Letting it all hang out

Words and pictures

What’s one martini?

It is easy to see where downing several martinis at a birthday party might lead. There are tantalising possibilities in that thought. This story is not about any of them. This story is about how drinking martinis lead me to my first every dance class and how I remembered that the important thing in life is to keep expanding your horizons. Particularly with your partner.

I’ve been thinking for a while about what we will be like when we are old. Not in a morbid way, but in the sense of how important it will be to grow together. Turning 40 has lead me to reflect on what’s important. What do I really want to do with the rest of my life? How can I work to make it the best life? One of the reasons I’ve been thinking these thoughts is this piece about learning to cook at 78. Apart from feeling sad that Michael Freeland had lost the opportunity to cook with his wife, I wondered about avenues I had already cut off, for myself and for us.

It was in this frame of mind, reflective and contemplative that we made our way to a birthday party. It was a struggle to get there. No one was co-operating to help us get out the door and we left the house frazzled and not feeling in the party mood.

The host of this party is an excellent host. She holds great dinners. She invites everyone with no thought of returned invitations. She is warm and hospitable. She has taught her three daughters to be the same. Her daughters were in charge this time, as it was her birthday. We made our way in and said hello to the girls. They were busying themselves in the kitchen, preparing food, taking coats. A fully laden kitchen bench was equipped with cocktail glasses and many options. I decided in a heartbeat to seize the opportunity. Martinis duly fixed, we mingled. We chatted and enjoyed ourselves.

Then we started to talk to a couple we had met at one of the host’s previous dinners. We talked about many things and soon the conversation turned to dancing. This couple has been dancing together for about five years. They clearly really loved it. They invited us to a dance party at the studio where they take classes. It was a bring your friends and try class. An informal chance to see the school and try out the studio. Robert was extremely keen. I was not. At all. I made a brave face and grimly agreed.

I don’t, as a rule, do things that I am no good at. This includes many activities that require coordination. “Proper” dancing is indeed one of those activities. Reluctantly, I prepared myself for Friday night. We were supposed to be at drinks at 7 and the class at 7-45. It was looking shaky at 6-30. No one was co-operating – again. For one, Benedict couldn’t understand why he couldn’t come with us. He loves dancing.

Finally, we got out the door. After a pleasant drink, we were ready. With full heart palpitating trepidation, I made it up the stairs. Lovely Robert is quite the swing dancer as it turns out. And while I was totally out of my depth, I didn’t make a complete fool of myself. Our charming new friends were extremely kind and generous. In the end, in spite of it all, and in defiance of my own nature, I managed to remember the steps and even got the hang of it for a minute.

I looked around the room. Every person in the room was over forty. They were clearly enjoying themselves. A lot. And they looked happy. Happy to be alive. Happy to be together. It was totally eye-opening. Dancing is also totally, diverting. You cannot think of anything else. The effort to concentrate on the steps, where you are going is total. When I spoke, I lost my feet. But I couldn’t think of anything else. It is all absorbing.
With a partner it is all about how you are together. There is nothing else in that moment. You must literally, be together, or it cannot be done. It is like life. At once, completely simple, and something that takes a lifetime to master. It’s better too, if you can do it together.

When I think about old age, I think I would much rather be able to fix martinis and rhumba around the living room to Sway by Dean Martin than pretty much anything else. Particularly if I get to do it with Robert. I am going to learn. I might just have enough time.

What are you going to do?

Learn bridge?

Take up sailing?

Are you planning ahead for your lively, spritely old age?