Please, No Tug-O-War


photo by vastateparksstaff (flickr)

photo by vastateparksstaff (flickr)

I’m not fond of tug-o-war.  To clarify, watching people is fine, but don’t get me involved.  The fall semester of my senior year of college I decided to participate.  It was freshmen versus everyone else.  The competition is always rigged to make the newbies wear their dorky beanies for an extra week.  My freshman year, they tethered golf carts to the other side and lightly tapped the gas.

Anyway, I decided to join the “fun” because it was my last year.  Too bad I decided to wear flip-flops that day.  Noticing my poor choice of footwear, I was at a loss.  “Just take ’em off,” said the burly male student behind me.  Sure, it’d help me plant my feet better.  The flip-flops came off, and the tug-o-war began.  We won with some mighty tugging, unremarkable.  What was remarkable was the fact I didn’t feel the stinging and burning from the fire ants that covered my left foot until after the event concluded.  I had stepped in their hill as I was tugging.  I had at least seven bites, and my foot soon swelled to the point where I couldn’t where my left shoe properly. I still have the scars, but they’ve faded significantly.  No more tug-o-war for me!

You know what else?  I dislike it even more on the dance floor.  See, I’ve actually been a leader for group classes lately.  There’s almost always a lack of men, so why not help the newer female students by dancing the man’s part?  It’s how teachers learn, and it makes me a better dancer.  You learn how to truly feel your partner and develop empathy for his/her role.  Or was that sympathy?  I haven’t been a leader for very long, so I won’t pretend to know what makes an effective one.  However, I’ve been a follower for four years, and I’ve picked up a few things.  I add this caveat before I begin: I am human, and I’ve made this mistake before.  I still do on occasion.  But, I need to get this out of my system, lest I say it aloud during group class.  To all the followers, especially the stubborn ones, let me lead.  I’m not an experienced leader (yet), but I’m very adept at picking up these simple patterns quickly.  If I make a mistake, I’ll fix it, and do better next time.  Just trust me to initiate & guide, and I’ll let you do the rest.  The follower is largely responsible for her own part in the dance.

I do have sympathy for newer followers.  Most of them may not realize when they’re back-leading.  I didn’t when I was in their shoes.  Simultaneously, there are times when it’s painfully obvious.  If you’re moving me as you dance, you’re playing backseat driver.  There are times when they go off on their own.  It frustrates me, but that’s what makes this such an excellent exercise in patience.  However, let’s be clear: we dance as a team.  I will do my utmost to not go beyond my purview in leading you, and I’d like you to let me lead.  Simple.

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4 thoughts on “Please, No Tug-O-War

  1. Bravo! I think most ladies would benefit from your experience. Not saying it is all with the follower but when ladies back lead it makes the guys lazy thinking we know more than we do. Instead of taking control, just tell us if you don’t feel a particular lead.

    • I’ll be honest with you. It’s not all philanthropic on my part. The other half I don’t think I’ll ever admit aloud is that I really want to try being a dance teacher. Leading helps me play pretend that way. Who would’ve thought a twenty-something adult still relies on her imagination to keep going sometimes?

  2. I totally agree! When I (attempt to) lead men, they are particularly bad when it comes to back-leading. Understandably.

    I will back-lead brand new leads if their timing is off or something, however, but I think I do it subtly?

  3. Back leading causes me to exert slightly more force to let the other person know I’m in control. True story: I had one male instructor who, as he was teaching me figures, would then yank me through things when he was supposed to be following me as we practiced. I was much stronger than him, so one day I just exerted control to let him know I could do things myself. He never tried back leading me again after that…

The floor is yours now.

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