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I got dumped for my first time at the Grade 6 sock hop.

I paid the 10¢ admission for both Louise C and I, we danced to The Box Tops The Letter and the Bee Gees I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You. She was blond and pretty in a Grade 6 kind of way. It was heavenly

Then she ditched me (was it my purple paisley shirt?) before it was time for me to walk her home. Not a good date. Crap!

The second time was at the Grade 9 dance. She was a dark brunette and had some sexy dimples. We slow-danced to Black Magic Woman and Stairway to Heaven. We kissed for the first time at the exit door to the gym. It was heavenly.

Two hours later she was kissing my (soon-to-be-ex!) best friend Kevin in his basement rec room. Another bad date. More crap!

The third time was in a car riding back from the beach with my “girlfriend” and some high school work friends. She was moving on to a new guy (the driver of the car), but hadn’t quite told me yet. Triple Crap!

To be fair, the love ledger hasn’t always been one-sided, all credits and no debits. I’ve dumped others and seen the pain in their sad eyes and broken hearts. I think that is the crappiest.

Ultimately, I asked myself… What have I learned from the hurt, both mine and the others?

Today, I give you…

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8 Lessons I Learned at the Sock Hop and Beyond:

  1. My heart is fragile – love and desire – the chemistry and the butterflies – are gut-level emotions that don’t respond to logic. A love connection with someone else is a freak phenomenon that defies any sense of reality, a sci-fi animation where oxygen is no longer necessary to sustain life if someone you desire fiercely loves you back.
  2. My heart is strong – after a hurtful loss, and another, and another, we develop a resilience, the elasticity of experience that assures us that no matter the depth of anguish (whether it’s loss of love, or the loss of a loved one), the overwhelming sensation of pain will dull little-by-little. Pain lives on a bell curve that rises and falls. Time is the one friend that will never desert us.
  3. My life has many facets – love, desire, connection are major parts of our lives, but they are not the only areas that bring deep, genuine meaning. There are so many aspects to a full and rounded life that don’t require a dance partner e.g. pets, learning, exercising, music, books, working, volunteering, hobbies. Diversification on a personal level adds strength to our individuality.
  4. Lips are the gateway drug to romantic love – there’s good reason why some hookers won’t kiss a John (I’m told!)… a kiss is a powerful weapon, the key that unlocks the heart more than 1,000 words or “forever” diamonds ever will. That Grade 9 kiss I mentioned took me to the top of the mountain and then pushed me off the cliff.
  5. There are different dances in life – not all dance revolves around romance or courtship. Dance can be sexy and erotic. Dance can be friendly and cordial. Dance can be joyous and freeing. Dance can be technical and challenging. Dancing with your children can be the best dance you’ll ever have.
  6. Dance connects us to music – dance isn’t only a way to connect with another person … just close your eyes and feel the music infiltrate and massage deeply. Dance is a physical manifestation of what we hear and feel.
  7. Joy makes everything worthwhile – Joy is a stronger muscle than pain. Joy brings us back from the precipice when the night is dark and bleak. Joy is ultimately – thankfully – stronger than fear, anger, and grief. Joy should be a key piece of the movement of dance, a pleasure-drenched sway.
  8. A really great dance partner doesn’t laugh at my dance moves – Dance can teach us humility and grace… of course I feel like a dork when I dance. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it though. The average child laughs 300 times a day… the average adult…5 times a day. My dance moves shouldn’t be one of your 5 times. Yup, acceptance of our Elaine Benes dance stylings are the litmus test for when we know we’ve found THE one!

Alright, you may have figured out that I didn’t uncover these thoughts all in one go after the Grade 6 sock hop. The visions and impressions sift and settle over months and years and decades.

That afternoon sock hop in the Glen Brae middle school gym in 1968 was my first tuition payment, the first of many learning and growth experiences in my long life of learning and understanding.

Dance can unveil truths about us we never knew. I’ll stretch the metaphor of “dance” here a bit by recounting a clip from a favourite movie of mine.

In When Harry Met Sally, Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Marie (Carrie Fisher), at their wedding dance, thank friends Harry and Sally publicly for being so utterly unappealing as dates and partners, and as an unintended result, bringing the bride and groom together.

To Harry and Sally. If Marie or I had found either of them remotely attractive we would not be here today.”

A simple dance, a touch of hands, the shuffle of feet, is sometimes all it takes to define a worthwhile connection, or prove a sour attachment.

Dances are like diversifying your stock portfolio… you observe and connect with different partners (stocks)… some are wonderful but burn out too quickly, some totally suck from the first cha-cha, and finally, some burn with just the right intensity to sustain a lasting flame of prosperity.

Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance (Garth Brooks)

School days. It’s funny looking back and thinking about the apparent innocence of a Grade 6 Sock Hop where the greater lessons learned that day didn’t occur inside Miss Taylor’s classroom.

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