Ten years ago, when I decided to stop meeting women over the internet and to stop falling in love with straight girls, I began attending lesbian dances. I attended these dance events throughout greater Boston and up into Southern New Hampshire and Maine. Dances became my new preferred method of finding lovers, and I unearthed a slew of them in my forties. When I use the term “lesbian dance,” many people, gay women included, don’t know what I mean.
“Oh, you mean a gay club?” someone inevitably asks.
“No, the club scene is different.” Her eyes look quizzical and confused.
At clubs, I explain, the women arrive in cliques and the drunkenness they develop seems to be the goal for the evening, a way to forget their sorrows or ignore their emotional baggage. Also, at clubs, everyone is twenty-something, or appears to be. I don’t like going to a club where I am biologically qualified to be everyone’s mama.
“No one talks to me at clubs,” I say to those who ask and to some who don’t, “but at the dances, I get a lot of attention and I like that.” Many years ago, an attractive black woman called me “Ms. Thang.” I didn’t realize at the time she thought I was a jerk, strutting my stuff in my tank top and tight jeans (ripped muscles, nice ass.) I liked the idea of being a “Ms. Thang.” I’d never been anything like that in my life, until I entered my forties and discovered these dances.
The women are open, open to discussion, to socializing, to dancing, and to meeting one another. They don’t get quite as drunk as they do at clubs, and some of them don’t drink at all. Plus, the music doesn’t suck; no one is making a house mix out of a classic Stevie Wonder song. You really don’t need to do anything to “Superstition” or “Sign, Sealed and Delivered” to make it a great dance tune.
The lesbian dance is an old event. Here are a couple of interesting factoids I found on the web:
Our first dance “Top o’ the Town” took place in 1981 at the Shriner’s Hall in Tacoma. This was one of the first lesbian dances EVER in the South Puget Sound area. We had over 300 womyn show up and were overwhelmed with the response. http://www.tacomalesbianconcern.org/herstory.htm
And from another website:
Folks from that era who went regularly to the bars loved them and were loyal to them, but it was a bittersweet love. “The bars are the only place for Gay people to go to get together outside of home,” one of them wrote. And then, in the next line: “There is no question that they were for shit.” No wonder that, when gay liberation groups started forming at the end of 1969, the creation of new gay and lesbian spaces— and opening up those spaces for same-sex dancing— would be high on the list of priorities.http://outhistory.org/wiki/D’Emilio:_%22Let’s_Dance,%22_1950s-1970s Copyright 2008 John D’Emilio
I hadn’t been to such a dance in a few years, having had my fill of them and enough lovers in the last 10 years to make my romantic resume read like “short-term, temporary positions only,” i.,e., commitment phobic and slutty – or misunderstood, if you want to be kind to me. Maybe I’ve lost my need for such dances, because I’ve gotten myself out of the house traveling and living in the world, after years of being fully or partially agoraphobic. These days, I seem to meet women in my everyday activities. I like that — that women I find attractive and who find me so, just happen along in my tracks. I don’t have to seek out lesbians at a dance, but you know, I have a great deal of respect for such events. In Boston, we have several such dances sponsored by various groups: Women Meeting Women, Ova40, and The Mass Breast Cancer Coalition, to name a few.
I decided to venture to a dance recently. I’m not sure why after all this time. I’m single. I guess there is always that hope that you’ll me the woman of your dreams if you just give it one more try. I did not find the love of my life at the event. It was an over 40 dance, but for the most part, it looked like an over 60 dance. I am not poking fun at the women who attended, just acknowledging the awkward age I’m at where women my age seem too old, and the women I find attractive seem too young.
I’m posting a short video to show how cornball this dance scene is, at least these dances for middle-aged lesbians, and yet, how amazing it all is – because if you want , you can find a place to be with a bunch of aging lesbians, out of shape, overweight, graying, and quite fabulous. Think of all they’ve survived — prejudice, homophobia, illness, ostracism, and here they are dancing, celebrating together. Many of them are amazing dancers, old school mind you, because of their age, and because they take lessons. It’s okay to laugh. I don’t think they would mind, because they are good with themselves.
Ladies, I tip my hat to you.
Hope a compatible and wonderful dance partner happens along your tracks by next Valentine’s Day. I remember when you and I used to talk about these dances. Before I met David, I went to my share of singles dances for Jews wanting to meet other eligible Jews. I called them “Kosher Meat Markets.” I was a blonde among the Red Sea of dark Mediterranean looking Hebs. Like the attention you attracted as “Miss Thang”, the Red Sea parted for me and it was heady sensation. Thanks for another terrific personal story and for the historical background. I’d love to read more about the funny and bittersweet dance moves of love and infatuation during that time of your life.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I’m not sure what I think about it. It’s not the funniest thing I’ve ever written, nor is it the most well-written. It started out a couple of years ago as an essay for my creative thesis but I never got past a few paragraphs. It’s hard sometimes, to think up topics for the blog, but I figured I’d combine those few paragraphs with my most recent experience out. I hope, too, to find someone over the next year. I’m a little sick of being single and a little too old to be. I suppose someday I will write more about all of the dance experiences. And I remember, too, that you were Ms. Jewish “Thang,” for several years. 🙂
Thank you for sharing. I usually see something like this going on and don’t go because I think it’s like a club or there would be clicks. Being my shy self I wouldn’t think I would feel comfortable. But I may just give it a try!
Thanks for reading another one of my blog entries. It’s hard to go anywhere alone, especially if you’re shy. If you see that an event is being sponsored by an organization, it is more likely a dance event and not a club. Be nice if we lived closer. Stay in touch. Cindy
Great piece, and I especially liked the video inclusion. Improvisational movement comes hard to me, but I admire a good dancer, and even more an uninhibited dancer. A wonderful tribute.
Thanks so much, Bridget. I wondered if this piece might be boring, but I’ve gotten a lot of nice feedback. I had intended to write a full essay about The Lesbian Dance, but never got to it, so I took pieces of it, along with my most recent experience, to write this blog. Talk to you soon. Cindy
Thanks again for another great read. I agree with Elissa above—I’d also love to read more about your funny and bittersweet “being out” stories. For those of us who aren’t familiar with the whole cultural gay scene, it’s not only interesting to read, but also very educational.
Thanks for commenting on this post, too. I would love to write more about this cultural experience, especially if it gives those of you unfamiliar with this life a better insight into who we are. I will try to do so more often going forward. I hope all is well with you! 🙂 Take care, Cindy