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Back in LA, Norma Jean
Was an Amazing Dancer.
So I Decided to Go to Arthur Murray
Norma assured me it was just the dancing, and that she had no personal interest in the guy. Hmmm...
Anyway, I decided to take some lessons at a nearby Arthur Murray's in Alexandria, Virginia.
Well, they gave me the usual pitch about how I had a lot of potential — but that I really needed some professional instruction — and if I'd just sign up for their 60-hour course I'd be sweeping the ladies off their feet in no time.
Most of the other students were women, many of whom were married to husbands who had zero interest in ballroom dancing.
I ended up being very popular with many of them because whenever we had a "studio party" I'd be one of the few guys available for them to dance with.
But then there was Carole.
Carole was 23 and single. She had a sweet personality and was a very good dancer. In fact, I wondered why she was still coming to the studio for lessons.
As we became better acquainted, I learned that she had recently broken up with a guy and still hadn't found anyone else. And I got the feeling she harbored some bitterness about the former relationship.
I also got the feeling that the experience had left her somewhat bitter toward men in general. This was because of something she said one night when we were practicing the tango.
The tango was very popular in those days, and one of several different dances taught at the studio.
One of the favorites was "Adios, Muchachos," an old Argentine standard that can still be heard today wherever the tango is danced. But they were playing a new American version sung by Tony Martin called
Carole said she didn't like the lyrics, which began: "When we are dancing and you're dangerously near me, I get ideas, I get ideas."
Something told me I really shouldn't ask why she didn't like the lyrics, but I went ahead and asked anyway.
She pulled away from me with a look that said, "Well, isn't it obvious?"
What she actually said, however, was, "Well, I don't want any guys getting ideas about me." Then she moved in closer — but abruptly pulled away again, and gave me a quizzical look.
"You wouldn't be getting any ideas about me, would you?" Then she got real close and whispered, "Or would you?"
Well, talk about mixed signals. I didn't know what to think. Actually, other than the fact that I enjoyed dancing with her at the studio, I really hadn't given much thought to any "ideas" about her. After all, she was an "older woman" and, besides, my heart still belonged to Norma Jean.
But after that night I noticed Carole became even friendlier than before, and a lot more relaxed when we were together. She also smiled at me a lot.
Well, what the heck, I thought — maybe I should invite her out to dinner and a movie. I didn't have much money to spend on dates — but Carole was aware of this — and I was sure she wouldn't expect me to go overboard on expenses.
And who knows — maybe if we were alone together away from the studio — well, you just never know what might happen.
So I decided the next time I saw Carole I would ask her out.
Well, she was at the studio when I arrived for my next lesson.
But something was different.
She wasn't dancing with any of the instructors, and she didn't appear to be waiting for one.
In fact, she seemed to be waiting for me.
She stood there, smiling at me as I hung up my jacket. I looked around for my usual instructor, but couldn't see her anywhere. Then Carole walked over and said, "Francine isn't here anymore. I'm your new instructor. Shall we start with the tango?"
Sure, I thought, why not? This news had caught me off guard — but somehow didn't surprise me all that much.
Then she told me something I already knew — but, still, it had to be said.
"I guess you know — instructors aren't allowed to date the students. I mean — well, you can see why."
Yes, of course I could see why.
In any case, this took a weight off my shoulders, because I really hadn't been all that anxious to ask her out, anyway. Now we could continue to be friends — and neither of us had to worry about whether the other might be "getting ideas."
But there was a new problem.
"By the way," Carole said with a serious look, "Have you thought about signing up for more hours? You really do need more instruction in the tango — and we're having this special — if you sign up for just an additional twenty hours..."
( $ $ $ $ )
So did I ever ask Carole for a date?
Well, that's a story for another time. However, the lessons learned at that Arthur Murray studio really did change my life — in many meaningful ways.
Well, I never did get completely over being shy around women, but the lessons did give me a lot more confidence in social situations than I'd ever had before. In fact, when I got my transfer to Korea, I decided to spend some of my furlough time in Cuba.
Yes, and later I moved to Puerto Rico and, eventually, to Mexico.
Well, those are also stories for another time.
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