It has been three years since the passing of my husband Bill Franz z”l; it feels like Bill died a long time ago and just yesterday. These annual days of reflection during Elul, mark my journey of grieving and healing. I shared touch-points with our community these past two years, writing about rituals and returning to joy.
Now in year three, I have fully returned to social dance — waltz, swing, and blues. There is something primal about social dance, moving to the music with a dance partner, bodies conversing without uttering a word. As a regular dancer at Glen Echo, I may not remember names, or really know anything about my dance partners, but I sure remember whether they were fun to dance with. I wasn’t quite ready to start dating but social dance fulfilled my innate need for human touch, so basic, and so vital.
I was ready for a new dance challenge and chose Argentine Tango, a dance that Bill and I tried twenty years ago, but never really got. Last fall I signed up for group lessons and after two months was hooked. In February, I added private lessons. Just when I was starting to get in the groove of this dance, COVID shut down everything. Gone was my outlet for social dance, for touch, for conversing without uttering a word.
Now during this global pandemic, I am fully engaged with work, friends, and extended family, through the miracle called Zoom. But I live alone. No pets. No hugs. No human touch. I miss touch. I crave touch. On TV I saw a mother and daughter rig up a clear plastic shower curtain outside just so that they could hug one another. I never realized how vital touch is for our well-being.
As spring turned to summer and our community started to open up, each of us had to weigh the risk of getting sick vs. getting a haircut, going grocery shopping, eating out, seeing friends, having play dates, or traveling. For me, resuming social dance was my only temptation and it would be a long time before Glen Echo opened its dance hall. Until — temptation dangled before me. My tango teacher started offering private lessons in July. Oh, what to do!
I laughed at the image of wearing a full body condom. Instead I interrogated the teacher. Remember when we used to ask romantic partners, “Who else have you been with?” Now it’s, “Who have you talked with closer than six feet without a mask?” In the end, I succumbed. We dance outside on my porch twice a week, wearing N95 masks, sanitizing our hands, and dancing in open embrace. Strike any image you may have of a romantic scene, like in the movies. Learning tango is very hard mental and physical work, especially on a sweltering summer day while wearing masks! And yet the first time we touched hands, my first human touch in four months, brought me to tears. It felt so normal.