Share this article

print logo

Bringing Up Mommy: Lessons learned at dance hall

Let’s just say that historically in our marriage, I’m the one who dances.

My husband is the one who would rather eat skunk tails.

I grew up in a Southern family that danced in the kitchen to Motown. He grew up in a Midwestern family that snow skied.

In college, after work at the bar where I earned tuition money, my friends and I would hit the after-hours clubs where we would perfect disco steps to Donna Summers and the Commodores.

My husband’s college dancing experience was limited to occasionally jumping up and down in the basement of his frat house to loud punk music. “Pogoing,” they called it.

Certainly, Steve and I have danced at a wedding or two over the years, including our own.

I led.

But couples dancing is not something my husband – like a lot of men – would ever choose to do, except that the kids were away on spring break. And we were looking for ways to re-energize our mutual free time like Oprah and Dr. Phil tell us we should.

And so it was on a Thursday evening in the waxing spring, that the Midwestern snow skier and the Southern wild child decided to take a swing dance lesson in an old music hall on the west side of Cleveland with 20 other couples.

We started, hopeful enough, in concentric circles, men on the outside, women on the inside, each woman paired with the partner she came with. Rock one step back, the instructor told us, shuffle three steps to the side, three steps to the other side, rock, rock. And then on we went to the next partner and the next, until we were all the way around the circle and ready to reconvene with our newly dance-savvy significant others.

Only, my particular significant one, loving father of three, accomplished political science professor and author, the talented sports enthusiast who can hit a racquetball at 100 mph and catch a Frisbee behind his back, apparently did not integrate a word the instructor said.

While other couples twirled around the floor like flowers in a spring wind – (I did hear later that most everybody else had taken multiple lessons and that women often dance with each other because there aren’t enough men) – nothing my well-intentioned husband did that night mimicked the kind of dancing I longed for.

From my viewpoint looking directly at my husband, it appeared to be more like wrestling. Or a 2-year-old pretending to fly, arms akimbo.

My energy was rapidly leaving my body like air from a popped balloon. After a couple more dances in the shadows of so many Fred-and-Gingers, we were both ready to go home. There, to our credit, like good married couples who’ve read “Getting the Love You Want,” we decided with great grace and diplomacy that some things in a marriage may be best left to the individual.

Just as I might not be the best candidate for Frisbee moves, so might my husband not be the best candidate for the triple step, the jitterbug step or the fallaway throwaway.

He will keep playing Frisbee with the kids. I will go dancing with my friend Elizabeth whose husband likewise has trouble with the mind-body connection on the dance floor.

And then, on the occasion that we want to toss around the Frisbee or each other on the dance floor, neither of us will feel frustrated that this is all we will ever experience of our favorite activities in this life.

Everybody wins. Especially my husband, who gets major kudos for even trying.

Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at; email her at, or join her column’s Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.