Sweet on Salsa

A woman’s search for love ends—and begins—on the dance floor.

Wasn’t Valentine’s Day just yesterday? Or was that New Year’s Eve? Was Valentine’s Day the day before New Year’s Eve? It feels like it was. Frankly, it’s difficult to keep track of the never-ending cycle of lovers’ holidays pummeling me faster and more furiously with each passing year.
And now it is Valentine’s Day again … and I am still single.
My neighbors are coupled, my family is coupled, most of my friends are coupled. My daughter is away at college and my son … well, my son is 15. I cannot force him to take his mom to yet another V-Day dinner.

So what will I do? I know exactly what I will do.

Last summer, while still in pajamas at three o’clock in the afternoon, I realized I was depressed and lonely. I needed to get out of the house, back into my body and back into the land of the living. But I wasn’t up for bars or the hassles of parking at the beach. Gelson’s could provide only so much social stimulation. Online dating was a bust—and don’t even get me started on Tinder.
This is when a wise and happy-in-her-own-skin, single-mom friend suggested I join a Meetup. The website helps people with shared interests—from ornithology to sushi making—connect at planned events.
The universe pointed me in the direction of salsa dancing. I’d always wanted to be one of those beautiful girls with the fancy dress and sparkly shoes, dipped and twirled to the clave rhythm of bongos, timbales and brass. I wanted to spin. Why not give it a try?

We were a motley crew at the Blue Starz dance studio in Sherman Oaks: some Latin dudes half my age, a Russian gentleman, a couple of bewildered happy-hour gals, a darling Eastern European teacher and me—a middle-aged, brokenhearted ex-housewife who was easily a foot taller than anyone in the room.
But when we started to move to the beat—those basic steps of 1-2-3-hold-5-6-7—we came to life. Differences like age, language and size melted away.
I began hitting the local clubs, all of which offered inexpensive classes before opening the floor to “social dancing.” I was moving my body, meeting new people, dressing up and whirling to the music. Suddenly I was far from lonely.

I’ve discovered salsa is everywhere, every night, in every part of town—lessons, teams, magnificent live bands, pool and birthday parties. Everyone is invited, always. In salsa, it is appropriate for a woman to go clubbing solo. With no pressure to drink, she can dance the night away for less than a movie theatre ticket.
But my favorite part of salsa is the courtly manners. Built on the principles of how a gentleman should treat a woman, with respect and thoughtfulness, salsa is a dance of the fingertips. It operates on the philosophy of connection; a dance based on touch, eye contact and smiles.

Another bonus: I have danced away 10 pounds. I can now totally rock the pretty dress, not to mention the sparkly shoes. And while I may not yet have a special someone, this Valentine’s Day when the world is canoodling, I will be on a dance floor, surrounded by sound, getting lost in the music … ah the music. And given the right partner, I will spin and spin and spin.

Kathleen Laccinole is a freelance writer and contributor to esme.com. She also writes on the site under the pseudonym P. Charlotte Lindsay for the regular column “Tinder Loving Care.”