“Like a Virgin” by Arthur Wooten printed in the June 1997 issue of Times Squared

In this article Arthur remembers beginning his love affair with square dancing.

Well, I was “like a virgin”, figuratively speaking of course, until I graduated from the Mainstream Class this past May. Phew! It took nine months to birth this baby.

Last September, four days after the break-up from a ten-year relationship, two dear friends who are in Plus literally dragged me to the open house. I guess they thought this was cheaper than therapy and since I am the caretaker/referee type I agreed to show up at PS 3 just to calm then down.

Square Dancing! I remembered doing it at the November Club in Andover, MA where I grew up. I was ten years old and the girls would line up on one side with the boys on the other. Even then I knew in my heart that all I wanted to do was dance with the boys. We, too, had club uniforms. Blue blazers, white shirts, grey dress pants, those hideous crisscross ties that snapped in the middle and white gloves. The thought of do-sa-doing and allemande left-ing, left me mildly nauseous. So, on that fateful September evening, I girded my loins, took a deep breath and danced m first square dance as an adult.

To tell the truth, the whole night’s a whirling blur and when the dance was over, I found myself stumbling down Christopher Street in a half-daze and worried to death. What was the problem? I loved it! I loved the dancing, the people, the geekiness (excuse me), the silliness of it. I just loved it. And I thought, what the hell do I Do ow? Well, you go back. And I did. Again, and again, like to many of the other new club members.

But the early weeks were rough. I had mixed emotions. Trying to make every Thursday night available, exhaustion from work, awkwardness with meeting strangers, performance anxiety, and angels breaking squares down. (Tee-hee!) Some weeks were easy, others seemed like an unbearable struggle. But that allowed us novices to complain to one another and bond quickly.

And then there were the dances… Peel the Pumpkin, Boxing Day, Sheldon Green Valentine’s Dance, St. Elmo’s Fire … each allowing us to dance to new callers, with different members and slowly but surely gain more confidence.

Enough so that I mustered up the courage to volunteer for the exhibition dance. At the first rehearsal, I feared that I was in way over my head until I looked around and realized that everyone else was just as discombobulated. Thanks God the choreographer did not yell at me! (Just kidding!) I’m glad I stuck it out because it was challenging, and I met more new friends and it took me to … Trenton!

Good old Trenton, where I mastered the art of dancing with no hands with not just one but several straight male dancers. I still have mixed emotions about the trip. It was definitely a “psychological whack” but the experience was important for me. I too, must keep my mind open and my prejudices in check. To be fair!! I also danced with some straight men that held me tighter and closer than most gay men! (I have their phone numbers if anyone is interested.)

Most recently I did my first fly-in to Rehoboth. It was terrific to see so many of my Mainstream class members there. I had a great time. We danced to fabulous callers with friendly strangers from several different states and all at the beach! Who could ask for anything more? By now you’re probably thinking that I’m hooked I am. I’m addicted. Call me madcap but I’m going to the convention in Las Vegas, looking forward to Square Dance de Soleil in tights the nude Moonshine tip and all the people I’ll meet.

But now I’ve graduated Mainstream and will move on to Plus in the fall. I may be having nightmares about learning new square dance calls but I’m grateful that the club has allowed me to emerge from a self-imposed cocoon. And maybe my friends still snicker when I tell them I’m off to square dance, but I just smile because I know I’m the lucky one. I get to spend the evening dancing with the girls … and the boys.