Monday, May 20, 2013

You're Nobody Until You're Talked About

  The small mirrored room was filled with people when I entered the ballroom lesson. I caught sight of a few familiar faces: there was Barath, the guy who had been the very first to ask me to dance at my first ballroom party a few weeks ago, there were several of the newcomers whom I had become friends with  in the few short weeks since I had decided to join the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Team, and of course there was James.

I dropped the phone like it had burst into flames. I looked around me, vaguely wondering if someone was playing a prank on me. The tiny pizza place was buzzing as it typically would be on a Friday night. My tables were all fine, and it wasn't like my boss could fire me for being on my phone considering I had put in my two weeks less than a week ago. 
"Brandy," I caught my friends' arm as she started to type in an order, "Remember me telling you about that James guy I danced with at a party? He's like the captain of the ballroom team and all that?"
"Yes," Brandy answered, giving me one of those looks that a best friend gives you when she knows exactly what you're about to say.
"He just messaged me on Facebook, he asked me if I was doing anything tonight."
"Xaylia..." Brandy began.
"I've already got plans, but... Oh my Chanel," I squealed with excitement for a half-second before pulling myself together.
"Quick question," Brandy said with a smirk, "How old is he?"
I pursed my lips, "I don't know," I said tightly, "Don't judge me."
"You have a bit of a track record when it comes to older guys, Xaylia."
"There was just the one!" I hissed, not daring to say Ian's name considering everyone we were working with knew him. James was obviously older than me, but I clearly had no opposition to older guys. 
When the restaurant slowed down enough not to need all of the servers who were there for the height of the dinner rush, I was quick to do my cleaning before heading over to Ann Arbor to join Whitney and her friend Becky for a night of intoxication featuring illegal beverages. I had a fifth of my favorite peach Ciroc waiting for me at her dorm and it was calling my name. 
"So James messaged me on Facebook," I said with a flat tone when Whitney came down to let me into her dorm. 
"He did?" Whitney looked surprised, "What did he say?"
"He asked me what I was doing tonight."
"I told him I already had plans with you,"I smiled cheerily, as if this James thing meant absolutely nothing. 
"Seriously Xaylia, stay away from him. Carly told me that the upper-level girls make fun of all the newcomers that hook up with James."
"No worries," I waved my hand airily, "Now, where's my Ciroc?"

"So," James swept me up into the close hold of the tango, "How was last night?"
"Fun," I shot him a quick smirk, before looking over his shoulder. I knew it wouldn't be long into the lesson until he scouted me out to dance with him, "Didn't even end up leaving the dorm, one of those kind of nights."
"Well you could have been having an even better time with me," James said simply as we set off doing the basic step.
"I told you, should have asked me earlier," I said, my airy tone matching his, making it clear I wasn't buying it.
"You coming to Guys and Girls night?"
"Of course, I'm looking forward to it."
Guys and Girls night was a night at the start of the semester where all of the girls on the team got together and all of the guys got together to talk about dance-y things, and then got together as a full group and got wasted.
At least that's how I thought it was going to be.
I had on one of those outfits that was designed to take me through the entire day, from work, to dance, to a party: My A&F jeggings were stupidly comfortable, enough to be able to dance in, and a blue chiffon floral print tank was layered over a blue lace bralette from Victoria's Secret for added comfort for a day that wasn't about to end any time soon. The chiffon tank had a set of ruffles at the hem, which gave it added movement for dancing both at the lesson and at the party. It was a look that said, "I live such a busy jet-setting life, I can't even change my clothes," and the abundance of moose-logo-ed things said, "Look what a cool job I have."
When we went to go change partners, an unexpected pair of eyes caught mine across the room. It was Joey, and dancing with him was the slightest bit of torture: he was so nice, and he wasn't exactly bad at ballroom. He was funny, and we found our conversations running into the start of the next set of movements we were supposed to be practicing. And when we had to switch partners again, we promised to find each other at the party tonight. If I couldn't have him as a partner, we could at least be friends.

"I don't think we've met."
The lesson had ended and I was in the process of swapping my ballroom shoes for navy converse and I glanced at the guy standing to my right, "Probably not. I'm Xaylia," I held out my hand.
"Jonathan," he shook my hand, "So you're Xaylia?" He asked.
"Um, yeah," I glanced awkwardly at the floor. It wasn't like I was lying about my name...
"I've heard of you-" Jonathan began.
"It's probably the name," I shrugged, "Not exactly very common-"
"No, it's not that," he cut me off, "You just transferred, or something, right?"
I nodded.
"Where from?"
I rattled off the name of the local community college, "It's sort of surreal being here honestly."
"So what made you join ballroom?" he asked, genuinely interested.
"I did a bit of ballroom back in like, seventh grade, and had to stop because I couldn't find a partner. I did a semester of ballet at community college, so it just seemed like something I would like," I smiled.
"Yeah, being on the team is fantastic..." I tuned out whatever Jonathan was saying until he was pulled away by another team member, only really focusing on one thing.
He had heard of me. People were talking about me. I had no idea why, but I felt like a character in one of my favorite books: one of those girls people did talk about. A Blair Waldorf, a Skye Hamilton: an alpha.
I smiled. I had a good feeling about this school. I had a good feeling about the slightly reckless decision to join ballroom. I had a good feeling about whatever this night was going to bring.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Epic Fail

