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The dance of life

| Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My dance partners treated me terribly. They lured me in with wit and complex steps. They abandoned me when my mind, tongue and feet couldn’t keep up.

I was exhausted, but rest was for the weak, the untalented, the lazy, the unsuccessful. If I could not impress, I would be left to sit along the wall with the other unremarkable young ladies who would soon pass into spinsterhood, unnoticed by the world.

Then along came a young man who did not view me as an object, but a person. He reached out for my hand rather than my bottom.

He did not force himself on me or make me jealous by dancing with other ladies in front of me. He did not need me to dance with him to boost his self-esteem. He was already the most perfect creature in the room, yet few others seemed to notice him or even acknowledge his existence.

I almost didn’t notice him myself. My eyes and attention were fixed on a scandalous two-step taking place in front of the pianoforte. The dance seemed to go on for ages, transitioning without pause, silence or reflection between a two-step and a tango, a tango and a disco, a disco and a twerk.

All decency had disappeared, but instead of mourning moral, technical and romantic degradation, the dancers celebrated their newfound liberty. They could dance however they wanted.

Strange, they all seemed to want to dance in the same, self-disrespecting way. It was not a way I wanted to dance. Was something wrong with me? There must be. I sat on the side, sentencing myself to celibacy.

When I had seen enough of this dancing that was not dancing, this living that was not living, I let my eyes rest for a moment. So this is how rest felt. I fasted from sight and sound and feasted on darkness and silence.

Funny, it was when my eyes and ears were closed to the spectacle playing before my eyes that I was finally able to see and hear.

“May I have this dance?”

Did I just hear that? My eyes fluttered open. No one asked people to dance anymore; they came up behind you and grabbed you. Inquiries are for the weak, demands for the strong.

But this voice did not sound weak. It was strong without being domineering. Its strength did not stem from squashing others, but from raising them up.

I raised my eyelids to meet his. Wait, what? He wasn’t there. I swiveled my head to no avail.

“I am with you,” the voice said.

I shut my eyes, telling myself I was hallucinating. I must be dehydrated — that’s it. I knew there must have been a physical explanation.

“May I have this dance?” the voice inquired again.

I must be hungry. I hadn’t eaten dinner so I could squeeze into this corset.

I made my way through the sweaty humans to the refreshment table and started chomping on carrots. Ten calories apiece — if I eat seven carrots in the next hour and burn 60 calories an hour then …

“I am the bread of life. He who eats of me shall not hunger.”

My ears perked up for two reasons: 1) I was a she, not a he, so whoever is speaking is obviously not clued in to gender-inclusive language, and 2) Atkins and Jenny Craig promised me the same thing, but that didn’t stop my tummy from a’rumbling.

“May I have this dance?”

Ah, here we go again. Well … dancing would distract me from my hunger, and movement would stimulate my metabolism. And burn calories. I made my way to the dance floor. I danced.

“May I have this dance?”

The dance begun. I was so used to being taken advantage of that I found it hard to let my guard down and let him lead me.

It was marvelous. It was enthralling. It was too much.

“STOP!” I ripped my hand away. I was not ready for this. My heart would explode with this much happiness.

But now I felt profound emptiness. Acute loneliness. I would never have happiness without him. Regret.

“May I have this dance?”

He came back, after rejection? Where was his pride?

He had humbled himself.

Why was he coming back to me when I didn’t deserve it? I was not witty or pretty. Then I realized: he did not love me because of who I was, but because of who he was.

I wanted someone who loved me because I was light on my feet and light in my heart. I wanted to be the light of their life, but he was the light of mine. My world would remain dark without him. If I wanted to ever experience love, I had to acknowledge I would never be worthy and accept it anyways.

I accepted his hands and was shocked to find wounds scarring his perfect flesh. He wasn’t perfect in spite of these wounds. These wounds had brought him to perfection.

“You will suffer wounds too, but I will be with you, with them and through them and in them.”

Then we danced. It culminated in the most beautiful dance in the world: the dance of stillness. He held me, and we gazed into each other’s eyes unashamedly for eternity, as I grew from a teenager to a mother to a grandmother into something completely different, choosing freely to become each day a little more of who I would remain for eternity.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

About Erin Thomassen

I am a freshman double majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and French. PLS (aka the Notre Dame Book Club) is the history of ideas through literature, philosophy, math and science. It was the perfect major for me, because I couldn't possibly choose one subject and hurt the other subjects' feelings. French was also a natural pick, since I have been prancing around my house under the pretense of performing ballet for eighteen years. If someone asks me what I do in my free time, I will tell them that I run and read. What I actually do is eat cartons of strawberries and knit lumpy scarves. If you give me fresh fruit, we will be friends. If we become friends, I will knit you a scarf for Christmas. It may be lumpy, but it will be in your favorite color. And if enough people become my friend, lumpy scarves might just become a trend.

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