A short rant about contra dance etiquette

September 2013

Occasionally, while talking about the etiquette of asking people to dance at contra dances, someone voices the opinion that if someone asks you for a dance and you turn them down, you’re obliged to sit out that dance (e.g. 1, 2).

And, I’m sorry, what? How do people still think this is a good idea?

Let’s start with how broken the partner-finding model already is in contra. At many dances it’s Just Not Done for women to ask men to dance. And even where it is Done, it’s an exception to the rule, so there’s almost as much of a hunter/hunted dynamic going on. Many of my women friends worry that people will “read too much into it” if they ask a man to dance. This sucks for everyone for obvious reasons: women don’t get to choose who they dance with and men are constantly competing.

Now consider the effect of the “if you refuse a dance, you must sit out” rule. The parties being asked are nearly always women, so the burden of the “rule” falls on them. This is pretty terrible for a couple reasons:

  1. Women already have much less say in who they dance with, and this essentially obliterates any remaining choice. You dance with the first person who asks you or not at all.

  2. Lack of partner choice hurts women more than men. Contra is a very welcoming community, which is great except that it means that most dances have at least a couple “creepy old guys” (or not-so-old guys). Even without this rule I’ve known women feel uncomfortable refusing to dance with them and this turning them off contra entirely. This kind of regressive “rule” makes the situation even worse.

You might argue that this rule exists to encourage people to be inclusive. Some forms of refusing dances can be damaging to the community; for instance, cliques of experienced dancers who only dance with each other can make a dance unwelcoming to newbies.

However, this seems to happen even without people explicitly refusing to dance with newbies when asked (hi Concord!). So the norm of “dance or sit out” does unintentional damage to the contra community (by forcing women to dance with people who make them uncomfortable, or sit out when they want to dance), and doesn’t prevent the damage it’s “intended” to (exclusive cliques can still form): a clear failure. The right way to discourage anti-social behavior like refusing newbies, is to have social norms that reward dancing with newbies, not roundabout rules that miss their target entirely.

So much for that reason, then. I’m guessing the real reason the dance-or-sit-out norm still exists is to protect people’s egos. But in practice, as someone who would almost always be on the wrong side of being refused, that’s a fruitless goal. I can tell if someone would rather not be dancing with me. If they’re forced to because of silly etiquette, they won’t have fun, and so I won’t have fun either! In fact, it’ll be much less fun than just getting rejected, which is something everyone should learn how to deal with anyway!

So, dancers, please: if you don’t want to dance with someone, you can refuse! Drag our social mores out of the depths of the nineteenth century and into the daylight of 2013!

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Kate P

It’s really interesting to read your thoughts on this, because this is something that I’ve been thinking about recently. I haven’t been dancing much this summer for various reasons, but I went to Concord last Thursday and it was one of the least pleasant contra experiences I’ve ever had. Partially because I just started feeling queasy part-way through the evening, which unfortunately can’t be fixed by re-evaluating contra etiquette, but mostly because I felt more… objectified? than I ever had at a dance before. I don’t know if that’s exactly the right word for it, but I definitely felt like more men were looking at me as a woman in a low-cut shirt, as opposed to a person with whom to dance.

I have a personal policy of sitting out every other dance at least, because I get really dizzy while dancing and don’t want to throw up all over my partner’s shoes. Ordinarily this is fine, but last week I felt really guilty about it, because men kept coming up to me and asking me to dance, then walking away when I said no. Maybe there were fewer women than men that night, but I definitely felt pressured to dance. At least one older man asked me to dance twice–different dances–but it just happened to be on dances that I was going to sit out anyway! It wasn’t personal! But I think he was taking it that way.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have absolutely no problem telling people that I don’t want to dance with them, but I do feel like I have to be nice about it; say “no thanks!” with a smile and a slight laugh. This is really frustrating. The problem isn’t just on the parts of people not refusing dances, it is also on the parts of people who either are unwilling or unable to take no for an answer. I say “people” but I think it’s a pretty gendered thing, at least in Concord; most of the folks asking to dance are men, and most of the folks being asked are women.

