Thursday, January 31, 2013

Like Letters

I have a penchant for writing long-winded letters, fraught with emotion, to guys I find attractive. If you've ever been the receiving party of such a letter, I apologize. (There aren't that many of you, and you're probably not reading this anyway, but just in case. . .) You probably didn't deserve it, and I shouldn't have inflicted it upon you, but I'm certain that I meant every word I wrote at the time that I wrote it. Still, that's no excuse for actually giving it to you. I probably should have kept it to myself.

Then, I had a breakthrough of sorts. I wrote a short note and spent a day agonizing over whether or not to give it to someone. In the end, I didn't, partly because I am a little shy sometimes, partly because my gut told me not to, and partly because I was terrified someone else would find it and read it and hello awkward!

The note didn't say anything incriminating. There was a comment on his looks (sort of) and a compliment on a recent project. It shouldn't have been embarrassing to give him the note or even to say those things to his face . . . if I only thought of him as a friend.

There's the trouble, though.

I like him. I probably shouldn't, but I do. A little, anyway. Enough to make me awkward.

If I didn't, I could tell him the things that I wrote in that note, but since I do, anything I say is going to sound like I'm flirting. Which would be okay, I suppose, if I knew he also liked me. But I don't. And anyway, he shouldn't. We're really all wrong for each other. Probably.

So I'm erring on the side of caution when it comes to "Like Letters" these days.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gracie Dances (and Talks to Strangers in Restaurants)

She was four years old and sitting with her family at a table near mine at the restaurant. Barefoot and dressed in a baby pink leotard and hot pink tutu, she tiptoed near my table and then back to her own. Three or four times, she did this dance, moving closer and closer while her parents called her back, telling her to leave me alone. I asked her if she was a ballerina, and suddenly, Gracie was regaling me with the minuscule details of her colorful life.

For nigh on ten minutes, we chatted. She climbed into the chair opposite me and while I ate my soup, told me about pre-pre-K, homework, dance class, her dislike of the color of her ballet slippers, and her excitement for an upcoming trip to Disney World. When I told her I met Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Belle when I was at Disney World but that Ariel was on vacation and so I didn't get to meet her, Gracie giggled and then firmly corrected me: Ariel was just upstairs changing.

Her mother suggested that Gracie color a page from her coloring book for me. On presenting the gift, she explained that she'd left the white parts that way on purpose. I promised to hang it on my refrigerator. She told me I'd have to put a magnet on it first. I assured her I would.

As she and her family prepared to depart for dance class, Gracie invited me to visit her anytime, told me her address (oops!) and asked when I would be there. Her mother smiled indulgently and said of course I was welcome anytime. Gracie told me to leave a note in the mailbox by their driveway to say when I would visit.

Gracie transformed my lonely meal into an exuberant conversation merely by being herself. She shares her smiles and her laughter with strangers at restaurants because why wouldn't we want to laugh with her?

Can this child-like confidence be contagious? Please!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why I'm Afraid to Let You Read What I'm Writing

Too much of how I feel about myself is all tied up in how you feel about me. Good or bad, important or not, I value your opinion. Even if I don’t know you, I’ll take your response personally. Even if you just evaluate the grammar, I’ll internalize it and somehow manipulate your comments into a personal attack. They’re not meant that way. My brain knows that on the most basic level, but the emotional side of my brain doesn’t believe the rational side of my brain so I will struggle to keep the writing separate from who I am.

Except that, in a way, the writing is who I am. We are one and the same. It’s my thoughts and my opinions and my imagination run amok and my contribution to the world, however insignificant in the long run. It’s what will remain when I’m gone. So if you don’t appreciate it, if you don’t like it, if you don’t respond to it, what was the point of it? Why did I bother? If what I created isn’t worth your notice, does that mean I’m not worth it, either?

Again, I know that’s not true. I know my worth extends far beyond some words on a page. My contribution to the world is so much more than a physical remnant. My most valuable impression will not be measured by its physical presence. It will be the cheer that someone feels when they remember our interaction or the smile that creeps across their face when something reminds them of me.

So I guess what I’m saying is that how you feel about my writing will affect how I feel about myself, but I hope what you remember most about me is not my writing but me. Just me. My smile and my heart and the love and laughter I shared with you. I hope my writing doesn’t get in the way of that, and if all you have of me is my writing, I suppose my writing had better be full of love and laughter.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Recently, I've Been Writing...

