I danced with a man once at Barefoot Boogie who leaned in close after the music stopped, leaned in close with his arms and his chest and pressed himself against me. "You're so..." he closed his eyes, searching. We were both sweating - it had been one of the fast songs and we'd been twirling each other around and around - and I was trying to catch my breath. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked straight into me. "You're so real," he finished, and there was such gratitude in his face, such sincerity, that I tried to put aside that first, instinctive feeling of wanting to roll my eyes, then run away and add this to my growing Only-in-California list. I wrestled with myself, because I knew what it sounded like to me - a bad kind of flirting, a silly come-hither kind of thing a guy would say, trying to woo a girl into his fold and make her his forever...or for a night, at least. And that while it was sort of sweet in some weird San Francisco-dance-community-I-grow-my-own-dope-but-I'm-happy-to-share-it-with-you sort of way, I found it hard to really take it in. I hadn't felt any more "real" on the dance floor with him. I was pretty sure I was the same person who'd dropped into the studio an hour earlier, hesitating to take off my socks and shoes and get my boogie on in front of strangers. I was just dancing, that's all...so what, exactly, was he seeing?
I realized, later, that it had so little to do with me. Perhaps it had been awhile since he found a willing dance partner. Perhaps it had been awhile since he'd been around another woman's sweat. Maybe it had felt like forever since he'd had even the slimmest thread of connection with another person. I thought by telling me how "real" I was, he'd been trying to pierce through me somehow, extracting some quiet, bubbling kernel of Maya that needed to be discovered. And it seemed ridiculous to me that that could happen after just one dance, with a guy whose name I didn't know, and goatee I didn't much like, who was dripping his sweat right onto the front of my shirt. I thought I was as real as I could possibly be with a strange man in yoga pants and a receding hairline. In fact, I was trying to get even more real with the desire to leave the scene entirely and go home and shower myself free of the whole thing. But maybe this one, single dance had meant something to him - that's what he was really trying to say. Maybe he hadn't felt "real" in a long time, for any number of reasons, and these few spins around a hardwood floor in the Mission gave him something of the realness he craved. It didn't matter that I couldn't quite believe him, that I distrusted his words because of my innate suspicion of anything that sounded like a come-on. But it wasn't about me. Not really. He was telling the truth about him.