Sunday, December 21, 2008

I was not expecting this....

Ok, so let me just say that I am thoroughly ENJOYING not being in school right now! I have officially been granted temporary freedom from my indentured servitude at the academic plantation and am having a FABULOUS time reconnecting with new and old friends and doing the things REGULAR people do. Vacations are an amazing creation, and for those workaholics out there who don't believe in them...stop playing and GET INTO IT! Work hard, play harder is what I say...

Anywho, while out gallivanting with my boy WalkYourOwnPath last night, I had the bright idea for us to get real hood and hit up the notorious Jewel's Catch One to continue our evening of exploration and foolery. The Catch is not my fave when it comes to nightspots (I think Westwood is making me a bit bougie :)), but since WalkinYourOwnPath is new to LA, I figured what the hell? He needs to experience ALL of the gaydom LA has to offer :)

So we roll up, grab our libations, and hit the dance room. As expected, the lesbuns were OUT(!), the crowd leaned toward raw and thuggish, and the music was respectable but not exceptional. Meh. After downing 2 of the Catch concoctions, my homie and I were feeling pretty good so we decided to soak up the vibe and just roll with it. The go-go dancers were giving us life and the DJ got real smart and graced us with some reggae, so we were primed to get it crackin :)

REWIND JUST A BIT..about 15 minutes into us entering a club I crossed paths with a young lady that I SWORE i've met before...She noticed me as well, but we couldn't put the pieces together in time so we missed the connection. FAST FORWARD...Now after about 20 minutes of dancehall/reggae madness, I feel a tap on my shoulder...I turn around and it's her. Here's the dialogue:

Her: I KNOW you from somewhere....
Me: Yes, you do look familiar
Her: Did you go to high school at Washington?
Me: Nope....(lightbulb goes off)!!! WAIT?! Did u go to undergrad at UC Davis?!
Her: YES! I remember now!!!

Then it all rushes back to me...I knew this girl very well once. I met her my 2nd year, in dance class. African Carribean Dance and Culture class. The first "real" dance class I ever took. The dance class taught by one of my greatest creative mentors, Ms. Bobbie Bolden. The class that turned me inside out and sparked a love for dance that has pulled me through shyness, insecurity, depression, and loneliness. The love that now is capable of causing me sadness and pain (I WILL be back to 100%...and soon!). I was not expecting to experience the Catch of all places!

We gagged in celebration for a minute before she gave me the rundown about how she took off with the dancing (to the chagrin of her parents), graduated under Bobbie's mentorship, and is now pursuing her MFA at Temple and dancing for a major company! My heart swelled with pride as we reminisced about so many things that brought me joy during such a challenging point in my life...taking Bobbie's class...the psycho ballet teacher that hated us because we Black students had asses that stuck out...the challenges of choreography class...Black Repertory Theatre...letting the ENTIRE Black community HAVE IT at Apollo Night many memories all involving dance...

But then things took a somber note. After confirming that we were members of the "family", we talked about how hard it was being gay, black, and closeted in college. She was nowhere near being out in college...neither was I. For much the same reasons...fear of rejection, and fear of isolation. We didn't give a damn about the campus at large...our fear was of OUR people, the Black community. Fear of being rejected by a community that we held so dear to our hearts. Fear of a community we made personal sacrifices for to feel included. Fear of losing crucial social capital in an environment not particularly open and accepting of people and practices unmistakenly Black and afrocentric. You see, although us Black folk only held down 2.8% of the student body, the community was strong...and somewhat homogenous. Unfortunately, "gay" wasn't really a part of the equation. Instead of throwing caution to the wind and affirming who we were, we remained silent. And we suffered because of it.

Right there, on the dance floor of the Catch One, we both had an emotional moment. Tears were shed, an embrace shared, and a look between us that spoke "I understand you...and I love you". Then we cracked up at the irony of the situation. We spent damn near three years on the same campus completely oblivious of how MUCH we had in common, and we reconnect dancing our asses off in the gayest club in Los Angeles, virtually in our backyards!

Life is funny like that never know what to expect.


kennyking78 said...

Okay, first off, I like The Catch!

Second, you were in dance class and she NEVER had any clue? Come on, Stevie Wonder could have seen that! hahahahaha

Third, I find it quite interesting that you both feel that college is a place to remain closeted. I always thought that would be the ideal place to come out, but your post has shown me that there really are differing views of the same thing out there.

You are beautiful and interesting to me just the way you are...

dancehard said...

LOL as always you make me smile Kenny.

Ok, ok, so I'll stop with my hatin' on the Catch...I've gotten my LIFE there on several occasions so I can't be too cynical :)

And yes now that I think about it it was pretty OBVIOUS I was how u dooiin, but it was almost like an unspoken fact. Consistently the only male in class (black or otherwise)? Tactfully avoiding the advances of female classmates? Staring in wonder at the track boys occupying the training room adjacent to the dance studio? Yeah pretty obvious :)

And yes, for some reason a whole heap of us black folk kept our asses in the closet as undergrads. I guess we figured it was easier that way. I also had my major to think about. Exercise science.... constantly around the locker rooms...seeing folk half naked...there's a certain degree of trust and rapport that must be built. Of course I had way too much integrity to cross that like, but if you throw "gay" into the mix folks start actin a damn fool. And when it came to dance, the gay male dancer was SUCH a ridiculous stereotype...and I was considered quite a "masculine" dancer to boot :) Go figure.

All I can say is...if I knew then what I knew life would have been VERY different. Hindsight is 20-20, right?