
I wasn't so sure about that. I
had never confessed how hard it had been to acquire those
Ballroom dancing didn't interest me at all. I loved
Disco music, but the only Ballroom music I had ever heard
was pure schmaltz. However Maggie was right about my interest in
dancing. The Paperback Book had been clear:
In certain situations there is no easier way of meeting a
girl than asking her to dance. There
is no faster way known to man to get a strange woman into your
arms than dance.
sensed my indecision, so she turned up the charm. I
resisted for a while,
but I finally gave in.
I agreed it was time to
broaden my horizons.
Our first half-hour lesson consisted of one move to
dances - Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, and Cha Cha. The ad said 4 dances, but
the receptionist who took our $10 explained we skipped one
dance each week. Since the lesson ran 30 minutes, this
would allow us to concentrate on each dance for ten whole
minutes. I wondered to myself how much I could learn
in ten minutes.
introduced to Henry, our
instructor. He was cool towards me from the start.
I never quite figured Henry out. At
first I thought he was gay, especially when he took one look
at my blue jeans and sniffed with disapproval. I had
gotten the same reaction from the gay dance instructors at
my first studio. Obviously I needed a style upgrade.
Teaching dance has
always been a profession
gay men have been
drawn to. I smiled grimly at the awkward memory of how
I had been propositioned by my first dance teacher eight
However, as the lesson progressed I noticed Henry showed
interest in Maggie that clearly went beyond the expected
instructor-student relationship. He was not gay.
Not by a long shot.
Judging from the look on Henry's face, I idly wondered if
every dance teacher hit on their students. Oh well, look on the
bright side. At least I wouldn't get propositioned by
got that right. As the lesson progressed, Henry
was not the slightest
bit interested in me. In fact, I
think he disliked me although I couldn't imagine why.
The two of us barely spoke. I assumed the reason was
my obvious inability to respond to his teaching. The
moment Henry took one
look at me dancing with Maggie, he realized I possessed
little natural affinity for this style of dancing.
for his disdain might have been his poorly concealed interest
in Maggie. Henry and I were the same age.
Perhaps he saw me as a rival. Why help a rival?
Using a popular
expression of the day, there were definitely vibes here.
If anything, Maggie may have even started it. She had
been flirting with Henry from the moment she met him.
Was Maggie trying
to get Henry interested in her? If so, judging by his
drool, she had succeeded.
There were definite sparks.
But why conduct the
mating dance right in front of me? Wasn't there a more
discrete way to handle
this? Why was Maggie acting like this? Her behavior
I danced very little in our first
lesson. We started with Tango. I won't deny it,
I struggled mightily with this strange dance. After
Henry showed us what to do, he put some music on and let
Maggie and I try the Tango. We danced for about a minute and
Henry took the needle of the record. I was grateful he
ended the song early. It was actually an act of mercy.
My dancing was so bad I got the feeling he
gave up on me on the spot. Henry's
expression was something close to pity.
was it contempt? There is an expression known as
"getting off on the wrong foot" that described our
That was the last
time I danced to music that evening. The rest
of the first lesson consisted of Henry telling me to watch
as he took Maggie in his arms and swept her
away. Maggie enjoyed
herself thoroughly. She seemed to
glide effortlessly across the floor in his arms while I watched in
consternation. How did Maggie learn those moves so
fast? I was baffled at her progress.
I could not wait for this lesson to end. It was the
longest 30 minutes I could remember.
definitely had her math right. In 30 minutes, we did
minutes of Foxtrot, 10 minutes of Cha-Cha,
and 10 minutes of Tango.
How much do you suppose I
learned? The only time I was actually
allowed to try, I didn't understand the rhythm, I had no
idea how to lead, and the footwork was a complete mystery.
In addition to Henry's rudeness, I also disliked the music.
Maggie made light of my struggles, but I felt very ill at
ease with her thanks to her confusing behavior. Truth
be told I didn't even want to touch her. Henry's perpetual frown
at my awkwardness didn't help either. This lesson was
no fun at all.
It didn't help
that I was losing my girlfriend right in front of my nose.
Considering my last girlfriend had two-timed me, this was a
real sore spot. Henry was no more attractive or witty than I
was, but here on the dance floor he was Apollo to my
Quasimodo. I was clearly at a disadvantage and
resented my handicap bitterly. When it came to
dancing, I always felt inadequate, but I could not remember
when I had felt more insecure about my attractiveness.
