Dance Yourself Back To Life

BlogHer Original Post

Las Vegas: high-speed city of debauchery, lights and excess. This is where I got married so, this being my life, it made perfect sense that I would happen to be here again, following a decision to get divorced.

I’d planned the trip months ago with my friend Katya, who’s relocating there for work, and then proceeded to completely forget about it until she called me a couple of days before my departure. I was somewhere between moving into a new place and restarting my life, but I couldn't say no now. Besides, I figured a little time-out would help me clear my mind and put things in perspective.

So there I was, Friday night and the perspective I was facing were the parted thighs of a life-sized Barbie writhing on a stage. Just then, a good-looking man walked up to me and told me I looked beautiful. I lit a cigarette and smiled. He asked if I wanted a drink. I told him I didn’t.

After he left, Katya leaned in and asked me what he’d said. She looked shocked when I relayed the message.

“I thought maybe he’d insulted you,” she remarked, “just going by the look on your face.”

“Really?”

“What’s going on with you?” she asked. “You’re single again! Where’s the old Anaiis? The girl that would get up on that stage and strip because it was fun? The girl with the guys tripping over themselves to talk to her? The one who could drag them along with a word? Is she still in there? Come out, tigress. You’re still in there. I know you are.”

Suddenly, my marriage flashed before my eyes: throwing out all the outfits that I didn’t think were appropriate, stifling all the desires that were incongruous with those of my husband. I called it “growing up”—but was it growing up, or disconnecting with my body? When was the last time my body had reacted with the intensity of that tigress I once knew?

I reached back in time.

My husband and I had had a fight. Somewhere, we’d made a tradition of making up—we’d drive to Laguna Beach and listen to a live band or see art, things I really liked. That night, I was feeling particularly frisky, and had been running my foot up and down his leg under the table.

“Anastasia!” he said, removing my foot from his crotch.

“Mmm?” I giggled.

“This isn’t appropriate.”

I shot him a questioning look, “we’re in a dark restaurant and we don’t know anyone here anyway. What’s a little fun?”

“It makes me uncomfortable.”

“This from the king of public displays of affection?” I smiled. “Ease up.”

“It’s embarrassing,” he said.

“Fine,” I replied, and elbowed the cream that had been brought for my coffee right off the table.

A waiter hurried over.

“Oops,” I said, smiling. I could feel my husband glaring at me. “I am so sorry. I’m just not the kind of girl you should take to dinner. I do such embarrassing things.”

The waiter smiled and assured me it wasn’t a problem.

My husband half-apologized, half-berated me after the waiter had gone.

“It’s fine,” I said.

But it wasn’t. Later, my husband asked me if I wanted to take a stroll on the beach. Walking along with the cool sand at my feet and the moon high above us, I forgot myself again.

“You know what I want to do right now?” I asked him.

“What?”

“I want to fuck… in that lighthouse.”

He looked at it briefly, then turned back to me and said, plainly, “you’re demented.”

Love is stronger than reason. Love is stronger than desires. So he didn’t want to get down in a lighthouse. Big deal. It’s not as though we never had sex, I reasoned. Even if we generally only did the things he liked because he wasn’t into my “acrobatics.” I put these things away in the name of compromise. That’s marriage: compromise.

But little by little, I compromised everything about my body. I shut away my desires, I locked up my acrobatics, I erected a wall between my mind and my skin.

So there, in Las Vegas, amidst an orgy of pleasure and desire, I tried to call out for my body, but found I no longer knew how.

On the computer, when you lose your wi-fi signal, you can repair your connection. How do you repair your connection IRL?


When I got back to Los Angeles, one of the first things I did was visit my chiropractor. He’s been working with me to treat an injury I suffered after a cab hit me a year ago. He told me we would be doing some exercises after our next adjustment.

“Is there anything else I can do in the meantime?” I asked. “Pilates? Yoga?”

“You can,” he told me. “It’s all about knowing how to do the poses right.”

“This is going to require me getting to know my body on a whole new level,” I said, more to myself than to him.

For the first time in my life, I felt truly foreign to myself. It's the most frightening feeling I have ever experienced. More frightening than realizing your relationship is dead or that you're going to have to start once again. More frightening than anything.


“We’re doing a whole series called ‘spring fling’ focusing on fun (or just helpful) topics to usher in spring,” my editor Denise told me over e-mail. “One of the topics is salsa and sex, as in salsa dancing and spicing up your sex life now that the weather has warmed up. Can you do it?”

I didn’t have the guts to tell her that one of her sex columnists had lost her inner tigress somewhere.