Solutions? Well, one thing I’m thinking about is going to different dances! There are self-proclaimed “gender-role-free” dances in Jamaica Plain that I’m interested in, and it’s my hope that those will have much less of the icky unspoken coercion that since I’m a young woman who’s a pretty good dancer, I must dance every dance.

The other solution is, well, let me ask you a question. As a(n as far as I know) straight man, would you feel uncomfortable if another man asked you to dance? Because if there are more men than women at a given dance, a really easy way to ease the pressure on women is to start asking each other.

(Sorry for the essay… how are you?)


Ben

Thanks for the comment, Kate!

What do you think would have improved your experience at Concord? From what you wrote it seems like there are a couple things you could be uncomfortable with and I can’t tell which (any? all?) were the uncomfortable ones:

Solutions? Well, one thing I’m thinking about is going to different dances! There are self-proclaimed “gender-role-free” dances in Jamaica Plain that I’m interested in, and it’s my hope that those will have much less of the icky unspoken coercion that since I’m a young woman who’s a pretty good dancer, I must dance every dance.

There are also dances in Porter Square that are not explicitly gender-free but might feel less “icky” than Concord.

The other solution is, well, let me ask you a question. As a(n as far as I know) straight man, would you feel uncomfortable if another man asked you to dance? Because if there are more men than women at a given dance, a really easy way to ease the pressure on women is to start asking each other.

Yeah, in fact I ask men to dance reasonably often (including at gender-balanced dances). I think killing gender roles in contra is separately a super

important thing to do and worthy of its own (much larger and better thought-out) rant.


Ruthie

Wait, women aren’t supposed to ask people to dance? Someone should tell me these things before I go around screwing it up all the time.

@Kate: ++ to the Porter Square contras. I also had a series of negative social experiences at Concord (different, but maybe multiple sides of the same many-sided coin) and basically switched to only dancing there until I left the area. On the other hand, keep in mind that you are totally not seeing an unbiased sample of dancers giving you advice here, given that there is a direct chain of causality between my regular attendance at the Porter Square contras and my commenting on this blog post…


Ben

Yeah, Ruthie, better cut that out. Nothing good can come of you subverting gender roles…

Also, Kate, never apologize for a wall of text to another Commonwealth student :P I’m great! Are you back in the area? We should catch up sometime.


Sam R

Norm Proposal! Leads and follows alternate on who asks whom with each new song. This gives follows (read: women) more freedom with who to dance with and it takes some of the pressure off of leads (read: men) to always be having to put themselves out there.


Wang

Kate, did it really make you uncomfortable that people would walk away after you refused to dance with them? I figured Ben was misreading your comment, since I don’t really see what else you would expect them to do.

Regarding the dance-or-sit-out convention, I wonder if it would make more sense in the context of its time. For example, in the “depths of the nineteenth century,” I think it was also common to have a dance master whom women could ask to introduce them to men, and the etiquette was that the man must then ask the woman to dance. So it was still coercive, but in some sense more even-handedly so.

I don’t know of any help for the poor schmuck who just keeps getting asked to dance, though. It was certainly frowned upon to ask repeatedly a woman who kept refusing, but I don’t expect that frowning was significantly more effective back then.

Anyway, I’ll close by offering an unsolicited response to Kate’s question: I’m a heterosexual man who does dance with men. I wouldn’t be offended if a man were to ask me to dance. I would probably accept. I don’t ask men to dance, though, unless I know they would be okay with it. Some people aren’t, and I don’t go to contras to make a political point.

However, if I didn’t know the man I’d ask to start in the gent’s role with the possibility of switching after a few progressions. And if it turned out that this man was a bit too boisterous for me, I would never switch. I really don’t understand why women let strangers twirl them on the first progression. You have no idea who you’re dealing with. Why do you trust them not to smack you into a wall?