"Ok, we're both coming out of this with partners, agreed?" I said, and Whitney nodded before pushing open the door to the loft studio where the ballroom team practiced. It was a Tuesday night and we were on a mission: we needed partners.
Whitney and I were officially on the team. I had made up my mind probably before I stepped on to the dance floor a few Thursday nights ago. I think it was the moment I pulled my shoes out of my closet and when I had stepped on that dance floor and was able to pick up what was going on without any instruction, I knew this had to meant to be. Whitney decided with a bit more thought to join me (she was probably the more rational one). And here we were, in yoga pants and ballroom heels, scouting out partners.
We both had our eyes on someone: I had met this guy, Joey, at one of the first lessons and it turned out he was in marching band in high school just like me, and he seemed like a cool enough person. Whitney saw potential in this guy named Josh, and we just needed to see if their enthusiasm for ballroom matched ours. Girls outnumbered guys on the team, and we knew we had to move fast if we wanted partners. Tonight was our night to strike.
"Who is she?" I whispered to Whitney as some blonde chick accompanied Josh into the studio, "Have we seen her before?"
"No idea," Whitney's eyes narrowed, sizing up this unexpected competition.
When we first partnered up, the blonde moved right to Josh, and Whitney and I swapped a concerned glare. We switched partners every couple of repetitions, and it wasn't long until I ended up dancing with Joey.
Joey had a slightly rebellious look to him: a persistent scruff and a nose ring. It matched my own edgy style, which I was finding was perfectly suited to the world of ballroom dancing.
I had perfect dresses for dancing, cute little skirts, an endless array of tops to be paired with leggings, and far too many pairs of yoga pants for when I felt lazy. It was as if my closet was telling me this was meant to be.
And when your closet talks to you, you listen.
Today's outfit included my favorite Victoria's Secret leggings that had a black sequin stripe running down the side and a black lace trapeze tank. My hair was waved so it had more motion as I twirled.
There wasn't anything unusually special about Joey's dancing, he was simply a nice guy. He had a sense of humor, and for the ten minutes we danced, he seemed to have potential.
"I can't believe this," Whitney was glaring at blondie, who hadn't switched partners when it was called for. She had been dancing with Josh for the entire lesson so far.
"Go cut in," I urged her.
"Saw you dancing with Joey," Whitney whispered.
I gave her a thumbs-up as we received a last bit of instruction and set to partner up again.
But the guy who strode across the room and offered his hand to me next was someone who was becoming quite familiar to me: a certain captain of the team named James.
It was normal for James to help out at the newcomer lessons, but I happened to notice it was unusual for him to dance with any one girl as much as he danced with me. I had counted.
Dancing with James was actually amazing. He didn't stop when the music stopped, and would throw in an extra step, or spin, or dip, or something when everyone else stopped moving. I think I got exponentially better when I danced with James which was, luckily for me, decently frequent.
But then we didn't change partners, and I ended up dancing with James for the solid last hour of our lesson. Good for my personal development as a dancer, bad for finding a partner.
"So, I'm on a mission," I said to James, crossing my arms over my chest as we finished the part of the dance we were working on, "I've got to find a partner."
"Ahhh," said James, following my gaze across the room, "Do you have anyone in mind?"
"I was thinking about Joey, he seems pretty decent, and a nice guy," I mused.
"I'll put in a good word for you," James said encouragingly.
"Thanks," I said, genuinely surprised.
I saw James drift over to talk to Joey as the lesson drew to a close-
"Have you danced before?"
A high-pitched voice belonging to the girl Whitney and I had nicknamed "Minnie Mouse" cut into my reverie.
"Um, not really. I did a tiny bit back in seventh grade, but had to stop because I couldn't find a partner. I did a semester of "beginning ballet" at community college," I shrugged.
"Really?" said Minnie Mouse's friend who was standing next to her.
"You must be really good, you can keep up with James," Minnie Mouse said, her eyes flicking in an obvious once-over.
My eyes narrowed quizzically, "Is that not normal?"
Both girls shook their heads, staring at me.
"I mean, I just follow," I shrugged my shoulders, trying to appear modest but inside I was secretly about to jump out the open studio window and start flying in excitement.
Maybe I could be good at this...
"-Do you want to be partners?"
My head snapped around as I heard someone ask the infamous question, and it wasn't Whitney.
It was whoever Joey had been dancing with for the majority of the lesson while I had been dancing with James. She was asking Joey to be her partner.
And instead of flying out the window in excitement, I was a pile of bones and clothes smashed on the pavement below.

"Back to the drawing board," I sighed as Whitney and I left the studio together, "That was an epic fail."
"Josh brought that dumb bitch who isn't even that good, I was watching them-" Whitney hissed darkly.
"And I ended up dancing with James the entire time, which gets me no where in looking for a partner," I added with only a half-disheartened tone.
"You need to be careful of him," Whitney said suddenly.
"I've heard James tries to hook up with all of the newcomers," Whitney said, an edge of warning to her voice.
"Well I'm sure I'm not on his list," I said with a side-glance at Whitney as we walked back to her dorm before I would split for my car, "I'm short, have no boobs, and more self-confidence than most easy girls have," I said with a shrug.
Whitney glared, "Xaylia, everyone's talking about you."
"What are you talking about?"
"Carly and Alex told me; everyone's asking who you are. You're gorgeous."
I stared, "What the fuck is wrong with this world? There are like a million prettier newcomer girls-"
Whitney rolled her eyes at me.