Mission 3: Learn how to two-step.
Objective: For some inexplicable reason, I was envisioning line dancing when I committed to two-stepping. Whoops. The objective of line dancing was to learn a dance that didn’t require a partner and embrace the spirit of the cowgirl – a woman with grit who gets right back on that horse. (The latter still applies!)
Mission reportSome critical stuff went down before the mission: I bumped into my ex for the first time since our break-up, and days later, made a darned fool of myself in front of his friend. For the past few months, I’d been dreading the inevitable moment when I would see Tom around town. Admittedly, I wasted a tiny portion of brainpower on petty concerns. “What if I have a zit? What if the zit is so big, it technically has me?” Most of all, I worried about the form and severity of emotional impact I’d be subjected to. Sometimes you’re chugging along, entirely devoted to your break-up recovery, and that first glimpse of your old flame triggers instantaneous agony. The reflex makes you wonder, “What happened to my progress?” This time, I was somehow spared that misery, but an equally dangerous reaction took its place – I felt deeply happy to see him. He rode up on a bike behind me as I walked, and slowed down to gently touch me. Alarmed by the contact and the unknown source, my defensive instincts kicked in: I hunched my shoulders and cowered toward the side of the walkway like a helpless turtle. Worse yet, my bulbous hiking pack looked like a shell I had outgrown. We caught up on general life updates, broached some relationship topics, and hugged it out. Seeing him was lovely, cathartic and – for all its goodness – scary.
The encounter with Tom’s friend was a motherlode of shame. I was unseasonably sweaty when we noticed each other at the top of a trail system. In a flustered panic, I held him hostage with conversation, hoping to conjure one charming comment and save face. Instead, I took special care to expound on outlandish injuries I’m fearful of sustaining, even though they are exclusively caused by the hijinks of Looney Tunes characters. “Do you have any weird fears?” I asked. Before long, I hit him with the question that’s on everyone’s lips this season: “Do you have any big plans for fall, such as harvesting gourds?” He misheard me and thought I had said “boards,” so I repeated myself twice more. Enunciating the word “gourds” loudly and slowly at someone’s face is probably considered verbal assault in some states. After that performance, I regressed to juvenile prattle and mentioned five species of animals and reptiles.
As for the mission itself … I tried not to cop a ’tude when I realized my line dance/two-step mix-up, but fresh out of a relationship, the quasi-intimacy of dancing with a stranger wasn’t sounding awesome. I considered excuses to avoid touching someone else that would be too perplexing to dispute. “Hyper-sensitive finger pads” was a top contender, along with “Moth Hand Syndrome,” a debilitating condition in which my hands disintegrate like moths upon contact. I went to the Wild Horse Saloon on a Wednesday before the 6:30 p.m. class, and was greeted by a man (30 or more years my senior) who asked where my partner was. Gordon wasn’t a first-timer, and through continued conversation, we organically arrived at a partnering. All night, my read on him vacillated between “real peach” and “borderline cad.” The teacher instructed the women to put our hands on our butt cheeks to get a feel for the muscle movement, and Gordon asked me, “Need another hand?” While dancing, I was amused by his silliness and impish deviation from the steps, but he uncomfortably lingered on my back when all the other partners had released each other.
Two-stepping was simple enough, the teacher was sassy and great, and the other participants were sociable … but by nature, the activity was more couple-friendly. Epitomizing a solitary cowboy from a Louis L’Amour novel, I left the saloon feelin’ mighty lonely. Gordon insisted on walking me home, which is very kind in theory, except that I insisted against it no less than 10 times. I had to travel in the wrong direction to conceal my address, yet still kept my demeanor genial throughout my entreaties to be left alone; the possibility that this was an overbearing attempt at chivalry tempered my compulsion to be stern. I eventually broke free and determined my paramount takeaway from this bummer of a mission: a well-meaning gesture becomes disrespectful when it’s forced after being declined. I don’t need to maintain politeness when I’m made to feel unsafe.
Next mission: Barhop to three places alone.
Outcome: Mission Muddled?
Skills Improved/Commendations: Rug Cutting, Assertiveness
Heart-mending Effectiveness (out of 5 hearts): ♥
Cassidy Cummings enjoys the exclusivity of being the only guest eating the garnish at any given shindig.