Okay, I've been writing more than just recently. Since elementary school probably. When I was a kid, adults showered praise on my writing, impressed with my command of grammar and vocabulary, imagery and symbolism. (Yikes, that sounds conceited, doesn't it?) It made me uncomfortable, being singled out.

So I stopped sharing things and started keeping them to myself. Eventually, I lost that youthful ability to give over my thoughts to people to read and instead hoarded them, terrified to let anyone else see or hear what was happening in my head.

In college, of course, as an English major, I had to share my thoughts, had to write them down and let professors and peer-readers evaluate them. I was successful (mostly), and my confidence grew. Reading over some of those papers now, I wonder who that writer is. Surely, I didn't write those papers. I did, though, so where is she, the person who thought those things and phrased them the way she did. Not that anything I wrote was particularly commendable or memorable, but the thoughts were interesting and the writings engaging.

So what happened?

Well, whatever happened, I'm back to writing and figure I might as well put the words out there for reading. Some of it will be fiction, some introspective, some just for laughs. I'll leave it to you to decide what's what.

I hope you'll share your thoughts in the comments. I hope you'll tell me the truth, even if it might hurt. I hope you'll help me grow, and I hope you won't give up on me the way I had nearly given up on myself.

And thanks, in advance. I'm glad you're here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

You're So Keen: Eight Years of Vintage Jazz, Sassy Ladies & Dapper Gents

Eight years ago, when we were freshmen living on the third floor of Hume Honors West, my friend Marianna got an email from a student organization at the University of Florida. She told me she wasn't really interested in what they were offering but thought I might enjoy it: swing dancing. Faintly terrified, I ventured to the Reitz Union Colonnade and met some of the best friends of my college years.

One of my first nights of swing dancing.
Pedro, Ashley, Bob, Allyn, Kim, Michael, Mike, Jeaux & Co.
The 1920s at Stompin' at the Swamp 2008: Leaping Through Time
Jim F., Kristine, Jim M., Micah, Mika, Patrick, Rainey, Andrew, Bonnie & Rett
Before I begin in earnest, though, notable people missing from this post (except maybe in those big group shots above) include: Bob, Ashley, Andrea, Pedro, Jeaux, Craig, Jenny, Miranda, Stewart, Suzy, Ilana, Greg, Paula, Shelby, Paul, Jim S., Jim F., Tim N., Sheila, Kurtis, Matt K., Grace, Kyle, DJ Natch and a fair few more. It doesn't mean I don't love you so here's your shout-out, right at the beginning.

In celebration of eight years of kicking up my heels, here are eight of my favorite swing dancing memories, in no particular order and acknowledging that my swing dance experience goes so far beyond these eight events/people/dances that I could not express the entirety of it to you.

(Be sure to check the photo captions for extras!)

This Guy

The last time I saw Michael...
Eight years ago today, I met Michael at my first Florida Swing Dancing Club lesson at the University of Florida. He was wearing black dress pants, a pale pink polo shirt, and shiny black dress shoes (even though we were dancing on concrete). In that first dance lesson, we became friends and for long afterward still remembered the combination we learned. (I don't know if he's since forgotten it, but part of it still lives in the back of my brain.) For two years, we danced together, referring to our partnership alternately as a "dance marriage" and a "darriage" until we were "dance-vorced" out of necessity when he left town. We learned together, taught together, laughed a lot, had serious conversations about non-dance things, and continue as friends despite having last seen each other in person on February 14, 2007. Just can't quite turn that page . . .

This Gal
At DCLX 2011
It was Pittsburgh in the winter of 2009 when I met Julia at PittStop Lindy Hop. We were staying at the same house and would become fast friends in the matter of three days. We now have visited each other in our own towns, reunited in Florida and at two subsequent events in Pittsburgh. Our shared faith in Christ and enjoyment of swing dancing, reading, and classic Hollywood musicals have joined us inextricably. (Once, we even gave one another near-identical little books of advice from Jane Austen for Christmas. There was much laughter.) A number of times, we have also been mistaken as related, once rather bizarrely with our friend Jonathan at a church in Pittsburgh.