I could tell as
far as Henry was concerned, I had ceased to exist.
From that point on, Henry had put all his
energy into hustling Maggie right in front of me.
in kind. She thought
Henry was wonderful.
Maggie was all laughter and lightness.
bristled inside. A lethal combination of jealousy and
irritation at Henry's lack of respect had a lot to do with
my bad attitude. No matter how poor my dancing was, there was no
reason to hit on my girlfriend and be rude to me.
Just because I couldn't dance was no reason to humiliate me.
However, I felt too lousy to make an issue out of it.
As I grew more sullen, I retreated into my shell.
shell was a constant companion. In
those days, I always had a chip on my shoulder. My
problems in Graduate School and with the ill-fated love
affair were still vivid reminders of my inadequacy.
Henry's disdain only served to make me more tense.
What an awful night.
As we left
the building, Maggie could tell I was upset. She
begged me to try again. I was dismayed at how hopeless I was
and didn't want to continue. Nevertheless, I
promised Maggie I would return for our second lesson. I
had given my word.
Plus I am not a quitter by nature.
I spent the next week
analyzing Maggie's behavior. She and I had been drifting apart
before these lessons had begun. Was she genuinely interested
in that guy or simply trying to make me jealous to fan the flames?
If Maggie was trying to make me jealous, she had succeeded.
But if Maggie thought I
would regain interest, she was mistaken. Last week's
shenanigans had irritated me to the point where I didn't even want
to date Maggie any more. Considering my constant fear of
betrayal, Maggie was now damaged goods.
I had mostly shown up for
the second lesson out of obligation. I showed up for another
reason as well.
During the week, I nursed a
secret hope that I could overcome my jitters and figure this
Ballroom stuff out. Deep down, I wanted to learn to dance.
Maggie and I came in
separate cars. When I arrived, I was surprised to find Henry and Maggie were already
out on the floor dancing together. I was so ignorant, I didn't
even know what dance they were doing. Whatever it was, it was
working. Maggie was twirling around the floor like she had
been dancing all her life. She was having the time of
her life. I felt a deep pang of envy. Maggie was
really good at this! How did she ever get so far ahead
Trying to be polite, I had
arrived a little early so that Maggie wouldn't have to wait for me.
That had to mean Maggie had come in very early. Hmm. Warning
signals popped up.
There was a good chance
Henry wasn't operating solo here. I had a hunch Maggie had
come early on purpose. I wondered if they had talked behind my
back. Maybe she had slipped him her
phone number or vice versa. It takes two to Tango, yes? I frowned.
If Maggie was so interested in Henry, what did she need me for?
Why did I have to suffer?
When the song ended, Maggie
came over to greet me. She hugged me and gave me a big smooch
on the cheek. What was this big show of affection all about? Did
absolutely no idea what was going on in my mind?
Henry reluctantly came over
tagging behind. If
I didn't know any better, Henry was trying to steal my girl.
If this was Maggie's new flame, so be it. Henry could have
her. I was in no mood to fight for her nor did I see
any point in raining on the parade. I did, however, wonder why
Henry was so indiscrete. Maybe he could dance, but this guy
could clearly use a few lessons in
This week Henry skipped Cha Cha and added Waltz. I could not
get the hang of this Waltz rise and fall business. Plodding along, I
moved with the grace of a three-legged elephant.
This lesson was a repeat of
our previous visit. I was disappointed to find my second visit
was going to be no better than the first. The Tango gave me
fits. I was very uncomfortable dancing hip to hip with Maggie.
I was very tense, very self-conscious. Tonight I danced twice to music... one
minute each time. Henry couldn't wait to pull the needle.
as Henry basically gave up on me again. Either Henry did not
like me or I didn't have enough ability for him to bother with.
Instead he spent most of the half
hour flirting with Maggie who behaved like she was the glamorous Belle of the
Ball. I stood still and fumed while Maggie danced the night away in
Henry's arms. At this point, I had pretty much had enough.
I left in a very bad mood. The advertisement had said Ballroom dancing was fun.
Not in my opinion.
