I Held A Stranger’s Hand

Drawing of person dancing. Text: "Sometimes SOLITUDE is the most intimate love story"

For many years now, most Sundays, I go dancing. I’ve mostly kept this a private affair. I go by myself, dance my heart out, and leave early before the commingling begins. 

One of the three rules of this dance is “No talking on the dance floor” which supports my anonymity. In seven years, I’ve made few acquaintances, let alone friends.

For many years, this has been perfect for me. Sunday “Dance Church,” as I’ve come to call it, has been a time for me to connect with myself; to meet myself intimately and express what needs expressing.

Sometimes I dance my anger and sexuality, sometimes my joy and grief. Sometimes I dance what it would feel like to be a wind-up toy, an emerging butterfly, a teardrop. Last week I danced all the parts of an avocado from the seed to the meat to the peel.

More recently, I’ve begun craving interpersonal intimacy. I initiate dances with women which often feels ecstatic, but I’ve felt scared of the men, especially ones to whom I’m attracted. I deny my own impulses to engage, making up stories about why they wouldn’t want to dance with me.  Finally though, my desire has been outpacing my fear, so I’ve begun looking up, dancing with my heart and eyes open.

Drawing of 2 people dancing

A few months ago, my energetic “Open” sign caught the attention of a man I’d noticed for years, and we began to dance together. Oh my, we had so much fun. We shared a certain kind of playfulness and energetic boundary that made engaging with him feel easy and thrilling.

As the dance wound down, I did what I always do, and slid off to the side to get ready to leave. I was stunned when my new dancing playmate sat right down beside me and introduced himself, thanking me for our dance. 

For all the years I’ve been going there, I imagined I wore an invisibility cloak that kept me from contact. He just busted right through that illusion by saying “Hello.” I felt welcomed. I felt included. I felt seen. 

Since then, I’d often wait for him to approach me again at Dance for my source of connection. But last week, he didn’t show. I danced like I didn’t care, but of course I did. I kept watching the door, and…nothing.

Eventually, another man caught my eye. I liked the way he moved, strong, integrated, introspective.  I felt the desire to dance with him and tried several times, unsuccessfully, to catch his attention. I began making up stories about why he wouldn’t engage. “He doesn’t like me.” “He has a girlfriend.” “I’m too forward.” “I’m not forward enough.” “I’m invisible.” 

Drawing of dancer with a broken heart

Between these two experiences, the no-show and the rejection, I began to feel my heartbreak. It wasn’t the heartbreak of romantic love, but the familiar pain of unmet desire.

I did what I know how to do, and I began to dance my sadness myself.  For several songs, I kept trying to “move it through” but the ache remained, the feelings of abandonment and loneliness persisted. Finally, I realized the feelings weren’t going away because I still wanted connection and I wasn’t getting it.

Byron Katie tells of a time during her awakening when she often needed to be held.  When the desire arose, she would simply ask the nearest person to hold her. She says she was never turned down. This came to my mind then. 

Not quite as bold as Katie, I looked around for a familiar face, an old friend I haven’t spoken to in ages. When I found him standing quietly in a corner, I walked right up to him and asked “Can I have a hug?”  

He opened his arms and I fell into them. I stayed there for a few seconds. A minute. Then the tears began to flow. Then the sobbing.  He just held me there in my disappointment, my longing, my heartbreak. It was like being held by the warm trunk of a tree; maybe and avocado tree. For five minutes or more, I stayed there, wrapped in his branches, letting the waves move through. 

Comic: One person is comforting another. 
Person 1: "What can I do?"
Person 2 : "you're doing it"

Eventually the sadness melted into relief, then into space, then into joy, then into freedom, and I was ready to dance again. I thanked my friend who, brilliantly, did not ask a single question. He kissed me on the cheek, opened his arms, and released me back into the pack.


For the first time in years I chose to stay until the end of the Dance. As the last song wound down, I found myself resting next to the man who, earlier, would not dance with me. The MC of the event invited us all to make eye contact with someone nearby. I turned to look at the man; he stared straight ahead.

I thought of all those years I’d danced in my invisibility cloak, and how meaningful it had been when someone broke my cover to say, “Hello.” I decided to let go of my assumptions about why this man wouldn’t look at me.

I rested my hand gently on his knee and he turned and looked right at me.  He took my hand and held it tightly.  Even when the announcer told us to thank our DJ and the room began to applaud, he continued gripping my hand in his.

The Dance was now officially over and I introduced myself. I told him how I appreciated the way he moved. We talked a while, and he thanked me sincerely for reaching out and connecting with him.

I smiled as I left the ballroom, emerging into the Sunday sunlight with two revelations:  First, It’s ok to want what you want and ask until you get it. And second, people are nice and you are not alone. 

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