The other day I went to a swing dance. I'm not great at swing dance; I've been to far more english country dances than swing dances. But it's fun anyway, so I went- after all, how different could it really be? As I soon discovered, very different. I felt like I was back in dancing kindergarten (which, admittedly, was only a few years ago for me). I remembered how difficult it can be to ask a girl to dance, and also remembered how little people seem to understand about why that is. Some guys are naturally social, and have no difficulty asking a girl to dance. Many girls don't seem to understand why a guy would go to a dance and then not ask anyone to dance with him. (However, whether man or woman, people do often seem to think that they understand, and offer encouragement that doesn't actually apply at all.) So in today's post, I would like to explain what goes through my head when I'm trying to ask a girl to dance, as well as going over the "encouragement" that always seems to be offered. Of course, while my particular concerns my not apply to every guy out there, I still think that it's good to get a more general understanding of the topic."The existence of other people is essentially awkward."
One of the most common things that I've heard is, "you're not asking her to marry you." These events aren't designed for romantic dancing, and it won't be seen as weird if you ask somebody to dance. For guys who are new to such events, it may seem odd to ask a girl to dance. Will she assume that you're interested in her in some romantic way? While this advice was helpful when I was new to dancing, it no longer applies to myself, or to people who are familiar with dances like this. The next assumption seems to be that maybe the guy just doesn't know where a girl is. It's common for somebody (often a parent) to walk over and say something along the lines of, "there are a few girls right over there." Yes, I can see them, but that's actually part of the issue.
One of the problems that I've found, which actually applies to both english country dancing and swing dancing, is that girls tend to group together. Not that that's a problem in and of itself, but if I know all of them or don't know all of them (as is usually the case) then which one do I ask to dance? In asking one girl, "may I have this dance?" I am indirectly saying to any other girl in the group, "I am not asking you to dance at this time." (While this could technically be considered to be true of any girl in the room, it's a different situation, because you aren't right there next to them.) This is a bigger issue at swing dances, because in english country dancing, everybody finds a partner at about the same time, because the dancing starts all at once. But the problem is there for socially awkward guys no matter what the setting is.
An issue that I've found in asking a stranger to dance is one of conversation. I'm bad at conversation, especially in dance, and it's easier to ask somebody that I know. In english country dancing, I've mostly gotten over this, but in swing dancing and waltzes it still applies with full force. On its own, conversation is a minor factor, but it's aggravated by dances that don't have a set end. English country dances have a specific set of moves that everybody performs at the same time, and the caller decides when the dance will begin or end. A swing dance doesn't have a set time to start or end it. How do you decide if it's been too long or too short? If a conversation gets awkward, I wait until they're not looking at me and sneak away. I can't do that in a dance.
Skill level is also something that I have to take into account. This doesn't apply as much at english country dances, partly because I'm generally good at those, and partly because everyone is doing the same thing. But in swing dance, I'm a mediocre dancer. I'm good enough that I could confuse somebody by trying the pretzel, but bad enough that I could easily bore a girl with my very limited moveset. If it's somebody that I know, I have a rough estimate of how much they match my abilities, but it's not perfect. With a stranger, I have no clue whatsoever.
To sum up the basics, if I don't ask a girl to dance, it isn't because I don't like dancing or want to avoid it, or because of any fault by the girls at the dance. It's because, as a highly awkward person, I don't want to cause offense, boredom, awkwardness, etc., which I as a person am very good at bringing about. Of course, I did dance at the dance that I went to. I didn't just stand in a corner feeling awkward. But it did take me a bit of time to figure it out. The reason I've chosen this topic is because, while encouragement is good, it doesn't make a difference if the encourager doesn't understand why there's an issue in the first place.
"I am an inexhaustible source of awkwardness."