“Hi! My name is Jordan!”
That introduction has been giggled, whispered, yelled, laughed, snorted, croaked, and muttered many a times over my 23 years. Each time with the hope of making a friend. In every new school, in every new meeting, in every new situation, I pronounced my existence to a new world. But over time, the frequency died down and I settled into the group that I’d found. I never thought, nor cared, to dust off my friendship pioneer boots again.
The problem with settling down in the same city as your school is eventually your people leave. The tribe disbands. I’ve been blessed with some real rockstars for friends who are out changing the world as we speak. Meanwhile, I’m whoring myself out to obscure publications like “Geriatric Skiing” to pay the rent but, I digress. I watch with pride and sadness as they sail off into their destinies while mentally placing an asterisk next to their name.
My social calendar is filled with less dinner dates, nights out, and road trips and more “let’s order out and watch Netflix in bed without getting any fried wontons in your bra” kind of nights. I’ve gotten comfortable.
I’ve started to convince myself that I prefer the two dimensional characters in my screen opposed to the three dimensional ones I’m used to interacting with. The sad realization was that this was all by choice. I can fill my dance card if I want to, I’ve just played it safe by not doing so. Can’t lose anymore people if the only ones I really see aren’t real (#SadShitSunday).
So I devised a plan. Where can someone go to find likeminded people who want to engage in sexless entertainment and platonic relationships for free? Meetup.com of course. I signed up, logged in, and started searching for new framily members. It didn’t take long before I was writing introductions and giddy with excitement for which I was immediately ashamed. I was going to hit return until I saw a vision of myself in bed with fried wontons popping out of my bra like the popcorn scene in “Real Genius.” I emphatically hit send.
Half an hour later and I had plans for Saturday night. Salsa plans. The day of, I changed my mind a dozen times but I finally took a chance. It was only a few minutes from my apartment anyways. I drove over and parked. I was a nervous wreck. The restaurant was swanky. Hell, it was clean. My shoes didn’t stick to the floor and the faint smell of urine and STI’s weren’t wafting about. This was a place designed for adults. It was dim but you could see and there was no purple haze fogging up the joint. Sixth street it was not and the $10 cover charge confirmed that. After a little confusion I meet up with the event’s leader and immediately felt underdressed and self-conscious. She walked me over to the table and I sized up the surrounding company. My anxieties were quickly assuaged.
There was a woman who looked like the physical manifestation of sadness on my left, the group leader beside her, a mother who seemed near orgasm by the lack of children in her sight across from me, a willowy girl in the corner, and a young woman who’s eyes sparkled of crazy on my right. I made surface level conversation, ordered some food and a drink, and tried to get to know my table mates.
ME: So are any of you from around here?
SADNESS: Yeah. It’s so much better than South Austin.
MOM: I live in South Austin.
ME: Are y’all excited to dance?
SADNESS: I mean I’ve seen the lesson before. I come here a lot.
*she nervously laughs without breaking her permanent frown*
CRAZY: I mean, I salsa all the time. I don’t need a lesson. Y’all are going to have to keep up with me. *flips hair* Plus I have my own meetup group and we do fun stuff all the time. I’m used to this. I’m Latina. *craziness intensifies*
ME: *Takes a swig of my bellini*
MOM: *Looks on longingly* How’s it taste? I bet it tastes good. It’s been suuuuuuch a long time since I’ve drank!
ME: It’s pretty strong but good! Do you want some?
MOM: *as if someone tickled her nethers* Oh my! Me? Oh no! Why I couldn’t possibly…
ME: *shrugs and finishes remainder of drink in one gulp*
MOM: If you want to order another one…
SADNESS: You can have some of my martini. I can’t taste it anymore. I can’t taste any alcohol anymore. *frown deepens*
*more marked silence*
CRAZY: I have my own meetup group so…
Thankfully, the lesson broke our tragic conversation. I wasn’t hoping to meet my future bridesmaids, just some new blood. I was starting to regret it but I paid $10 to dance so I fully intended to cumbia my way across the floor for $10 worth of music. The instructors were clearly professionals, the audience was clearly amateur. People followed along, albeit in their own way but everyone looked to be having fun. We were all waiting for our checks so no one got up to practice, so we just watched in the saddest silence I’ve ever experienced.
The band came out onto the stage and the music started to pick up. Older couples held each other tightly and swayed along to the clave. Friends danced in circles and laughed at their missteps. I was dying to break out. I had to get on that dance floor. Whatever energy the dancing was stirring up wasn’t making it to the Convent of Perpetual Awkwardness. I decided enough was enough and I got up, Willows followed me. My 20 steps took 6 for her. We started to shimmy but had to reconcile the mismatched rhythm first. Downing the bellini in five minutes on an empty stomach and dehydrated body didn’t help. Just as me and Willows were starting to have fun, I felt the dam break and gallons of sweat burst from my pores. She tried to fan me but there was no stopping the flood. I ran to the bathroom to cool down. A roll of toilet paper and an unresponsive Dyson fan later, I left the bathroom to find there was no one from our group on the dance floor. No one. No, not one, no, not a single one. The event was specifically created for a girl’s night out to dance. They were all just watching, in silence, as other people threw their inhibitions to the wind and had fun.
I was annoyed.
I poked and prodded and eventually Crazy got up to dance with me. I assumed the friends position and started to form a circle when she whipped me around and took the lead. If her eyes were hiding the crazy before, they were completely unleashed now. “When my hand goes like this, your foot moves like THIS! Understand?!” I was starting to understand why her ass didn’t have any friends. She twirled me, pulled me, swayed me, and directed my body to fit her choreography. “Up! This way! Again! Twirl!” I was scared. She was no Chayanne and I certainly wasn’t Vanessa Williams but she was leading me as if our lives depended on it. People were actually starting to move away from us. The song ended and she loosened up a bit, her gaze still on Defcon 1. I tried to open up for the other ladies in our group but even they had left. She looked like she was about to lunge into a jazz split so I faked right and bolted towards the table.
I sat and watched the dance floor for a few more minutes. I asked if anyone else wanted to dance.
LEADER: “I feel too vulnerable out there!”
Everyone nodded in agreement. I pretended like I had something to do in the morning and excused myself from the table after saying thank you and goodbye (I’m Southern, not heartless). I sat in my car pondering my fate and whether the rest of my twenties would be riddled with awkward interactions or netflix nights. I felt myself tear up. I let the feeling shit storm wash over me. Then I took a breath and drove home.
Later on I realized what really happened that night. If that night was just an excerpt of my life, then I was going to be okay. I didn’t wait by the sidelines or tack myself up like a wallflower, I got up and I danced. I wasn’t scared of looking goofy or being vulnerable, I thrived because of it. All those negative feelings weren’t even about the ladies there. They were about me and my shortcomings and hangups but I did something about it. Sure, I might not have it all together right now but I have a good head on my shoulders, a strong will, and a big heart. I’ll be just fine.