A Single Woman’s Adventures in Ballroom Dancing

Getting back into life after being widowed is difficult but not impossible.  I speak from first-hand experience since I have been widowed twice by cancer. I had married my first husband while still very young and living at home.  When my first husband died of cancer I had my son at home so he was the reason I got up every day and moved about.  However, when my second husband died, I felt that I had no real reason to get back into living.  I was alone for the first time in my life.

I was miserable and in excrutiating pain as I grieved his loss.  I didn’t really care if I got on with life or if my life ended.  After several months of misery, I began to realize that living in that state of dispair had to end.  I began to realize that there was one thing in particular that I had done prior to marriage which I had loved and could go back to doing…ballroom dancing.

As a young girl I always loved ballroom dancing.  My mother was a dance teacher for Arthur Murray Studios before I was born and when I was about six, I attended her ballroom dancing classes in her private studio.  As a teenager, I even danced on a TV show similar to American Bandstand, called “The Larry Kane Show”.

Even though dancing was of utmost importance to me as a teenager, I never danced while married to my first husband.  After fifteen years of marriage, I became a widow when my first husband died of cancer.  About a year after my first husband’s death I married another man who couldn’t dance.  For many years, I didn’t dance.

I missed dancing very much while I was married but it just wasn’t in the cards for my two husbands to dance.  So, as a second time widow, when I found out that there were ballrooms and dance studios in my area, I was extremely excited to get back to dancing.

A girlfriend and I planned to go to Hollywood Ballroom in Silver Spring, MD for the Friday night Singles Dance.  Planning what we would wear was just like being back in high school.  She had never done ballroom dancing and I hadn’t danced for many years!  What would this adventure be like?  Would anyone ask us to dance?  Were we entering a smoke-filled arena filled with lecherous men? Was this “ballroom” in a safe place?  What if someone DID ask me to dance?  I wondered if my previous training would be helpful or a hindrance.  My friend didn’t dance at all and wondered if she could learn how to dance.

Locating the ballroom was a challenge but we got there in time for the free lesson.  My girlfriend and I trembled as we tried to execute the steps while the teacher, a former Arthur Murray teacher as my mother had been, showed how to move our feet in time to the music.  Even though I had been a dancer, the years had taken their toll on my muscles but I was exhilarated!

When the lesson ended, the real “dance” began.  Men asked those around me to dance and some brave souls even approached me.  Timid as I was, I accepted all offers and did the best I could.  Was I a great dancer?  No.  Was I even good dancer?  No.  Did I have fun as I nervously held onto my partners at an arms’ length?  YES.

After that first evening, my friend decided that dancing wasn’t for her and she didn’t want to return to the ballroom.  I had quite a dilemma because I wanted to dance but after having been married for so many years, I wasn’t sure that I could actually go to the ballroom by myself.  I didn’t know ANYONE at the ballroom.  Where would I sit?  Would anyone talk to me?  What would I do if only unattractive men asked me to dance?

All afternoon prior to the next singles dance, I worried about what I should do.  I talked to myself about what I might expect, whether or not I WANTED to try going alone, and I tried to assuage all my fears.  Then, I had an idea that made all the difference…I would go alone but with a plan.  My plan was that if I wasn’t having a good time for any reason, I would come home.  That simple thought gave me the freedom to go to the ballroom by myself.  What a liberating thought!

Once I realized that no one else cared if I went dancing or didn’t go, and that I was in charge of what happened with respect to how long I stayed and with whom I danced, my attitude changed.  I started going to the ballroom three times a week, Friday and Sunday for the singles dances and Tuesday for dance class.

Because I stepped out of my shell and tried dancing, several things changed in my life:

  • I realized I am in charge of my fun
  • I realized it is OK if my friends don’t want to do what I want to do
  • I began to lose weight
  • I began to smile again
  • I began to feel more confident
  • I got noticed by the teacher and became his demonstration assistant which made me feel special
  • I realized that it was safe to be held in a man’s arms when I was dancing
  • My life became better and I moved through my pain and grief into the rest of my life!

Getting back into life after a loss seems impossible but if you try something that you love (golf, swimming, crafting, dancing, skiing, tennis, going to the gym, going to yard sales…) you will soon see that your life canbe better and you can be happy again.

Please don’t think that I am encouraging you to forget the person who died or to avoid grieving.  I simply KNOW that since we each have 24 hours to live every day, we may as well put at least some of that time into an activity that will bring us joy.

As Katherine Murray (Arthur Murray’s wife) used to say at the end of their TV show, “Put a little fun in your life…try dancing.”

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