A few weeks ago, a friend of mine introduced me to one of her friends. My friend is a non-dancer, but the man introduced himself as “someone who’s been going out salsa dancing for about ten years.” Now, he gave me a bit of a strange vibe, but I’m always happy to talk dancing, and for a bit he told me about the places he used to go dancing back in the day and in turn asked if I knew any good places around town. To this point, everything is normal.

But then out of the blue, he asks, “So are you any good?”

Completely off guard, I just repeated the question back to him in that bewildered “am I hearing this right?” kind of way. And he reiterates. “Yeah, are you good? I mean, can you dance?”

What exactly does someone say to this? I’ve been learning salsa for well over a year now, but it’s not one of my principal dances. But that wasn’t the real issue here, as was the completely condescending nature of the question. So I answer vaguely. “I’m all right, I suppose. I’m still learning.”

This is when he starts peppering me with the oddest questions, some along the lines of “Do you dance side to side or front and back?” and “Do you dance with a shoe with a strap?” before he concluded “Well, I guess you’re all right.”

What?

At this point, I entered professional mode just to keep a straight face, and my friend decided he had done enough and we said good bye. And I was left standing there thinking, “What just happened?”

I’ve been asked if I dance salsa on one or two. I’ve been asked (and advised) about the soles of my shoes, and what sort of heel I like. I’ve been asked if I learned by side break or back break. But this was the first time I felt like I was being looked down on by a fellow dancer, being quizzed to show my “worth.” And without ever even seeing my dance. Did he use such over-simplified terms because he thought that was the only way I would understand, or because they were the terms he understood? Did it excuse the patronizing and belittling way he delivered these questions? Definitely not.

Did this affect me in any way as a dancer? Also not. Rather than feel angry or belittled at the encounter, I truly just wanted to laugh. This was one of “those dancers” my teacher had warned me about (and warned me to never become) and he really did sound as ridiculous as he made them seem.

Generally speaking, I don’t like the “what not to do” articles. Mainly because I read them all and end up insanely paranoid that I must be the worst person you’ve ever had the displeasure to ask to dance. There’s no more sure-fire way to make me want to apologize to everyone I ever danced with than “Ten Ways You’re Sabotaging All Your Dances” and “Is Your Backleading Ruining It for Everyone?” Is it? Am I? All of them? Everyone?

As such, I try to keep to the positive when writing about my own experiences, or at least looking for the positive in the negative. Focusing on what I should do instead of worrying about what I shouldn’t that I’m probably not doing anyway (probably. I hope. But really. Everyone?). But for this experience, I’ll break that rule and say please. Don’t be that guy.

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