The Third Lesson
In mid-week, Maggie
called me on the phone to make sure I was coming to the next
lesson. As one might gather, it wasn't easy for Maggie to
persuade me to show up for the third lesson. I really
didn't want to go back. However I did want to ask her why my presence was
so important considering how little I was
participating. Unfortunately I did not have the guts to confront
her. I resisted mightily, but
finally succumbed to Maggie's Magic Words.... "But Rick, you
promised!" Okay, okay, I'll do it. Like I said,
I don't quit easily.
Maggie said she would
pick me up. I think she figured it would be tougher for me
to renege this way.
The 30 minutes of the third
week was an instant replay of the first two, except that Henry ignored me
even more as if that was possible. I didn't care
anymore. Promise or no promise, I wasn't coming back for the
Fourth Lesson. I
could not wait to get this over with. I had my eye on the
clock the entire time.
At the end of the lesson,
Henry surprised me with a twist so bizarre I could never
have imagined it. He called Maggie and me over for a
Before my very eyes, Henry
actually got out two Report Cards, one
for me and one for Maggie. Henry proceeded to pencil in a
letter grade for each dance we had learned!
I stared at my Report Card in open-mouthed shock. I
could not believe for a moment that Henry had the
nerve to grade us! Whose ridiculous
idea was this? I deeply resented being treated like a
kid from the Third Grade. What planet had Henry beamed down from?
Finally I got hold of myself and took a look at my
Report Card. I frowned. To his credit, Henry was at least honest.
I got a C in Foxtrot, a C- in
Cha-Cha, a C in Waltz, and a D in
Tango. A bitterness welled up
inside. I had about 20 minutes of exposure to each
dance. What gave him the right to grade me so harshly
when I didn't even get much a chance?
Hmm. I stared darkly
at my "D" grade. This wasn't a letter I was fond
of. Was Henry suggesting I didn't have much potential to be a Ballroom dancer? If so, he
wouldn't get any argument from me. I hated this stuff.
I hated the music and I hated the pomp.
Maggie got straight A's. No
surprise there. If ever there was a teacher's pet,
that would be Maggie. She yelped with glee and jumped
Henry's arms to give him a big hug. As introverted as
I was, Maggie was completely uninhibited. I wished I
could be that outgoing.
When I saw her
hugging on Henry, I felt a burning inside.
I knew I was actually just as bad as my grades suggested,
but I couldn't believe this man had the nerve to point it
out to my face. This guy had insulted me every
possible way he could think of. And why? I had
never done anything to him. I had never in my life met
anyone who took such an instant dislike to me. I could
not help but wonder what I was missing here.
My anger gave
way to a despair. I knew I was a pretty good Disco dancer and I
definitely knew my right foot from my left. But I had
discovered that freestyle dancing and partner dancing were
two completely different ballgames. At the time I knew
absolutely nothing about how to lead a woman. Nor did
Henry offer any tips that might have helped.
Being so tense
didn't help much either. I couldn't hear any beat to
the music. I think my tendency to over-analyze
everything was my enemy here. I was so busy listening
to my incessant mental feedback that I could not listen to
stacked against me.
I was a slow
learner to begin with and this style of dancing did not come naturally to
me. I did not like the music
and I did not like the instructor. Not only did Henry
fail to explain how to lead, he moved our lessons too fast. No one can
expect a man who is a beginner to learn the leads and
footwork to four dances in the limited amount of time we
had. Too bad I didn't know that. Instead I took
my clumsiness as another sign that I was the world's worst
situation been presented better, I am sure I would have done
better. If Henry
had shown some patience and worked with me, I am sure I would have begun to
pick it up. Or if he had offered something fun like
Swing, I am sure I would have enjoyed that much more than
this difficult and highly foreign hip-to-hip dancing like
the Tango and Foxtrot.
Let me add that
one learns to dance by
watching some instructor dance with his girlfriend the
entire time. If that were the case, I could just rent
a Fred Astaire movie, right? The only way a man learns
to partner dance is to put a girl in
his arms and
The whole thing
was a set-up. I never had a chance.
was my first experience at Partner Dancing, I had no
way to realize this latest failure was not my fault.
Clueless to the
realities of partner dancing,
I began a new
round of profound self-criticism. All my serious doubts about my
lack of dancing ability came flooding back in.
