Erm, yes, you did read that right!
I WENT DANCING LAST WEEK!
I hadn't danced in 33 years. I'd kept away from places with dance floors, declined invitations to things which might have dancing involved, or if I couldn't do that, stay as far away from the dancing as possible, usually with a camera in hand to give me some reason for not dancing.
It was the Women on Wednesdays (WOW) Pre-Pride Bop last Friday night (9 May), the night before Exeter Pride. I'd known about the event for a couple of months. As soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted to go. But for me to go to a bop - wow that would be one huge step to take. So I'd been slowly building up the courage to go, reminding myself why I wanted to go and why it was so important to go but also so difficult! I so wanted to go to it, but to go would be so massive!
In the end it was a huge decision to go. I knew it would take me right out of any of my comfort zones. I knew it would be a challenge, I knew I'd find it scary, but I also sensed deep, deep down that I'd enjoy it too.
I've been to a couple of WOW socials so there were a few faces I recognised. I really enjoyed that I was recognised and warmly welcomed by several people. The first 10 minutes or so were filled with awkward small-talk conversation which I find so very difficult then people began arriving in numbers and there were loads more people around and more people for them to go talk to. And I was able to go back to people watching, feeling very shy.
I quite enjoyed sitting with the people I already knew around a small table people watching. I deliberately chose an end seat so I could get up and out of the situation quickly if I needed to. I had conversations with people who spoke to me and still found it difficult to get over my initial shyness and start conversations with people I really don't know. But at an event like that it didn't really matter.
I lost my voice after about the first hour - a combination of fear and having to talk loudly because of the music in the background. When I'm ultra nervous my chest tightens and I lose my voice. So I had to go to the toilet a few times, do some breathing exercises, remind myself why I was there and cough my voice back.
It took me over 2 hours to pluck up the courage and step on to the dance floor. I kind of moved toward it in a way that suggested I knew exactly what I was doing when I didn't. But once I was on the dance floor it was as if 33 years just dropped away and I wasn't scared any more. YES, I was ultra-aware! YES, my radar was up high! YES, I was hyper-alert about messages people were giving out! YES, I was hyper-alert about my own body language.
But that didn't stop me dancing.
It just meant I knew where my boundaries were and if someone got anywhere near them then I would have a sudden urge to go the toilet and try to climb out the window.
But that didn't happen.
I was terrified someone might hit on me and knew if someone did part of me would like it, but the larger part of me would find it terrifying and feel like running away.
But, thankfully that didn't happen either!
Oh, and guess what?
I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed being on the dance floor.
I did my thing and wasn't too bothered what anyone else thought.
I kept myself safe.
I had fun.
I didn't feel embarrassed or self conscious after a while, after all everyone was doing their own thing!
I felt good about what I did and how I did it.
I felt so alive.
It was a huge achievement going dancing that night and I want to do it again when the next opportunity comes along.
I am so proud of myself for going dancing.
So why was going dancing such a big deal?
Erm, well, where do I start?
Throughout my life whenever anyone has mentioned "dancing" to me I feel a wave of immense shame and embarrassment roll through me. I've never understood why and not really thought what it was about. I didn't want to go there because it was something which made me feel really horrible
So, what's the why's of it?
There were the talent shows I was forced to take part in between the age of approximately 6+9. There were those horrible mini frilly dresses that left nothing to the imagination which I just hated being forced into. And there was the being beaten for not wanting to wear the hated frilly dresses.
I have an image of me, a pudgy little girl in frilly dresses, sometimes white or yellow or orange or red, my pudgy little arms and legs and my white knickers on show to everyone.
Then there was that horrible exposed feeling of being forced, pushed on to the big stage with loads of people, mostly men goggling at me and judging me. I just wanted to run away but had to stay there, sing and dance around the stage smiling when all I wanted to do was curl up in the corner and cry. There were so many people who'd reach out up to me and touch my cheeks and say "haven't you got lovely dimples". I wanted to say "no, I haven't", pull my tongue out at them, tell them to go away and run away to a place I could never be found. Instead I had to smile sweetly-sick smiles and allow horrible unwanted touch which felt like such an invasion, and agree that my hated dimples were lovely. I knew I'd only get beaten more for making a fuss and not letting it happen.
There were school discos too. At the end of every school year at Grammar School. Most of my friends were paired off. I wasn't and didn't want to be. I was laughed at for being single and not wanting to be with a boy. I was called many names. Then when I did make it on to the hated dance floor I was laughed at, told I didn't know how to dance, had no sense of rhythm, was clumsy and unco-ordinated. I felt embarrassed, self-conscious and ashamed of my inability to do what everyone else was doing as well as they were doing it. So I went and hid in the toilets for the rest of the disco.
So for me to choose to go somewhere where there was going to be dancing was massive.
For me to also decide that I was going to be part of the dancing was ginormous.
For me to actually go and do what I'd made my mind up to do was humongous.
For me to do it, enjoy it and feel good about what I was wearing, to feel good about my conversation and about my body language was seismic.
For me to come away from it feeling so good about it and about myself, well, it's deeply astounding and a HUGE step forward for me.
For me to come away and want to do it again is amazing!!
So that's the story of how I went dancing last week and I am so very proud of myself, prouder than there are words for!
It was and is exhilarating!
To feel so good about myself!
To feel so good about my body! I'd never have thought it possible!
To feel so good about how I handled myself and the situation!
Well, what further can I say, I run out of words.
BUT I'm so glad I took the risk and went! It was a huge accomplishment. And a massive step forward for me!