The Clothes/Costumes (and Shoes)
Being part of the swing dance community, particularly in college, gave me an excuse to indulge my secret enjoyment of costumes. I have far too many pictures to share here without making this post interminable, but here are a few of my favorites:
Halloween 2008 - winning the Jack & Jill with Ross
2007 Taxi Dance with Jake
Halloween 2007 with Weston

There were also fabulous clothes that leaned less toward costume. Here are some of those:

Kristine and her grandmother made these dresses from a vintage Vogue pattern.
South Florida Lindy Exchange 2008
(That fellow in the background is Matt, another dear friend.)
Wearing my favorite pants ever and dancing with Tim, one of my favorite guys ever.
Orlando Lindy Exchange 2010
Zendah Grotto
Being goofy, as usual, with Julie
Tampa, June 2010

These Lovely Ladies (and Gentleman)

Spring 2008 with (L to R) Betsy, Bonnie, Chris & Kristine
Dubbed the midget brigade (probably a moniker we gave ourselves), Betsy, Bonnie, Kristine and I ruled the Florida Swing Dancing club for a few years. Okay, there wasn't much ruling, though we all did serve as officers or instructors or both at one time or another. Chris, deceptively tall here because of his roller blades, was (is, I'm sure - or would be if we were all still together) one of our favorite dance partners and a dear friend. These folks brought so much joy into my life and, as you can see from the picture, laughter. Oh, and there were all of those impromptu, vaguely burlesque dance numbers to "Big Spender."
Our impending separation upped our affection.
L to R: Kristine, Micah, Bonnie, Betsy & Erin
(Erin is one of the best bakers I will ever know.)

This Dance

(Thanks for that, Jim. It was awesome. For those of you wondering, the tune is Keb' Mo's "Henry.")

Lindy Exchanges

My first lindy exchange: Soflex 2007
with Tracy, Alex, Elaine, Mika, and Tara
lindy exchange (n.) A pile of my best dance friends from all over, gathered in one place for the express purpose of dancing the night away.

with Glenn at PittStop 2009, an unexpected reunion
Quiet moments in between dances
with Mikel at Soflex 2008

A shimmy-off with Hurley at DCLX 2011
Silly dance breaks: What's on the ceiling?
with Hurley at Soflex 2010
A moment captured during a steal dance.
There's something about the angles of our arms that I find fantastic in this shot.
with Patrick W. at Soflex 2010
Solo goofiness with Julie & Alex at DCLX 2011
This picture of me dancing Charleston at DCLX 2011
An afternoon with Kate & Julia, seeing Jane Eyre, and eating incredible cupcakes from Crumbs
post-DCLX 2011

Florida Dance Weekend Birthdays
For four years, I spent my birthday weekend having a grand time in Orlando (and other Florida locales) with some of my best friends, including my superb 25th at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (with the lovely Lisa) and Disney's Animal Kingdom (with the handsome Hurley). This year, I'll be missing the Orlando Lindy Exchange (a.k.a. my built-in birthday party), and while I'm sure watching David Tennant as Hamlet while eating cheese and chocolate fondue will be indescribably marvelous, it won't be the same without you. Anyway, thanks to the many people responsible for making birthdays 23-26 absolutely fantastic! All my love to all of you!
Reuniting with long-unseen friends.
with Patrick F. at ORLX 2012
Happy 25th on the beach in St. Pete with Brendan, who is wearing my sunglasses
This shot would be even better if I were wearing my ORLX 4 shirt, too!
with Hurley at ORLX 2011
When I met Blake at a previous ORLX, he claimed someone had told him he just had to dance with me.
He later admitted he'd just seen me dance and thought I was awesome. The feeling is mutual.
ORLX 2012
Hugs are one of the best things about friends.
Sometimes, a dance is just an excuse to hug for 3 1/2 minutes.
with Tim at ORLX 2010

It's corny, yes, but you should all be used to that from me by now, and it's true anyway so keep reading.  I am ever so grateful for and overwhelmed by the number of incredible people I've met in the eight years I've been swing dancing. You have opened your hearts and homes and arms to me, and I love you for it. So here's to you, you awesome folks. A hat-tip to you, a hug when next we meet and until then . . .

Love always, Micah