I was at dance class a few weeks ago and found myself very out of my comfort zone while freestyling with a guy after class. It was just so excruciatingly intimate all of a sudden, that I found myself laughing whenever the poor guy looked at me – an inane reflex reaction to hide my discomfort. Having written some very ‘intimate’ scenes between men and women, I’ve been trying to analyze exactly why I felt so weird… Here was an opportunity to learn something about myself and, of course, perhaps there’d be something interesting about the particular situation I could use in my writing.
The dancing I do is partner dancing so by it’s very nature it’s ‘intimate’, especially once you move up to the intermediate classes when the moves become more complex and include dips, drops, laybacks etc. Because the women all move around and dance with all the guys in the class, suddenly you’re groin to groin with some guy you barely know and you have to trust him not to be inappropriate, not to overstep personal boundaries and most importantly, not to drop you on your ass!
After class we all freestyle for a couple of hours and generally, I wait for the guys to ask me to dance – I’m married and make no secret of it but I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings. I don’t want to seem like I’m wanting more than just a dance or I’m ‘on the prowl’, I guess. Also, if I wait for a guy to ask me, then I know they actually like to dance with me and it’s not just a ‘pity dance’ because I’m on my own, I asked them and they’re being polite. And with the guys I know really well, we do all those intimate moves we learned in class and we have fun with it. Doesn’t matter if we stuff up, we have a laugh and move on.
So considering the body contact and therefore the ‘intimacy’ of this form of partner dancing, why was I so dreadfully out of my comfort zone in this particular instance?
Inappropriate things like the occasional groper – isn’t there always one? – who can’t keep his hands to himself aside, I’ve finally figured out it’s all in the eyes – specifically, the guy’s eyes. How he looks at me. The eye contact. Unless I was dancing solely with one partner to say, practice for a competition where the eye contact is important (which isn’t likely – me entering a dance comp, that is), or when I’m hamming it up with a partner who’s happy to ham it up, too, having a guy who’s not my husband look deep into my eyes when I’m barely inches away from him is very, very unsettling. For me, it’s even more intimate than being plastered right up against him, front to front.
I’ve realized what I usually do with these sort of moves is to look slightly over my partner’s shoulder, or downwards – anywhere except into his eyes. But this time, the guy made a point of frequently making eye contact with me which kinda freaked me out. There was nothing untoward about his behaviour: he’s a nice guy and a great dancer; he dances like that with his girlfriend and any other woman he dances with. No, it was entirely my problem and one I’ll have to find a solution for as I can hardly keep on giggling like an immature twit whenever some poor guy I’m dancing with looks into my eyes. And it’s not the first time it’s happened, either. Both times the guys couldn’t figure out what the heck my problem was and it’s not exactly a conversation you can have with someone you hardly know, is it? BTW, in the unlikely event either guy reads this blog – my apologies: it was definitely me, not you!
So from a writer’s POV, it got me thinking about physical descriptions of characters in a novel – so often when a writer wants to really get something across about how her characters are feeling to her reader, she’ll describe their eyes, for example:
His eyes darkened when he looked down at her.
Shadows chased the joy from her eyes.
His burning eyes focussed on her face.
He grinned but the humor didn’t reach his somber eyes.
His gaze was intense, sensual.
Sick realization filled his eyes.
His eyes were dead, soulless.
She met his eyes with hesitation then flushed and quickly glanced away.
She watched him, her eyes wide, her mouth slightly open.
Her eyes never left his.
When he locked stares with her it was as if they were linked body to body.
There’s something incredibly sexy about reading a really well-written scene where a man and a woman look deep into each other’s eyes… What will he see in her eyes? What will she see in his? And… where’s that intimate moment gonna take them next? It’s not called ‘soul-searching’ for nothing, I guess!
Food for thought.