Ben

Wang:

Regarding the dance-or-sit-out convention, I wonder if it would make more sense in the context of its time. For example, in the “depths of the nineteenth century,” I think it was also common to have a dance master whom women could ask to introduce them to men, and the etiquette was that the man must then ask the woman to dance. So it was still coercive, but in some sense more even-handedly so.

Sure, maybe it made sense back then. I’m talking about the present day, though; what doesn’t make sense is that people try to argue that the continued existence of this rule is a good thing.


Keller Scholl

Kate, I don’t do Contra, but I do enjoy Swing dancing, which has follower-leader, asking to dance, and what I have called assumed gender roles (until I have reason to believe otherwise, I expect that men will lead and women will follow. It certainly happens on a reasonably regular basis that that is not the case, but it is true frequently enough.) You said that you don’t like it when people ask you to dance, and walk away after a rejection. I do this frequently, with the goal of finding someone else to dance with if I am rejected. What would be a less guilt-inducing alternative to my current approach?


Victor

I agree that one should be comfortable refusing without feeling required to sit out. A simple “no thank you” is a good response. If it’s someone you’d really like to dance with at another time, adding a few words such as “I’ll look for you later”, or “please ask me another time”, might be a good idea.


Ben H

I feel that you have a few things wrong about contra etiquette, at least from what I was taught and have observed.

First and foremost, it is perfectly acceptable and encouraged for women to ask men to dance. I can understand the concern of your women friends who feel men may “read too much into it,” but as long as it’s an encouraged part of the culture, there shouldn’t be many problems in the long run.

Secondly, “I already have a partner” and “I want to sit out this dance” are perfectly acceptable reasons to refuse a dance. “I just don’t want to dance with you” is a bit rude, and should generally be done only if the guy is creepy. I understand that many women will use the “I need to sit this one out” reason as a way to politely refuse a creepy guy, but sometimes being a little rude is the way to encourage the guy to be less creepy.

Other than that, the point of the norm is that you should accept a dance with anyone who wants to dance with you so you socialize with new people. This applies to men as well, when asked by women. And while I do think there may be room for improvement, I don’t think the contra community as a whole is doing that bad with it.


Ben

Ben H:

First and foremost, it is perfectly acceptable and encouraged for women to ask men to dance. I can understand the concern of your women friends who feel men may “read too much into it,” but as long as it’s an encouraged part of the culture, there shouldn’t be many problems in the long run.

There shouldn’t, and yet somehow there are.

(First: What part of the country are you from? Etiquette and norms vary by region. Most of my experience is with dances local to Boston.)

Sure, I would accept people asking me to dance. What I meant by “Just Not Done” in the post is that women asking men to dance is not a norm; in your words, it may be encouraged, but it’s certainly not encouraged enough. I’ve danced asked probably 500 different people to dance, and been asked to dance by maybe 10, most of whom I was already friends with. This is clearly not the social optimum, for the reasons I outlined above, and so we ought to encourage it more than we currently do.

Secondly, “I already have a partner” and “I want to sit out this dance” are perfectly acceptable reasons to refuse a dance.

Yes, I know. I mentioned that the norm was either to accept the first person who asks or to sit out the dance.

“I just don’t want to dance with you” is a bit rude, and should generally be done only if the guy is creepy. I understand that many women will use the “I need to sit this one out” reason as a way to politely refuse a creepy guy, but sometimes being a little rude is the way to encourage the guy to be less creepy.

I’m not creepy (I hope), but there are probably people who don’t enjoy dancing with me for other reasons. Maybe I swing too fast, or I’m too tall, or I remind them of someone they don’t like. Whatever the reason is, if I accidentally ask one of these people to dance, I don’t want them to say yes because they’re stuck between two crappy alternatives (dancing with me and not dancing). And I think that people who would prefer them to say yes in that situation should grow a thicker skin and stop making others unhappy to preserve their own egos.

