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JULY 14, 2009 1:20AM

May I politely decline this dance without being mean?

Rate: 7 Flag

I dance.  Specifically I swing dance, and I do this fairly regularly, even now that school has started and I am at this moment supposed to be studying for an exam which is tomorrow.

I've been doing all kinds of dance since I was small, but swing dancing is my favorite because I can go out and do that for an evening without any stranger attempting to grab my butt, which is more than I can say for regular club type dancing, unfortunately.

It's a fun scene, with people of all ages, and even if you do a really sexy steamy blues dance with some guy you've never met before there is an understanding that it's just play and no inappropriate behavior will be involved.  Usually.  That has happened to me maybe twice in ten years of dancing.  One guy I'd never met before kissed me on the neck when he dipped me at the end of the song, and another guy would just start grinding on me every time we danced. 

I have occasionally met guys who I've ended up dating on that scene but eventually made a rule not to do that anymore, because if you break up it becomes really awkward and usually one of you will have to stop dancing.

Currently, I'm kind of helping a good friend get acquainted with the dance and the scene, so we go to dances together almost every week.  Since I've been living and dancing on the same scene for nearly eight years now, I'm fairly familiar with most of the people who go there.  I may not know them all by name, but I know many of them and many more by their dance ability and style.  

  I'm experienced, but there are plenty of people out there who are much more experienced.  I still remember what it was like to be a beginner, so I will happily dance with a newbie if asked, and try under these circumstances to be helpful.  I will never be the snob in the dance lesson who tells someone they're not advanced enough to be in this class and please leave. 

I'm always friendly and polite, and if I don't think I can be, I won't accept the dance.  (There are people out there who won't do this, they'll dance with you and let you know they hate it the whole time. I truly don't understand why.) Declining a dance is kind of a taboo on the swing scene, according to a number of discussions I've had with other dancers. Some will argue that it's only appropriate to refuse a dance if you couple the refusal with a statement like, "this song is too fast, but I'll be happy to dance the next one with you." or if that person has behaved inappropriately in the past. 

Frankly, I don't think anyone needs an excuse to decline a dance ever, although it is best to be polite about it as much as possible.  I do know some people who opine that even if that person has caused you bodily injury during a dance before, you must not refuse them because otherwise they'll never learn.  I disagree. I only have one body, goddamit, so I will not dance with anyone who has, for instance, swung me out into another couple in a very painful way and not apologized, even when I yelled, "OW!".   Nor will I dance with any guy who doesn't ask, just grabs me by the hands and drags me onto the dance floor, unless it is a friend being cute.

There's one guy that my friend and I have noticed who we've dubbed The Creepy Guy.  Part of this is not his fault.  Nature has simply chosen to make him look that way, and I wouldn't dream of discriminating against anyone solely based on their looks.  But he compounds the issue exponentially by also acting creepy.  He has this whole act of mock chivalry that just makes me cringe.  This guy would maybe blend in a little better in an 18th century ballroom, where at least there are other guys around who bow over a woman's hand and look up at her smarmily from under their eyelashes in such a way that she must surely have to fight the urge to kick him and then go decontaminate her hand. 

That it is an act -and not even a good one- is what I think disturbs me most.  I can't help but wonder what he's trying to cover up.  Or does he honestly think women want to be treated that way?  Or does he, like the only other guy I've ever seen act like this, privately hate women?  It really is that creepy.   I've never danced with him, although I've tried to prevent this so far by not allowing myself even to be asked, because in spite of my liberated opinion on the subject, it really is very uncomfortable to decline a dance, even to someone who gives me the heebie jeebies.


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Maybe he thinks he's being very courtly and polite in an effort to overcome his disadvantage in appearance. Or maybe he's simply creepy.
I've considered that possibility, but he is definitely faking, and whatever the reason may be, fakeness is a lot creepier than any oddness of physical appearance.

I kind of want to go up to the guy and be like, "why are you putting on this act? Who are you really?"
No still means no, doesn't it?
If he's faking it, then maybe he's faking it because he thinks it's cute, or he thinks the women think it's cute? Or perhaps he just knows N-O-T-H-ING about women. That's the positive spin. The un-positive-he's creepy, he knows he's creepy, and he's just trying every way to meet vulnerable women. He knows who's vulnerable. Ewwww. Stay away, either way.
Great post and inside look at this scene. The one thing I kept thinking throughout your post was that I wish the swing dancers were more mainstream...that I could just see that dance style spontaneously at any club. It would sure beat looking at the kind of dancing that we see nowdays and would at least be more respectful, for the most part.

I guess every "scene" has a Mr. Creepy though.
Annimal, yes, whether he knows he's being creepy or not, he seems to mainly dance with the vulnerable and new women. The ones who wear pretty dresses presumably to compensate for their beginner-level skills. (I used to do that, once upon a time.)

Michael, it actually surprises me just how old fashioned swing dancers can be about this. Admittedly, this is a scene where men and women will both ask members of the opposite sex to dance, not just men asking women, and yet, considering how much physical closeness is involved in a dance, you would think people would be a little more understanding about the occasional "no thanks". It's not officially against the rules, it's just that people will say negative things about others who have declined to dance with them.