Monday, September 12, 2005

First Dance ...

I never went to the dances in high school. I don't take dates to weddings. I once danced with Stuart Garner, the then-CEO of Thomson Newspapers, but only after he'd repeatedly mentioned my *not* dancing. I made a request of the DJ -- "something swanky" -- and approached Stuart's table, hand extended, palm up, and asked him. Stuart -- shorter than me, British -- was game. I think my colleagues were a bit surprised to see us on the dance floor, swaying to Sinatra's "Summer Wind."

The next song was something swingy, and he took my hands and started swinging them from side to side.

"No, no," I said. And pointed off the floor. We walked to where it was quiet, and I thanked him for springing for the event we were at, which was a thank you to his Chicago staffers for our continued hard work even though the company was up for sale. I shook his hand and told him, in case no one else had mentioned it, how much I respected him and what he'd done for TN.

He held my hand, post-shake, then kissed it.

That was five years ago.

Saturday, my cousin Mike was married.

His brother Dave was married three years ago. I'm at that age where younger members of the family are getting married, and I'm going to their weddings, wondering if I'll ever have one of my own.

I'm not saying that to elicit sympathy. I've gotten to a place where I've accepted that I might never get married. And I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'll stay single before I'll settle.

But there I was, at the reception, seeing people I hadn't seen since Dave's wedding. Our table was in the front row, near the head table, good reception real estate based on the seating-chart hierarchy; we're one tier below immediate family.

Our table comprised me, my mom, my dad, Dave's in-laws John, Joan and their daughter and her boyfriend, and my "aunt" Marlene and her daughter MaryBeth. ("Aunt" as in friend, not as in relation.) I sat next to John. He reminds me of John O'Hurley, he of "Seinfeld" fame and "Dancing With The Stars." Tall (taller than me), white/gray hair, handsome.

We made small talk. He asked one of the usual wedding-day questions: "Are you single, Beth?"

"Yes," I said. "I am."

He shook his head, bless his heart. "I don't understand what's wrong with men. I mean, look at you! You, Beth, are drop-dead gorgeous."

I blushed. "Well, thank you, John. That's very kind."

We moved into more substantive conversation territory. I told him about my fresh thoughts about getting into politics. John told me he leans toward conservative. He asked me what I thought of the war in Iraq.

I paused. "Oh, John, we've gotten along so well tonight ...," I said.

But he assured me that he was most interested in having a real, candid conversation, that he respects my opinions, whatever they may be. I told him about my exchange earlier in the week with Gretchen, about how glad I was that she and I could have a rational discussion about such important issues.

Turns out, John is more middle-of-the road politically than I first thought. We had a lovely conversation, even if we did have to shout half of it over the sound system. Our chat spared me from being dragged onto the dance floor for the bouquet toss.

Later, I was talking with MaryBeth, the "aunt's" daughter. John appeared next to my chair.

"Would you like to dance?" he asked.

"Why, I would love to," I said, taking his hand, excusing myself from MaryBeth.

The song was something vaguely twangy. Slow.

He put his arm around me, held my hand against his chest.

I thanked him for the earlier compliments, which he had continued to insert into our conversation after his exclamatory opening salvo. "You're good for my ego," I said.

With his hand holding mine, he pointed at me. "You should be the best person for your ego," he said.

I smiled.

Just as no one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you let them, no one can make you feel good about yourself unless you believe what they're saying. Otherwise, it won't ring true.

You know I don't believe in coincidence, and everything is a message from the universe, whether we heed them or not. They come over frequencies not everyone can hear.

Saturday night, I was listening.

I've been listening, intently, for the past couple weeks. The messages come. Sometimes, I'm ready. Usually, I'm not. Sometimes they are a big karmic kick in the head and the blow leaves me somewhat dazed. But the messages, always, they move me forward.

John is one of my messengers.

As we danced, not so much dancing, really, as that slow shifting from side to side, turning in a circle, he asked me if he could have my phone number.

"Sure," I said, knowing, as should you, that his request was entirely on the up-and-up. "It sounds a bit serious, John. Should I be worried?"

"No," he said. "I just want to talk to you about something."

Later, L.A. Dave called it. "He's going to set you up."

We'll see.

But I realized, in the car on the way home Saturday night, that John is the first man to ever ask me to dance.


Blogger Dave said...

L.A. Dave here. Let me clarify my remarks - I said that John is going to fix her up, not set her up. "Set her up" implies that there's going to be an effort to frame her for a crime or something. :)

12:39 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh, right. Right. That's what L.A. Dave said. Fix me up. Still, we'll see if he's right.

6:50 AM  
Blogger OneMan said...

Ummm, when I had the chance I kind of figured you would have said no.

(The asking to dance part)

8:18 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh, Henry!
Wow, how young *were* we, considering I didn't go to any high-school dances, and we didn't go to the same college?!
That's very sweet.
Let me assure you that if you ever ask, I'll say "yes."

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall the TN party. Which is a challenge for me as it was a while back. It occurred on the Spirit of Chicago as a dinner cruise, I believe.

I was having trouble hearing that evening due to a sinus infection. (I did most of my talking with my eyes.) But I do recall Beth's interaction with Stuart.

Beth asked Stuart "Do you rhumba? Stuart replied, "Only when I take Alka-Seltzer!"

Saucer of milk- table for two- meow!


Leonard H. McCoy, M.D.

8:00 AM  

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