Other than that, the point of the norm is that you should accept a dance with anyone who wants to dance with you so you socialize with new people. This applies to men as well, when asked by women. And while I do think there may be room for improvement, I don’t think the contra community as a whole is doing that bad with it.

Did you read the last three paragraphs? I answer exactly this objection.

You might argue that this rule exists to encourage people to be inclusive. Some forms of refusing dances can be damaging to the community; for instance, cliques of experienced dancers who only dance with each other can make a dance unwelcoming to newbies.

However, this seems to happen even without people explicitly refusing to dance with newbies when asked (hi Concord!)…


Julia

I really need to work on the “no, thanks” response when someone asks me and I really don’t want to spend the next twelve minutes with him. I only recently decided this was okay, but I have yet to practice implementing it.


Julia

I really need to work on the “no, thanks” response when someone asks me and I don’t want to spend the next twelve minutes with him. I only recently decided this was okay, but I have yet to practice implementing it.


Jaime Morales

A different perspective:

Egos of newbies are important to protect because if you are less inviting to newbies, your dance scene remains small or dies out.

I happen to live in a place where we are not worried about dying off as a dance scene, so we have the luxury of treating our newbies like crap. We can make them feel REALLY HORRIBLY rejected when they ask, are turned down, and then immediately see that dancer choose someone else. Rejection is something that we, as humans, are closely attuned to, it’s an evolution thing whereby if you got kicked out, you likely died a horrible death, so we really are sensitive to that. Heck, rejection is linked to physical pain. (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/rejection.aspx) Think back to a time you felt really rejected, doesn’t your body hurt?

Now let’s do that to newbies. Over and over again. After all, it isn’t your job to encourage anything more than yourself.

But then again, hey, let’s talk about sexism, while we’re here:

” The parties being asked are nearly always women, so the burden of the “rule” falls on them. This is pretty terrible for a couple reasons:”

Hmm, this is peculiar to women?

“Women already have much less say in who they dance with,”

“Lack of partner choice hurts women more than men,”

Ah, because women, you see, are naturally weaker than men and must be protected. Because they are merely objects being acted on and we must not consider that they have agency. Hey, I’m all for sexism. Go for it. Let’s make sure that we objectify women and treat them like meek little objects that must be protected from the big bad men.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to walk a lady to her car, because this neighborhood is dangerous, and I’m just as sexist as you are.


MH

Jaime, it’s not sexist to think a person has the right to say no to dancing with someone and then choosing to dance with someone else.

It’s also not sexist to recognize that our society has problems that pertain to sexism. While one might say that we should strive for an eventual gender-blind society, it’s foolish to pretend that we have one now. The point is to be aware of societal constraints that women have. It’s not about women being weaker, it’s about women being targeted more often.


Anna N

Hi, I’m a dancer in Ithaca who saw this when a friend posted it on Facebook. Thanks for this. I emphatically believe that “it’s OK to say no to dancing with someone” is a message that needs to be said more in the contra community.

The “sit out the dance if you turn someone down” guideline is a real thing; I was explicitly taught that when I first started contra dancing (in Norwich, VT, which is a lovely dance). I think it was intended to communicate that the community values inclusiveness, and that it’s good both for you and other people when you dance with people you might not think are “cool” or who aren’t in your age bracket. These messages were legitimately helpful for me, because I was shy and might not have danced with so many people otherwise, BUT it also meant that for years I danced with people (in my experience, they were always men) who I wasn’t comfortable with because I felt like I had to. Once I danced with a man who had made a creepy comment to my friend in the grocery store; I didn’t want to be anywhere near him but I felt like I had to. I’m sure it was obvious that I didn’t want to be dancing with him, so it can’t have been that fun for him either. It burned me out on contra dancing for a while. I think we could avoid that crappiness by just directly communicating that we value inclusiveness. It says the same thing without taking away anyone’s agency.