Furthermore, thanks to Maggie's blatant flirtation, my lack
of confidence with women was reinforced.
These lessons had
been a huge blow to a self-esteem that bordered on fragile
to begin with. I was disgusted at Henry, disgusted at
Maggie, and disgusted at myself.
would not shut up about her straight A Report Card.
In addition to my disgust with this ridiculous grading system, I
was ready to kill Maggie for rubbing it in how she had danced
so much better than me. Even though I agreed it was true, what exactly possessed Maggie to
put me down like that? I wasn't aware dancing was
supposed to be competitive. I guess she thought she was
being funny. If so, I wasn't laughing.
I was upset. This entire experience was deeply
humiliating. Maggie's teasing touched
a very raw nerve inside me. By laughing at me, she shamed me
over my poor dancing ability almost as much as the Country
Club Seven had nine months earlier.
I couldn't believe
this was the same
woman who had previously complimented me on my Freestyle dancing. It
stung to have her turn around and be disrespectful to me
like this. I have never taken criticism or ridicule
well. I turned cold as ice with a silent fury.
me add it is a good thing I did not realize
my pathetic performance was mostly the fault of my
instructor or I
would have given that jerk a serious piece of my
After the Report Card
presentation, I was ready to leave immediately. But Maggie
lingered on despite my request to leave.
While Maggie and Henry
celebrated Maggie's wonderful
Report Card, some new guy came up to
Henry and whispered something to him. Henry turned to us and asked
if we would follow him to the back. He
told us the Dance Director wanted to see us.
The Dance Director? Although I did not understand what was going on,
the tone in Henry's insistence
put me on guard.
I looked at Maggie and
said, "It's time to go. We can see the Dance Director next
week after our fourth and final lesson."
Maggie took a look at
Henry for reassurance, then shook her head in disagreement. "No, Rick, let's see
what this is all about."
I was incredulous that
she was making me do this.
I had no idea how dance
studios worked, but it didn't take much to sense a trap. I had no idea
what it could be. So far nothing had gone right in this place
so I wasn't optimistic.
As we walked down the hall, Henry was leading and the new guy
us. It was pretty obvious they weren't taking any chances that we
might slip away. They must have had suspected something,
because slipping away had definitely crossed my mind.
I regretted that
Maggie and I had come in the same car. She had insisted on coming
to get me... probably because she suspected it was the only way to
guarantee I would come.
If Maggie and I had not come together, I would
have just walked out. Instead I reluctantly trudged down the
hall to the fate awaiting me. I had the strangest feeling that
Maggie had insisted I show up because she knew about this meeting
ahead of time.
Maggie and I
were shown into a cramped room. We were given
two wooden chairs which faced a desk. The door was behind
the desk. In other words, if we wanted to leave, we would
have to walk around the desk. Once we sat down, we
were basically trapped.
Now the door opened and the Dance Director entered the room. He greeted
us with a big smile and shook our hands. His name was
Escape was made even more difficult when Dance
Director Dave invited Henry to join the meeting. Now we
had a desk plus two men blocking our exit. Henry would literally have to move his chair in order
for us to leave.
Then they strapped us both to our chairs... well, just kidding.
However we were clearly cornered. What kind of
racket were they running here?
Dance Director Dave began
by saying there was an important dance competition coming
up. He said he had been walking by and had noticed
how well we were picking up the material. Dave said he noticed we had
promise as a couple. He emphasized 'unusual promise'.
Dave added that he had spoken with Henry who confirmed the two of us
had real potential.
I frowned. Oh, give
me a break. Dave
obviously hadn't seen me dance. Had this guy forgotten to coordinate
his sales pitch with Henry?
I turned my gaze to Henry. After that line about our
"unusual promise", Henry was deliberately avoiding eye contact.
Instead he spent his time staring at the wall. Was Henry
really that stupid? I assumed Henry was making a mental note not to give
anyone a "D" in the future just minutes before the big Sales Meeting.
By the way, in case you
are curious, no, I am not making this up. No, I am not
exaggerating. This took place exactly as I write it. When I
say Henry had just given me a "D in Tango" report card and ten
minutes later I was being told about my dance promise, that's the
way it was. How utterly ridiculous.
