Following a man’s lead

Since my divorce, I’ve had a fear of dance classes. Not because I’m concerned about following the steps — I’m reasonably adept at that. But it’s for another reason — something that I think might plague other accomplished women.

It might be something that you struggle with yourself.

I’m concerned that I won’t be able to follow a man’s lead.

For 20 years, I slow-danced with one man — my husband. I knew his moves. He wasn’t a strong leader (in anything, really), but I learned his steps and could follow along quite nicely.

Post divorce, I slow-danced with only a few beaus, and rarely in public. They held me so closely, it was impossible not to sway with them.

But dance class — in the arms of a strange man, doing a dance with specific steps I was supposed to follow. Oy vey! It was so scary, I stayed away from any dancing that would require being in a hold.

This was magnified exponentially when I had the melt down on the dance floor with the astronaut a few months ago. When this man I had just met pulled me close on our first (and only) dance, I froze. I didn’t move when he tried to move me. My statue-like state caused him to count the beat in my ear. I was humiliated.

So a few weeks ago I decided I needed to break through this barrier. I screwed up my courage and attended a salsa dance class, having convinced a gal pal to accompany me for moral support.

The instructor had the women rotate partners, so I danced with 8 men several times. Most of them were weak leads, but I fought the urge to take over. I survived — and even enjoyed it. But how would I be with a man who knew how to lead? Would I be able to follow even when they weren’t leading? Passivity wasn’t a strong suit.

This weekend, I got to experiment again, attending the  second class. This time, there were only 3 students — all women — so we got to take turns dancing with the three instructors.

Commenting on what I thought was a normal hand hold in our first turn together, the primary instructor, Frank, said, “I’d hate to meet you in a back alley — you’re strong.” It didn’t seem like a compliment. In our second turn, I thought I was following nicely when he said “You have to let the man lead. If you don’t, he feels emasculated.” I wasn’t appreciating his editorializing. Just tell me what I need to do to dance well, don’t lecture to me.

It fed into my insecurities about not knowing how to follow. So much so, I checked out the impressions with a younger, strong-leading instructor with whom I’d danced. He said I followed just fine.

What’s your experience with learning to follow? Do you have any issues with it or do you just naturally follow a man’s dance lead? Have you gained any insights if you had to learn this behavior?


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5 responses to “Following a man’s lead”

  1. Tracey Avatar

    Dating Goddess, it sounds like that dance class was a great decision and a good representation of the men that are out there. Some know exactly what they are doing and will make you feel great. Others are less confident and say things to bring out insecurities in others. Regardless, my hat’s off to you for taking the class and I hope you have many more enjoyable salsa classes in the near future.

  2. Darren Miller Avatar

    Hey dating goddess! I first want to say well done in breaking that confidence barrier. I personally think men also find themselves battling against confidence fear and I’m a perfect example.

    I really hit rock bottom when my ex and I broke up, as with most break ups, it was not easy. I began to stay at home playing computer games which I guess was my way of hiding and occupying my mind. As I mentioned previously in one of your other posts, my mate persuaded me to go out with him to a salsa bar, but I kept on saying no.

    I didn’t want to face anyone or talk to anyone. In fact, it was something that someone said to me that changed my attitude ”Practice reacting aggressively and positively towards fears in your imagination.” Well, something on them lines.

    So, I took the chance to go out dancing, the hardest decision I felt I had to make at that time, but now looking back, I see that sometimes taking what seems like a risk will pay off in the end.

  3. Almita Avatar

    As you noted with your ex-, most men have a few moves that they tend to stick with, so once you know “their moves,” it is easy to follow them.

    Dancing with a stranger is more difficult. I have taken years of dance classes, including salsa. I have found that most men don’t lead very well and then blame you for not following. Once while visiting Panama, I went to a dance school and took a private salsa lesson with a male instructor. When he asked me what I wanted to work on, I said I needed to learn how to follow the male lead. That was my best dance experience ever! That man knew how to dance and how to lead. We danced non-stop for the full hour.

    So now I say if the man can dance well and knows how to lead, then the couple dances well together, even if the woman is a beginner. If the man can’t dance nor lead, then it doesn’t matter how well the woman might dance. A strong male lead is essential.

  4. Kate Avatar

    Wow – so apt. I used to think I couldn’t follow, but now I think that some men are just no damn good, but they think they are great!! Those communal dance classes, where you get a motley assortment of men, can be hell, but there are usually some gems that make it all worthwhile. Learning to adapt to the different styles of men is one of the skills I learned at group classes. It can be a good personal challenge to see how well you can fit in with the different dancers.

  5. Richard Avatar

    “But dance class — in the arms of a strange man, doing a dance with specific steps I was supposed to follow. ”

    It is hard to follow when you are still learning the steps too. I can lead you into a turn, but if you don’t know how to turn … If you are distracted by thinking about where do you step next, or other things (what is he thinking of me), then you can easily miss the cues. Similar – When I am driving, I can listen to the radio, follow a conversation, etc. But, if I have to engage in the conversation, then that is too much to process, and I start missing turns.

    It is harder for a woman at a dance class. The guy mostly worries about what he is doing, and avoiding bumping into other couples. The lady has to think about herself, and what is the guy trying to tell her.

    Dancing as a couple is so much easier. Following the lead becomes a subconscious activity, and your conscious mind can enjoy the moment.