Jaime Morales

MM - “Jaime, it’s not sexist to think a person has the right to say no to dancing with someone and then choosing to dance with someone else.”

I completely agree with you there. It is also fine to be aware of the social constraints women have. Also the social constraints men have. But let’s just be honest about things: when the author specifically states that a change needs to be made to accommodate women because they are somehow less equipped to deal with being asked to dance, yeah, welcome to the world of objectification. It’s just that it’s the good kind of sexism.

If the author said something like, it sucks being asked to dance, and we should be able to say no and dance with who we want, that’s fine! Not sexist at all. But he didn’t say that. He said: “The parties being asked are nearly always women, so the burden of the ‘rule’ falls on them.” He specifically singled out women as being unfit to deal with the burdens of being asked.

Look, I’m just wary of rants. Screeds usually come with an acute lack of self reflection. Add that any time people bring down the hammer and say, “This is how human interactions should always be conducted,” it makes me giggle a little. Human reactions can and necessarily must change with different humans personalities and such.

For example, shaming. People have been putting down the idea of shaming. But you know what? Sometimes a man is being really creepy and needs to be shamed and turned down and ridiculed until he either gets his #$& together or leaves. No, we should not bend over backwards to cater to that creeper who ogled your friend and later asked you to dance. To #%@ that. Some people have earned the shame stick and ostracizing that follows.

And what about the follows that clamp their legs on yours. It is not okay for you to rub your junk on me. No, and if you do, I certainly will shame you for it. “Oh no, slut shaming terrible patriarchy evil evil man!” B. S. If I am creeped out by you rubbing your junk on me, I darn sure will shame you and feel fine about it.

All of these rules of etiquette have evolved over many years and they do have applications and reasons. But they aren’t laws. Sometimes you have to step in and say “No, that is not okay.” Women, if a guy is creeping you out for ANY reason, even one that doesn’t make sense, trust your instincts! Say no, and go dance with someone who isn’t creeping you out. Make the call yourself. People in general, if you want to make things more inviting, go ahead and do so, follow the rules of etiquette and understand them, but most of all, make sure you protect yourself.

Yes, a lot of the rules are sexist. But that isn’t necessarily bad. The world is full of gray areas. So think about it, understand it. But then make your own call.

And Ben, yeah, you’re sexist. So am I. And you know what else? You’re well on your way to being a true gentleman. Keep up the good work, you’re on the right path.


Bee

Hey Jaime,

I interpreted that “The parties being asked are nearly always women, so the burden of the ‘rule’ falls on them” not to single out women “as being unfit to deal with the burdens of being asked” but rather to note, in his scene (and in many) leaders ask followers to dance more often that the reverse, and men ask women to dance more often than the reverse. It follows, then that the above mentioned etiquette rule is applied to those being asked to dance (and in this case primarily follows and/or women).

So… I didn’t read any implication that women were somehow “less fit” to handle being asked to dance. What I do see and have experienced in the social dance world is how difficult it can be to turn down a dance. I’m totally on-board with the notion that I have the absolute right to decline a dance with someone who makes me uncomfortable, or dances too roughly. Walking the walk is another matter entirely – of course this frustrate me to no end. Frankly I think women are given (throughout their adolescence, and their lives) these incongruent messages they should take care of others feelings, be polite, etc (sometimes even for their own safety) and that they have the right to say no and call people on their shit. Anyway, I have many thoughts on the issue…


Les Addison

I’ve not had any problems with asking people to dance, though I admit that it is much more often women than men that turn me down. I am also very good at not making eye contact with men that I don’t want to dance with. (I don’t recall any time that there were women that I didn’t want to dance with.)


Lauren Peckman

I HAVE read this policy in some dance communities. I try to be aware of it and aggressively ask others to dance lest I’m asked first. I try to take notice and if I’m refused say, “Ok, please don’t feel obligated to sit out on my account!” Then I scurry away because I’m excited to dance and find a partner. At these communities I find I dance most often with women as a result of the policy, balanced evening or no.