I toyed with the thought
of producing my report card to show Dave that maybe I didn't have as
much unusual promise as he thought. Then I remembered I had
ripped it up and thrown it away in disgust. Too bad.
Since we had shown such unusual promise,
the studio wanted us to represent them in the
Contest against a rival dance studio! We
would be this studio's entry in the 'Rising Star' competition.
Maggie beamed with pride.
This was right down her alley. I think she actually believed
I stared at her in total disbelief. Then I stared at
Dave in total disbelief.
This guy was so phony it was ridiculous.
And Maggie was buying
Maggie taken some kind of medication?
I still could not get over the
disconnect between Henry's poor grades of my dancing and Dance
Director Dave's bullshit. The more I thought about it, there
was definitely something strange going on here. I began to
wonder if Dave had no idea what Henry had just said to me. In
fact, this whole meeting seemed impromptu. What gives?
I also couldn't help but
wonder if this trap had been sprung a week early. Was this
supposed to take place in the Fourth Week? I sighed.
What difference did it make? I wasn't about to take more
lessons from these people. My pride couldn't take another
beating like this.
They ignored me
completely. Apparently Henry had at
least explained to the Dance Director that I was unimportant.
Paying no attention to my existence
whatsoever, the Dance Director riveted his gaze on
Maggie and continued his happy talk.
He announced that he was counting on Maggie and the
Invisible Man, aka Mr. D in Tango, to help them win the
big dance competition.
"We can't do it without you! However, in order for you to do
well, you will just need a little more polish!!"
because they desperately needed our help with the Novice phase
of the competition, tonight they were going to make a special offer. Due
to our 'unusual
promise', they would give us a
if we would sign up Right This Minute!
Dave looked straight into Maggie's eyes and said how important it was
that people with our kind of potential should fulfill their dance
destiny. Maggie smiled and nodded her agreement.
On cue, the Dance Director magically
produced a Contract for Dance Lessons. On the Contract
in bright red ink I could see the word DISCOUNT in bold
letters. Then I looked at the numbers. The
a $2,000 sales price down to $1,000 ($979 to be exact).
Oh boy, a fifty-one
percent discount! I rolled my eyes. Thank goodness they were
desperate. It would have been $2,000 if they hadn't
been desperate. Now it would only cost us $979. We would be
saving over a thousand dollars if we signed up now.
What a deal!
Their sales pitch was so lame I just
stared at Dave in total stupefaction. Dance Director Dave was the first hard-sell person I had ever
seen in action. That meant I had no one to compare him to. However,
this pitch didn't seem smooth at all. I imagined
a used car salesman or two guys selling fake watches in a
back alley would have more skill than this guy.
I was amazed at Dave's audacity.
Does this stuff actually work with anyone?
I don't suppose it ever
dawned on him how stupid it sounds to beg someone for their help and
say it will only cost $1,000 for the privilege. If they are
'desperate', shouldn't they
be paying us to help?
Maggie Takes Control
Okay, I have an
admission to make. I had actually been curious to know what
was going to happen in this back room. I had guessed some sort
of sales pitch was awaiting us, but I naively assumed it would be at
the end of the Fourth Week. Obviously they already knew very
few people showed up in the Fourth Week. Since I was stuck
here, I at least wanted to see how it was
Thanks to my sheltered life, at age 25, I had never
faced a hard sell situation before. Now, however, my morbid
curiosity was satisfied and I was ready to leave now. What person in their right mind would cooperate with
such a stupid sales pitch?
That's when I
noticed Maggie's glazed eyes. Oh shit. She was
buying this stuff. If someone was actually interested
in dancing, maybe this stuff really did work. Well,
not with me.
I made a motion to rise
from my chair. Just as I was
about to say something to Maggie about leaving, Maggie put her hand on
my arm to calm me. She whispered, "Rick, sit down. Let
me handle this."
Surprised, I reflexively sat back down.
This was the second time tonight Maggie had brushed me off.
What could she possibly be thinking? Or, more to the point, who
was this woman sitting next to me?
As I stared at her, I
realized I didn't really know
Maggie that well. Before the lessons, she and I had been on
three official dates
over the span of a month. I had spent the night at her apartment a
couple times, so I assumed I was at least somewhat important in her
Plus I had seen her at Rice University a couple times and we talked occasionally on the phone. That was about the extent of it.
