Salsa opened up a new world for this single mom
I’d hit a wall. My social life was at a standstill. I hadn’t had a date in five months; zero “likes” on my Match.com account—not even a look in my direction. I was aching for the attention I’d received last summer, smarting from the broken heart that had resulted from that relationship.
My neighbors were coupled. My friends were coupled. My family was coupled, my daughter leaving for college and my son with his first job. Where did my community go? I wanted, longed for a community. After all, we humans aren’t meant to live solitary lives—such painfully solitary lives that can result when a Solo Mom “matures” and her children leave the nest.
The walls of my house ate me alive, and the rampant energy of my unattended, underappreciated dogs was exhaustive.
I was depressed . . . and achingly lonely.
I needed to get out of my house, back into my body and my own, separate self.
Travel? No money.
Movies? Intensified my feelings of isolation.
The beach? The only thing worse than LA loneliness is beach parking.
Then my Obi-Wan girlfriend, Suzanne—a few years older, day-one single mom with an adopted Chinese daughter successfully grown and squared away—suggested joining a “Meetup.” (Meetup.com is an amazing resource that helps people with shared interests, in various locations, connect in planned events throughout the world.)
“OK. I’m desperate. I’ll give it a try.”
I googled my options: Bird-watching, cake decorating, sushi making, Quidditch. Nothing jumped out at me.
And that’s when I saw it: salsa dancing.
Salsa dancing was something I’d heard about—through the murmurs of in-the-know party peeps, in the whispers of grocery clerks, under the spotlight on Dancing With the C-Listers—something buried deep in the crevices of my pipe dream bucket list but pushed way down beneath layers of postdivorce despair.
It was something I’d always wanted to do!
Oh, to be one of those beautiful girls, with the fancy dress and sparkly shoes, being dipped and twirled, and touched—shaking her groove thing to the clave rhythms of bongos, timbales, and brass.
“OK. I’ll give it a try.”
And that’s when my life changed forever.
We were a motley crew at the tiny Blue Starz dance studio in Sherman Oaks: a few young Latin dudes, an elderly Russian gentleman, a couple of bewildered women, and me—a middle-aged, brokenhearted ex-housewife who was easily a foot taller than anyone in the room.
But damn if my teacher wasn’t the most darling, happy, and enthusiastic young thing I’d ever encountered—with a rockin’ bod to boot.
And once we started to move—those tiny basic steps to the simple one-two-three-hold-five-six-seven beat—we all came to life. Age melted, as did language barriers, even size. (And although my height has always made for some great laughs in a primarily “smaller statured” demographic, in salsa—size truly doesn’t matter.)
Once the music started, I was in Cuba, in Puerto Rico . . . any place except within my four walls in LA being eaten alive.
I was using my body, meeting new people, dressing up, sweating, twirling to the music, and dare I say—happy.
That was three months ago.
Since then, I’ve discovered that salsa is everywhere, every night, in every major city in the country and many small towns. There are lessons, teams, and club dancing to DJs and live bands—magnificent bands . . . pool parties, birthday parties, and “white” parties. Everyone is invited, always.
In salsa, it is completely appropriate for a woman to go to a club solo. There is no need to drink, and one can dance the night away for $8 to $12.
But my favorite aspect of salsa is its chivalry: a dance philosophy built on how a gentleman should treat a woman—with respect and thoughtfulness. Salsa is a dance that focuses more on the brain than the butt. Coming from a terrible relationship, an even worse demise, and three years of online lotharios—for me, this aspect is key.
A man’s job (or a woman’s when she dances the man’s part) is to lead his partner, think for the couple, and make her look good. Showboating is frowned upon. A man’s strength in subtle controlled movements and the ability for a woman to read those movements and respond in kind are what make salsa beautiful.
Salsa is a dance of the fingertips—a dance based on touch, eye contact, and smiling. With a community welcoming all ages, colors, and sexual orientation, everyone is made to feel a part of the family.
I have made a new world of friends, from college-aged men needing advice on their dating lives to women just like me—Solo Moms in need of merriment, women who want to feel pretty, be treated like a lady, and get lost in the music. . . . Ahhh, the music.
I have danced away 10 pounds. I can now rock the tight dresses and sparkly shoes. I am touched and dipped and hugged. And given the right partner, I can spin and spin and spin.
I still suck. I am one of the worst salsa dancers in the world. But I own it! I laugh about it.
We laugh about it—my community and I.
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
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