As a young girl I was taught to feel ashamed of my desires. For example, when I was about four my Grandma asked me if I would like to dance like Ginger (as in Fred and Ginger). Oh, how I adored watching them dance. I looked up from her grainy black and white TV long enough to beam and nod my head, while Grandma and Mom roared with laughter at my “foolish, childish whim.”
“You’d have to practice so hard it would make your toes bleed!” Mom declared, followed by another peal of laughter.
“I could do that,” I heard a small voice come out of me. No one heard.
Mom raged about my “useless” desire to draw, too. I submitted some drawings to an art school when I was about twelve. Mom happened to answer the phone when the art school invited me for classes. “Esther will not be attending your art classes — and don’t call this number again!” was her curt reply to the befuddled salesman. She promptly turned to yell at me. “Don’t you know there is no money to be made by drawing pictures? Besides, art is for the idle-rich — and we ain’t idle or rich!”
My father yelled about my desire to hum. “Shut up, Esther! You sound like a tractor in da field, ploughing!” He had a thick Ukrainian accent and experienced difficulty with his English pronunciation. He rolled his “r” and his “th” came out sounding like a “d” followed by a “short a” sound. My humming sounded good inside my head, but I learned to keep quiet when he was anywhere near. Life was safer that way.
Shame, embarrassment and guilt were heaped on me, forcing me to shut off my creative outlets, one by one.
As an adult with a mind of my own, I asked what seemed like the logical question, “Aren’t dancing, singing and drawing normal human desires? — And I am human, right? So, why the suppression tactics?”
Suppression of desires is about how the family religion distorted normal human activities until they appeared nothing short of perverse — if said desires did not quite fit into their religious boxes of “right” and “wrong.”
So, why am I bringing this issue to the fore now? one might ask. What’s past is past.
Good point, if the past didn’t still rear its ugly head from time to time.
My partner and I have enjoyed many years of dancing together, until recently when Stan* began suffering from knee pain and elected to put dancing on hold while attending physiotherapy. His dance hiatus caused a struggle within me, as I have a soul urge to dance. So, naturally an interruption in my dance plans caused me some grief. “Oh, you selfish little girl. Don't you know you must stop dancing, too?” the voice inside my head started berating me again.
Fortunately, my dance teacher had some wise words of comfort. “Just because your partner chose to stop dancing does not mean you have to stop,” she encouraged.
Stan’s decision is temporary, after all. It’s not like he never wants to dance again — he just needs to attend to his knees.
So, I carried on by myself. I resumed dance lessons on my own. Thankfully, a great group of supportive people took up the slack at the lessons, the practices and even the Milongas. I am truly grateful that someone is usually available to dance with me — so that I can keep progressing. But, even if I had no one to dance with, I could still practice my technique.
My dance teacher knows of my passion to dance. She recognizes that I must continue to dance — I desire to excel to a level that pleases me! I have left the shame, embarrassment and the guilt of my dance desires in my dust! After all, it is impossible to suppress my soul’s desire!
When Stan chooses to resume dancing, I shall continue to be a supportive partner. After all, it never hurts to go back and refine earlier steps and technique, as these are foundational.
* Stan is not his real name
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