At 17 I learned to partner-dance, and it was spectacular.
It was 1998, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies were popular for some reason, and I was friends with a lot of Mormons, so naturally I needed to learn to swing dance.
As happens more often you would think, our high school lunch-club of nerds included one girl who was, traditionally-speaking, hot. Her name was Tina, and she was blonde, slender but curvy, and she dressed like a biker chick. She had a tendency to date older, bad-boy-type guys. I don’t remember how she met our Dungeons-and-Dragons-class gang, but I’m guessing she reveled in the male affection that the soulless hard-asses she dated never gave her. We certainly gave it to her in abundance – she was sweet and kind to the core.
So I wanted to swing dance, and I don’t know how I got it in my head … maybe because she reminded me of Traci Lords’ character in “Cry Baby” – the Bombshell Drape.
Maybe I sensed that she was just off-beat enough to be into it. But one day, in the quad at lunch, I asked Tina if she wanted to take swing dance lessons with me.
Tina practically melted. “I always wanted to learn that,” she gushed, and it was settled. We found a teacher who gave lessons out of her house and signed up.
Over time I became a pretty good swing dancer. I only went to two lessons with Tina. Then, because it was inexplicably popular, the high school jazz band hosted a swing dance.
It was packed. Tina and I knew about two steps, which was two steps more than the majority of attendees and in Tina I had the hottest partner, and everybody knew it.
It didn’t last long. The swing fad faded, and in true nerd fashion I hung on to it, because, unlike fad-chasing, swing dancing had potential to be fun in the long term. I was swing dancing into my thirties, and could probably still cut a rug to “Rock This Town” if my tango training hadn’t become senior.
Tina drifted away, as high school friends sometimes do.
When I next encountered her a few years later, visiting home from college, she was clearly anorexic. She used to fill her jeans in the best way; now they hung off of her like a tent. Her lovely blue eyes had become bug-eyes protruding from a face that looked like a skeleton.
She was still the biggest sweetheart, and remembered fondly our swing dancing and wished she had kept with it. Then she went back to playing pool with the dead-eyed biker she was dating.
She gave me such a gift. She gave a lot, and kept none.
Do you have a Tina? Who captivated you and never knew it? Who gave more than they took? Who deserved more?
First posted August 17, 2016