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TO CATCH A QUEEN
I first noticed Anita – REALLY noticed her – at a Valentine’s Day dance.
Me, and every other guy in the building.
She was amazing. And not just because she was beautiful, with her shoulder-length blonde hair, her larger-than-life eyes and her stunning smile. She was also an amazing dancer. It was the late 1970s, and disco was king. That meant you couldn’t get away with just standing in the middle of the floor and shaking like we had always done during the hay-day of rock and roll. You had to know steps and moves, and you had to have a partner who could do them with you.
Oh, and you had to wear polyester. Lots and lots of polyester.
Which is why Anita attracted so much attention at that Valentine’s Day dance. She was a Dancing Queen. She knew all the steps, and she had all the right moves. And boy, did she make polyester look good.
I, on the other hand, was a dancing fool. It wasn’t that I couldn’t dance well; I couldn’t dance – period. While I had learned to more or less bluff my way through the tribal ambiguity of rockin’ and rollin’, there was no bluffing the Latin Hustle. Or even the Disco Duck. Either you knew it, or you didn’t. And if you didn’t . . . well, you looked pretty foolish out there.
Or in my case, more foolish than usual.
Still, I was determined to have a dance with Anita even though, to tell the truth, I wasn’t exactly sure who she was. I had seen her at church, and admired her, but on the dance floor she was in her element. Dancing was in her heart and soul, and the joy of it radiated from her with every slide and stomp and shuffle. It was absolutely mesmerizing; I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. But every time I tried to move toward her to ask her to dance, some post-adolescent John Travolta would cut in front of me, resplendent in his artificial fabrics and busting disco moves like Arthur Murray in gold chains and stacked heels.
It wasn’t until the evening’s second-to-last dance that I was finally able to catch my turn with the Dancing Queen, and I tried to make the most of it. I summoned every bit of dancing know-how I could muster, gleaned from watching “Saturday Night Fever” and “American Bandstand.” Although my Hustle was more Roamin’ than Latin, we somehow managed to make it through to the end of the dance in the same place, at the same time, and with all our toes intact.
Less than six months later, we were married.
I won’t bore you with all of the details about how we got from those first stumbling, bumbling steps on the dance floor to joyful and light-hearted steps down the matrimonial aisle. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is those first steps were taken. No matter how insecure and awkward and clumsy they were, they were significant first steps toward something remarkable.
That’s usually the way it is with first steps. Whether we’re learning to walk or learning to run a business, starting a new habit or breaking an old one, taking a weekend get-away or the journey of a lifetime, no steps are more important than the first steps. They may be embarrassingly weak, or even painful. But they are steps that must be taken – on Valentine’s Day and every day.
Especially if you hope to catch a Queen.
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