If we, national contra dancers, have jokes about “every dance has its creeper!” and impose this policy simultaneously, who are we empowering?

I so appreciate Kate P’s response to this post. Perhaps when another dancer declines my invitation it is not all about me and his/her opinion of my skill, my breath, my hotness, our friendship....perhaps not about me AT ALL?

Sorry to hear any community can feel “icky.” That’s a sad thought when we’d all hope to invite our friends to any contra community. More fun, more dancing, less need to be offended quickly or on the prowl constantly. Dance dance dance, I say!


M.-J. Taylor

What? Where? In which contra dance community is it not acceptable for women to ask men to dance? I haven’t danced everywhere, but I haven’t run across this phenomenon anywhere in my travels.

The custom of sitting out as a courtesy to the rejected dancer is falling by the wayside. I do think it can be hurtful to some, but I honor the right of anyone to take care of their own feelings first; no one should have to sit out because they turned down someone who makes them uncomfortable. If it’s simply a preference, as in, I would rather try to find a cooler, more hip partner for this dance, I’d say that’s selfish. But I wouldn’t tell you I’ve never done it. I will say it’s rare. When I really just want to find someone I prefer, I will sometimes say, “Sorry, I am looking for my partner for this dance,” which implies I booked ahead. It’s a fib to save someone’s feelings. Most of the time, I try to avoid being asked by 1. asking someone else first, 2. booking ahead and 3. avoiding eye contact. Because I’m a switch, I do occasionally beg off by saying that I’m looking for someone to dance “on the Right’ role - and if a gent offers to do that, I am usually happy to dance with them. In fact, there are few people I would want turn down as long as I can dance “on the Left.”


Alice Sanvito

Hi, Ben!

I thought this was really interesting.

I’ve never been at a contra dance where it was even remotely discouraged for women to ask men. It’s quite the custom here and always has been. Perhaps this is different in other regions. I’ve been to at least ten different dance weekends in the Midwest and one contra dance in Berkeley, CA. I do hear from folks that in the Northeast there are dances that are not so welcoming and inclusive. Here, there’s a culture of active inclusivity and I’m glad of it. I am also part of other dance circles and I’ve never encountered another dance scene that makes it so easy on new dancers. Some dance circles are unabashedly elitist and exclusive. Argentine tango is like that and it’s pretty much a rule that women are not allowed to ask men to dance at all. It’s bizarre that they would tolerate this in 2013!

The problem of creepy people is a tough one that all dance communities wrestle with to greater and lesser degrees. It’s not always men but most often that is the complaint. And it’s not always older guys, though it seems the greatest problem is older men who prey on younger women who are vulnerable and not yet learned to assert themselves. When a young guy is creepy to a woman his own age, the dynamics are different and, while it may be unpleasant, it’s not quite the same.

I’ll generally dance with anyone who doesn’t injure me or creep me out. I rarely turn someone down for a dance. I think cultivating a scene where people are welcoming and encourage people to mix around is a good thing. Making a choice to include new people, people who are less skilled dancers, people who are unattractive, people who disabled, people who look differently than you, etc., can be good for us personally and as a community. And there are some folks that, frankly, I avoid because I just don’t have the patience for them. It wouldn’t be good for me or for them. That’s okay because some other folks do have the patience for them and I have patience for some people that others don’t. If we all take it upon ourselves to cover a portion of the “less desirable” dancers, everyone will get covered. And let’s face it: any one of us could, through no fault of our own, become one of those less desirable dancers through sickness or accident or the passage of time.

However, this doesn’t mean we need to welcome or tolerate creepy behavior.

I think it’s completely appropriate for any woman to turn away any guy who is creepy in any way. Being welcoming does not mean you have to allow others to cross your boundaries.

I think it’s worth encouraging women to speak up if someone behaves in a way that is not okay and tell them exactly what it is. If they are holding you too close, or their hand is somewhere you don’t want it, or they are standing too close, or following you around, or asking you to dance 5 times when once or twice is appropriate, or making remarks that make you uncomfortable . . .