That afternoon, I met some friends from college at Moonshadows in Malibu. Sitting on a chaise under the warm sunlight, enjoying a cigarette, a woman beside me asked a waiter for an ashtray in Spanish. I recognized the accent and asked whether she was from Argentina. She was. Then her boyfriend, who was with her, told me the most remarkable story about how they met:

“I was here on business and I went to a club for a drink after work,” he told me. “There, I saw the most beautiful woman salsa dancing and I was mesmerized. She actually came over and took my hand and took me to the dance floor. That’s how it started.”

“I saw him there with a drink in his hand and he looked like he needed to dance. So I said, ‘come dance with me,’” she said. “He followed my lead and then he started leading me. It was very passionate… sensual. And that was it.”

“I love this woman,” the man said. “You will never meet a more passionate woman. I saw it in her when I saw her dancing. She’s just so in touch with herself. She can dance alone.”

“I’m always the first to dance. That’s me, not shy whatsoever when it comes to dancing.”


My aunt and uncle dance, too. It’s a new thing for them. They have four kids and full-time jobs, as well as an array of social commitments. They have no time for anything, but they make time for dancing.

“It’s the only time we don’t have to speak,” my aunt tells me. “It’s the only time we can really be ourselves.”


So, here I am, class number one.

“You step forward with the music,” my instructor Jorge tells us after positioning the four groups in a line.

“One foot, you’re the lead,” he says. “The partner follows the lead. The partner takes one step back.”

My friend Mia, who’s being a good sport about this and come with me, looks at me and smiles.

I’m very aware of everything—her hand on my waist, my left on her shoulder, our opposing hands together at chest-height.

“Your other foot then follows to the place of the first, then you move back with the first foot, hold, and bring the other back, OK?” Jorge asks. “Now we practice.”

I move forward and crash into Mia.

“Oh, sorry!” I apologize, blushing. “I forgot you were leading.”

She laughs.

We get back into position and started again, trying to recall the steps, which aren’t that hard, but for some reason are not sinking in.

I imagined salsa dancing would be some kind of a transcendental experience, something eye-opening and amazing. I imagined I would walk in and my body would awake and I would disappear into a happy bliss of knowing.

“Relax, relax,” Jorge says coming beside us. “You are very tense. This is easy, this is salsa. This is life. Let it go. If you miss the step, make it up so you can go back to the familiar place and start again, no?”

“OK,” I respond. Mia and I begin again and I step right into her again. “Ugh! I am made of fail today!”

“You are not a fail!” Jorge says. He looks at Mia. “Can I?”

Mia steps back.

Jorge takes my hand and walks me to the small CD player in the corner of the room. He hits the play button and the room is filled with the sound of salsa.

“Watch!” Jorge says to the class.

He begins moving fluidly, one step forward, then another, one step back, then a pause before taking another step back with the other foot, making a step in place, then going forward again, and so on, and I’m watching his Ferragamos and following his long legs as they glide, mesmerized, but proud of myself for keeping up, too.

Jorge squeezes my waist.

“Look at me,” he says. “Look at my eyes. This is not about the steps, this is about the music. Feel the music, connect with your partner. Come together with your partners and you will always know where to go, even if he does something new.”

He spins me and pulls me back and we fall easily into a step.

“Very good!” he exclaims. “If you lead, be the leader. If you follow let yourself be the led. Do not think, do not resist, move.”

Mia and I spend the afternoon dancing. She leads and I follow. We miss steps, but we don’t notice, we let the music take us. It stops mattering to me if I'm doing it wrong. I stop thinking and start dancing.


Afterward, Mia asks me whether I want to get a bite to eat. I haven’t been eating much after moving out. The whole time I was in Vegas, all I could bring myself to eat was chocolate cake.

And there, outside that dance studio where I’d hoped for an epiphany or miracle of some kind, something magical does finally happen—I feel the pangs of hunger in my stomach.

It isn’t a ravenous carnal creature, but after such a long silence from my body, it's a start.


BLOGGIE TREATS

The most important post you could ever read about life after divorce comes from Delaine Moore of I Am Divorced, Not Dead: Two Golden Tools to Help You Mourn and Rebuild after Divorce offers resources on how to excavate your authentic self and find a new compass for your life.

The Modern Woman’s Divorce Guide has a tutorial on Dating Again: The Whys and How to Date After Divorce.

In When Bad Sex TKOs Your Marriage, The Divorce Salon gives advice on how to keep things fresh—for both of you if you haven’t gotten to the point of separation yet.

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