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Bay Window: Do you dance with a stranger?

A funny thing happened to me recently. You probably wouldn’t give it a second thought, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

OK, I’ll just tell you: A man asked me to dance, and I turned him down. No big deal, right? Nothing to obsess about. So why am I obsessing?

We had gone out for the evening, my husband and I, as we do on occasion, to listen to live music and try to remember that while we aren’t quite as young as we used to be, we aren’t ready to be put out to pasture yet.

A lot of folks come to Las Vegas and drop a hundred bucks or more to see a show that features either someone they’ve never heard of (“He must be good or his face wouldn’t be on that billboard!”) or someone they thought was dead (“He’s still alive? I saw him in ’65, and he was old then!”)

We who live in Vegas owe those folks a debt. We want them to come back. Late at night, we sit on our patios watching constellations of planes bringing tourists from all over the world, and we say, “Yippee! There comes another planeload of money!”

But here’s a secret. If you tell anybody I told you, I’ll deny it. When locals want to hear live music, we usually try to avoid the Strip and its prices. Instead, we head to one of the off-Strip casinos for bands that may not be billboard-famous, but they flat-out come to play.

What does it cost? Nothing. Sometimes there’s a small cover charge. But whatever you may think of the music, you won’t complain about the price.

So there we were at Boulder Station Casino, sitting at a table with some friends, listening to Michael Grimm (who won the fifth season of “America’s Got Talent”) sing the blues like nobody’s business.

Suddenly somebody tapped my shoulder and said something that sounded a lot, I swear, like “Do you want my pants?”

I spun around to face a tall, dark shadow, barely visible in the room’s dimmed lights.

“Excuse me?” I said.

The Shadow bent closer and held out his hand.

“Do you want to dance?”

“Oh!” I said, laughing. “I, uh, don’t think so. But thanks!”

Then he was gone. I looked around. No sign of him. Just a few hundred people reveling in the music. No one was dancing. I never saw him again.

Later that night, on the way home, I started thinking. Why didn’t I dance with the Shadow? What kept me glued to a chair tapping my toes, instead of stepping out on the dance floor for a little adventure?

My husband wouldn’t have minded a bit. (He’s like that, and I like that about him.)

It had nothing to do with the Shadow’s looks, style of dress, political affiliations, personal hygiene or degree of sobriety. It was dark. All I knew about him was that he was kind enough to ask me to dance. I surely didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I hope he knows that. It wasn’t about him. It was all about … me. Whatever “it” is, isn’t it always about us and our own insecurities?

Nobody else was dancing. If I dared to be different – to get up and dance while everyone else stayed in their seats – what would people think of me?

That’s a question I’ve been asking all my life in a voice that sounds a lot like my mother’s: “What will people think?”

I wish I could stop asking that question. You would not believe all the fun it has caused me to miss.

If I had danced with the Shadow, who knows? Maybe others would have joined us. Maybe they would have danced their hearts out, thanked us for getting them up on their feet and vowed that they would never forget us.

Or not. In any case, nobody would have thought less of me. Probably. If they did, so what?

Life’s not a popularity contest. It’s a chance to be alive.

There’s nothing wrong in dancing with a stranger. I’m not saying you should give him your number.