What we - even older - women often do with guys who are violating our boundaries is that we avoid them, warn other women, and don’t tell the guy. When we do this, we are, in a way, complicit. We need to speak up, identify exactly what it is that they are doing that we don’t want them to do to us, and if they do it again, then they can’t use the excuse that they didn’t know and it was a misunderstanding or an accident. I also think it’s entirely appropriate to enlist the help of other women and/or men. Especially younger women who may have a hard time dealing with an older guy, I encourage them to talk to the older, experienced women and/or the guys and even ask them if they will talk to the offender.

I think you bring up some very good points, Ben. I don’t agree the etiquette is completely silly. However, looking at what may be an unintended result - that it may put women into the uncomfortable position of feeling like they can’t say “no” to a creepy guy - is a really good point worth examining. Cultivating inclusivity does not mean we have to give up quality nor does it mean we have to tolerate bad behavior.

Thanks for taking the time and being gutsy about expressing your thoughts. I’m glad this showed up in my FB newsfeed.


Anonymous

Harrie Nov, 30-2014

We go dancing here on Sunday afternoons ones a month for the last 20 years. We are mostly all over 80 and we know most people by name or by face. I ask this girl for a dance and she said no, I felt insulted. Then she jumped up and danced with someone else. I took dance lessons and was told by this teacher that a woman should never refuse when asked for a dance. There are 8 single women on this table I danced with 4 of them the other 4 refused. Some of the women want to dance with other women but they all have danced with men. What do the readers think of the women that keep refusing to dance with me?

(gt.timm@rogers.com)


Ruthie

Note: I don’t know enough about your particular situation to make comments that I’m sure apply to you, I’m responding to a pattern I’ve seen a lot of. Your particular situation could be because you’re behaving badly in some way you’re not aware of, or that people in your dance seen are just jerks, or any combination of this sort of thing. Please take it with an open mind, but feel free to ignore it if it doesn’t apply to you.

In a lot of contra dance scenes, young women are the most sought after partners, and are frequently asked moments after the previous dance ends and before they have a chance to find people who they would like to ask. This gives them a chance to abuse their position by dancing only with their friends, and hurting other people like you. But it also means that they can’t dance with everyone who wants to dance with them, and if they want to exert any choice at all over who they dance with, they have to say no.

This sucks for the women who are put in this position (yes, it does, I promise), and I know it also sucks for men who don’t like having people refuse dances. However, it also suggests that if you try asking a wider variety of people to dance, you might have more success. Older people and men probably don’t have this problem, and are more likely to say yes to a stranger.

If you don’t want to dance with these people, well, you’re probably missing out, but you might also find in your heart some more understanding for women who refuse dances with you.


Alice Sanvito

“What do the readers think of the women that keep refusing to dance with me?”

I can’t comment on the women because I don’t know why they are saying no. I suggest you ask one of your women friends - or guy friends - if they know why these women won’t dance with you. They would be in a better position to tell you if you’re doing something that’s causing them to say no to you.


Andrew M. Farrell

Very occasionally, I’ve said “I’m looking for a newcomer this time” when turning down a dance, simply because I’d not danced with a newcomer for a while. I’ve not had the experience of wanting to turn someone down because they made me feel uncomfortable, but I’m curious if this could be an effective way of handling it.

@Anonymous One problem I have faced is that I have a less sensitive nose than most people. I am “hard of smelling”. I have no idea whatsoever if this applies to you, but it seems like the sort of problem that can lead others not to not want to dance with you but feel shy about saying so.


Anonymous

Wow you really beat the hell out if this…go out and have fun and stop talking. You can go over this so many times. I liked reading it until it got so boring. Stop it and get on with the positives. This is my first time reading about this and it’s almost turning me off of it. Thank you, from a non creepy guy in Chattanooga

Randy