It wasn't anything steady or committed.
I knew we were mismatched. I was intense, brooding, and, sad
to say, troubled. Maggie was a non-stop talker, full of
conversation I felt was meaningless, and "gay" in the original sense
of the term. I didn't feel the
fireworks, but I had enjoyed Maggie's company up until the point
when the dance
dance lessons had changed my opinion about Maggie dramatically.
So far her behavior during this
sequence had left
She had become a
different person. Her flirtation bordered on the
outrageous. And why did she rub it in that my
dancing was so mediocre compared to hers? Had the tables
been reversed, I certainly wouldn't have acted that way. I
would imagine a friendlier way to handle it would be to offer to
help or show some patience. Now she was ordering me around
like a servant and wasting my time with this contract nonsense.
As I stared at her, I
realized I was fed up with being pushed around and embarrassed.
I wanted to get as far away
from this woman as
I watched in silent fury
as Maggie took control
of the interview.
Maggie chose a negotiating style best described as "cute them to
death". Maggie started to talk her head off. I
stared in confusion. I had never seen this particular ploy before.
What was she doing?
Maggie laughed and joked and made up one excuse after another
why we couldn't sign the contract. Every time they suggested
signing up for lessons, Maggie countered with some reason why "we"
couldn't do it. I flinched every time she said "we".
- 'We don't have enough
- 'we are kind of busy
- 'we don't know much about dancing'
- 'I don't know how
we would feel with people watching us dance'
sure if this is right for us, couldn't we think
- 'how about if we let you know
As Maggie yapped away,
I had to admit I was
morbidly fascinated by Maggie's gabfest. I may have been a
failure in my chosen field of psychotherapy, but I was still
by unusual human behavior. Maggie's performance wasn't
just 'unusual', it was absurd! Her 'kill them with cuteness'
act was giving me
a bad case of
could not understand
why Maggie was prolonging this conversation. What is the point of
toying with this guy?
The longer we stayed,
Maggie was forced to start repeating the same excuses over and over again.
It was time to go. We were getting nowhere using her method. I
deeply resented Maggie for forcing me to participate in
I did not like her style at all.
In my mind, Maggie was prolonging the torture. I wanted to
scream, "Maggie, why
don't you just say 'no' and let's get the hell out of here?"
Dave seemed thrilled that Maggie was
with him. To him, I suppose it appeared like she was negotiating.
That was exactly what he wanted her to do.
Maggie kept giving excuses and Dave kept hanging in there waiting
for her to give him an opening. I suppose Dave had nothing
better to do because he showed no signs of easing up. I watched
the two of them bandy arguments back and forth like an
endless ping pong volley
while Henry and I just sat there. I suppose he was a captive too.
At first I wasn't all that mad at the Dance Director, just
impatient. In fact, once
I figured out
that this was how he made a living, I felt sorry for him. What
an awful way to make money. Selling a commodity like a car or a
refrigerator is one thing, but it couldn't be easy trying to
persuade someone to spend ridiculous amounts of money on something
they didn't need. It crossed my mind if the price had been
something more reasonable, I might have continued. However in
1975, $1,000 was equivalent to $4,000 in today's money. No
remained the Invisible Man. Probably due to
the hostility that was written all over my face, the
three people talked as if I didn't even exist.
saw, and conquered. Maggie smiled, laughed, and joked.
Ha ha ha! Isn't this fun!? As I fumed, I decided I
liked Caesar's approach better. Get it over with,
damn it! But Maggie just kept yapping away.
She never once lost
her patience. I think she actually enjoyed the
I stared at
her with increasing confusion. What is her
to be saying no, but not very forcefully. If she didn't want the
lessons, why were we still here? If she didn't want the lessons,
why didn't she say so? What exactly DID she want?
This was the weirdest
way of saying 'no' I had ever witnessed. I had heard of women
who say 'no' when they really mean 'yes', but I had never met a
woman who used this tactic on me. However, I will say that is
exactly how Maggie seemed to behave. Her mouth said 'no', but
her body language said 'yes'. She was leaning forward,
not away. Her arms were uncrossed and so were her legs.
