Beginning the process of becoming a salsa dancer (or a “salsera) is not unlike falling in love. In those first months Salsa, or rather “Salsa!” can do no wrong. Music, dancing, excitement, men…during the work week, no less. No, I didn’t see “The Bachelor,” boring work people. Yes, I was up till 2 on a weeknight. So what if I look like a meth addict from the neck up? My new legs make-up for the Dark Circles Under Eyes Tired Look.
If nobody else, “Salsa!” understood my needs and expectations (constant fun with no obligation or necessary maintenance). Salsa loved me unconditionally.
But like any relationship…things changed. Salsa soon became the flawed boyfriend who redeems in the sack. Not quite someone with whom I can share that New Yorker piece, but still fulfills the human need for connection. And then came the day when even that wasn’t worth the application of eyeshadow. The Bitch Salsa Stage. If the music reeked of any commercial Marc Anthony flavor, or my partner wasn’t a meticulous fellow “On 2” geek, and the floor wasn’t made of eco-friendly bamboo, and free of any spike heel threats within at least ten feet of me (basically empty), I was one non-botoxed brow muscle from dancing with a scowl. Bitch Salsa didn’t fly with many guys, but that was OK because they appeared to me to be off-beat, shoulder wrenching, attention-seeking flash mongers whose interest in any dancer was furthering their own hierarchy on the Salsa Food Chain. All the particulars of Salsa Culture that had once seemed charming or anecdotally funny, the Halloween-style get-tups, sweat sprinklers of spinning girls, spike-heel injuries, or guys that were stuck in salsa purgatory, suddenly, struck me as intolerable…I shot a humorless glances at the weirdos…holy shit who are these people? Salsa, once a fantasy world like Disneyland, contained all the reality of a junior high school dance. Injured back. Broken heart. Salsa Bitch Attitude. Must unplug from the Salsa Matrix.
I stopped going out.
And then things changed again. I had been dancing “On 2” for a few years, but it was only around this time of total “Fuck you Salsa!” disillusionment (the brink of divorce) actually, started to dance…to the music. Yes, I danced before, or thought I did. But I entered the environment, not the music. I didn’t really hear the music the way a musician might. It wasn’t until post-recession, post-acupucture, post-post, that it occurred to me to go out to dance…fucking dance, Salsa Bitch.. My vanity crushed, and my sequined mini-slutdress lost in my closet, that felt humbled to the sounds played by musicians who were following an ancient art.
Salsa still fulfills. More than ever. But it’s more of a marriage where I give back with focused attention and respect. Looking less glittery, but feeling fuller. Salsa is family; life-giving, unwavering, and imperfect.
Just for today, I’m a Salsa Geek.