"Seriously," I responded to Mary Ellen, "in the middle of the afternoon? At our age? You must be kidding."
"Why not? If we wait till evening, you'll just fall asleep. Take your little blue pill and let's get going."
So I took an Aleve for my arthritis and we headed out for a class in line dancing.
We were in Florida with our friends Joy and Steve. I figured it was Joy who dragged Steve along to the community center for these lessons, but Steve tells Joy he loves the activity. So it turns out that her husband, who is a better golfer than I am and a better bowler, is also a better liar.
The sign in front of the community center said WATCH YOUR STEP, which at first I thought was a warning about an unsafe change in the flooring, or possibly a whimsical instruction for beginner dancers. But it could have also been a warning to recalcitrant seniors like me not to be uncooperative and cranky.
There were about 60 senior women in the class and a few men. I felt bad because I figured all the ladies were widows simply looking for something to pass the time of day, but when I looked out in the parking lot there were dozens of cars filled with impatient husbands peering at their iPhones or fast asleep in the driver's seat.
Stella, the instructor, was quite good at her job, but she scrutinized my every move as I tried desperately—and unsuccessfully—to follow her directions. Slide to the left. Grapevine to the right. Cha cha cha. Foot forward. Pivot. Twist. Turn around. Brush. Step. Kick. When I was certain I had all the moves right, it looked like the other 65 people were doing it all wrong. And in unison. The five men in the class were eager for the session to end and to get on with their day. I knew this because they were all dancing in their golf shoes.
Stella saw I was frustrated and advised me to just dance and not think too much. It was too late for that advice: I was already thinking about how bad I was at this, thinking of all the people staring at me, and thinking of ways I could turn this disastrous experience into a humor column. Then Steve butted in and told me that I wasn't keeping time—but that wasn’t true. I knew there were exactly 12 minutes and 45 seconds left before this torture would finally be over.
At noon, Stella excused the beginners and welcomed the intermediate class. Joy, Mary Ellen and I walked to the car, but Steve stuck around to learn some more advanced moves. About 10 minutes later he pirouetted to the car and told me that Stella said I was the worst dancer she had ever seen.
Stella may call herself a line dance instructor, but that was way out of line!