Her smiles and her animated gestures showed she was fully involved
in the process. Were they keeping her on the hook or was she
keeping them on the hook? Who was zooming who?
my mind several times that Maggie actually wanted to
take lessons. That made sense. She seemed to
have a real talent for it and she certainly loved to
dance. If that was the case, why had she not asked
for a price reduction? And why didn't she ask me
what I thought?
Tick tick tick. The conversation bounced
back and forth. Henry
and Dance Director would not take "no" for an answer.
They pressed on. Maggie didn't seem to mind a bit.
Director said, Maggie parried it with the same broken record...
'too broke, too busy, not enough confidence,
blah blah blah'.
Will this never end? The longer it went, the more incredulous I grew. I
still could not figure out Maggie's strategy. Was she trying to
wear them out? I suppose erosion works when you are
talking eons, but I am not as patient as
the Colorado River wearing down the Grand Canyon.
Finally I had enough. Life is too short for this charade. I resented the high pressure techniques of these con artists and I
was disgusted with Maggie's evasive negotiating style. So I
stood up and said, "I am ready to go, Maggie."
The two men were surprised. They didn't know Mr. D Tango could
Henry blanched at the
look in my eye. He had just begun to get out of the way
when Maggie replied, "Wait, Rick, we aren't done
I was incredulous. I said nothing, but my eyes said, "Are you
out of your mind?"
for me to sit back down.
I was incredulous. This was the third time tonight that Maggie
contradicted me. But I acceded to her wishes nonetheless.
The room briefly fell silent thanks
to my hostility. However, thanks to Maggie putting me back in my
place, the two men decided not to give up. Now Maggie was back
in control of the situation. She started talking again like
nothing had happened. Now even Henry was chiming in
occasionally. All three of them chattered away as if I wasn't
even there. I had regained my cloak of Invisibility.
Obviously I was fed up.
So why didn't I insist to leave? The mystery of Maggie's
behavior was the only thing keeping me there. Maggie's forcefulness had
renewed my interest in her strange behavior. Maggie kept saying she didn't want to sign the contract, but her
smiles and body language continued to be encouraging. There
was a part of me that desperately wanted to understand what was
going on inside her mind.
Unfortunately, ten more minutes
passed and it was just more of the same. If you are bored
from reading about it, imagine how I felt.
Finally I couldn't take it any more. I may have been the worst
Ballroom dancer in history,
but I was also a muscular six foot, 200 pound athlete.
Considering my mood, I doubted they would try stopping me. I
arose and cleared my voice. "Gentleman, I am leaving now.
Please get out of my way."
They took one look at my face.
That did it. With obvious resentment, Henry begrudgingly moved
aside to let me pass.
To my surprise, Maggie threw in the towel. Maggie followed me
out the door wordlessly which I might say was a real departure for
her. I had never seen a woman talk so much in my entire life.
Heck, I didn't care if she followed me or not. I was ready to leave her in the room.
So what if we had come in her car? I would walk home; it was
only three miles. I didn't care one way or the other.
It was very awkward moment for everyone. From the look on
their faces, these two men had believed they had
a real chance of making a sale. By leading them on, Maggie had
actually gotten their hopes up. Too bad I had to ruin
Maggie drove me home in
wordless silence. Neither of us said a word when I got out.
That was the end of it.
with Women... or was it?
I have no idea what happened next because I
never saw Maggie again, not even at the Rice University Graduate Student Lounge
where I had met her.
As for the weirdness of that
contract negotiation, I am still at a loss. Maybe Maggie
really did want to take more lessons. But if that was the
case, why not tell them so?
Not once... repeat...
not once did Maggie ever say she wanted to take more lessons.
All she did was explain to the men for 40 minutes why "we" couldn't
I have never seen
anything so ridiculous. Why did the woman continue to beat
around the bush? After watching Maggie chase her own tail for
40 minutes, to this day I really don't have a clue what she wanted.
Obviously I still had a
lot to learn about women or I would have demanded an explanation for
her behavior regarding Henry and for that negotiating nonsense. The only
thing I was sure of was that Maggie showed little respect for me.
Between her flirting, her put-downs, and her refusal to let me leave, Maggie exercised her dominance over me at every
As for me, I couldn't
believe that I continued to let her push me around. But then
that was my problem, wasn't it? I had so little confidence
around women that I didn't stand up for myself very well. I
should have walked out after the first dance lesson. Instead I
was so easily manipulated that I let her subject me to three
straight weeks of escalating humiliation.
