A Record of Missteps

Margaret-Howell-Shoes-2014-Campaign-5This would probably never happen to me at a lindy hop event. Just sayin’. (image via Margaret Howell)

In case you all didn’t know, I write for a magazine called Hyphen.

Recently last month, I attended the Frankie 100 event in New York. However, I did take the time to confess some very real frustrations. Due in part to the demographics at these events, you kind of get the blunt end of the stick when it comes to microaggressions, particularly from strangers. Friends, not so much because lindy friends are the best. But strangers? Strangers are a whole new ball game. They can be mean, snide, picky and downright vicious.

So, basically, the article comes out at the end of this week, and I wanted to be the first one to respond to it. Yes, it is a bit harsh but it is what I genuinely experience at several of these mega events. Many times, people who dance with me talk slower or louder because they think I don’t speak English. Every time I answered the question, Where are you from?” my partner would cut me off when I tried to say “Chicago” and ask, “China?” I mean, really? You had to go there? Of course, when they hear Chicago, they want to know where I’m really from. To which I respond Chicago. There’s another issue, of course. ABC’s (American Born Chinese) and other Asian Americans just aren’t that prevalent in my area of the U.S. lindy hop scene. Sure, in the midst of the San Francisco Bay Area or NYC scenes there are a good many AAPI dancers, but not so in the Midwest or South. We’re still the minority, in many ways.

Are people usually mean consciously? No. Do they exclude me on purpose? Absolutely not. However, I will say that most nights at mega events are spent dawdling on the sidelines despite my best efforts to stay in the center of the dance floor.

Why?

My last night at Terminal 5 of Frankie 100, I found myself pressed up by the band next to a speaker throbbing by my right ear. A very rude couple kept shoving past me to extend their swingouts, smirking as they went past. This wasn’t what got to me. What got to me was that I tapped multiple times on a guy’s shoulder. He didn’t even stop, so I had to actually keep tapping. Imagine the embarrasment. On top of that, he merely looked back, said, “Sorry!” and found someone else to dance with. The frustration of wanting to dance but no one to dance with finally got to me. I locked myself in a bathroom stall and bawled my eyes out. When I finally got the courage to get back on the dance floor, a guy stomped, full foot, onto my foot with his very heavy wingtip. Let’s just say a few tears later, I was out of there and my Frankie 100 experience came to a dreadful close.

Now, although horrible, none of those things really had to do with race except for the fact that I’m probably not asked to dance as frequently as some girls. No problem, if this were a clean-cut issue devoid of microaggressions. I’m an average dancer. I don’t suck as much as I used to, nor am I a South Korean lindy star. It just seems far above coincidence that at several events in different states, it’s often difficult to get a dance without initiating every single one. I think I asked about 80% of the time at Frankie 100, Lindy Focus and some smaller midwest events.

Perhaps leads are just getting lazier. Perhaps these events were follow heavy. However, I’m pretty sure some of these events are controlled by the number of leads and follows.

So, yes. I’ve taken a brief hiatus from the social scene and delved entirely (though painfully slowly) into Rhythm Juice. You can only take so much rejection and invisibility before you want to scream. I think I actually did at one point in Frankie 100.

Perhaps a year off in Taiwan couldn’t have come at a better time.

Article to come out Friday.

~S.

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