I honestly don't know if Maggie and Henry
dated. The more I think about it, the more I think Maggie was
using Henry in some strange way to make herself feel more
attractive. Maybe she didn't like the fact that I was clearly
distancing myself. Maybe her derisive laughter over my poor
grades was a way to let her anger out over the fact that I had lost
interest in her.
Another possibility is
that Maggie and Henry already knew each
before the lessons. Maybe Maggie was already taking lessons.
Maybe she couldn't afford to take further lessons or maybe she
needed a partner to progress in some way. Maybe Henry wasn't
happy about being forced to teach Maggie's boyfriend. That
would explain why he was so rude to me from the very onset.
Maybe Maggie took
control of the sales conversation because she already knew both men.
All I know for certain was that Maggie did everything perfectly from
the moment she entered the Ballroom on the first night. Now I
realize that women with "The Gift" can follow a lead and look as if
they are already a pro. So it is possible that Maggie was a
true beginner like she said she was.
All I can say is that
something was going on behind my back and I was never able to figure
out what it was.
Oh well, you live and
you learn. Actually I was learning. The moment I sensed
trouble, I put my guard up. Yes, Maggie's behavior
really stung the first
week. However, once I made a conscious decision to turn Maggie loose,
her flirting didn't matter any more. In fact, I was darkly
amused at how silly she was acting. I have never seen anyone
require so much attention in my life.
The bottom line is that
we parted ways with my dignity intact. I was upset that I was
so bad at dancing, but at least I had kept my thoughts to myself and
avoided making a scene. Good for me. That was progress.
Failure... or was it?
Oddly enough, although I
had just lost the only girlfriend I had in eighteen months, I was actually more
concerned about the Ballroom Dancing. My time spent at the
studio had left a sour taste. I left the place feeling pretty
humiliated. Most of the confidence I had
gained from my improvement in freestyle dancing had been erased by my
poor performance at this Ballroom studio.
As it stood, I now saw
myself as the worst Ballroom dancer possible. All my worst
fears about my lack of dance ability had come flooding back in.
I felt miserable.
Four years would pass
before I learned enough about dancing to realize I should not have
been so hard on myself. I had set up by a dance instructor
with a very strange agenda.
There was actually a
silver lining. When it came time for me
to organize my fledgling dance program three
years later, I completely rejected the Contract system of doing
After my Ballroom mishap, I
felt that I had not really given Ballroom dancing much
of a try. I also remembered how much I wanted to try again
under better circumstances. If those people had just figured
out a way to make Ballroom Dancing less expensive and more fun, I would have definitely stuck around...
especially if they had offered a different teacher.
When the time came, I decided that I would
use a different style of doing business. No contracts.
If I could make my own lessons fun and valuable, I assumed people
would sign up willingly for future classes without any need for
sales pressure. That became my fundamental principle of doing
business. Rather than pressure people to
sign $1,000 contracts, I let people make up their own mind about
returning each month. No arm-twisting necessary.
a powerhouse because I found a way to make 'group
lessons' affordable and effective as well. Yes,
for people with "The Gift", group lessons were a waste
of time. But for everyone who wasn't in the Eye of
the Pyramid, group lessons got the job done just fine.
In fact, it
gives me satisfaction to say our group lessons were so
well-organized that many people without "The Gift" still
managed to climb to the top of the Pyramid. Group
lessons took them longer, but thanks to their
perseverance, they made it there anyway. Better yet,
they saved a lot of money.
I discovered that when
a student finds a group class with classmates at roughly the same skill
level and a competent teacher who moves at the
right speed, he or she would much rather pay $6 an hour for a
group lesson than $60 an hour for a private lesson. While it
is true that very few of my students ever spent as much as $1,000,
over the years I had so many people who preferred my style of doing
business that my studio ended up doing very well financially.
The funny thing is that
I thought I was taking a real gamble at the time doing it my way.
Had I known that same Ballroom studio would eventually go out of
business using their business model, maybe I wouldn't have been so
worried. Considering my own
studio was still going strong when I retired 32 years later, maybe I
learned something useful at that place after all.