It had been three years since I last attended the Wiregrass Singles Club dances in Dothan, a mid-size city in southeast Alabama, a few miles north of the Florida Panhandle, where I lived some 40 miles away.
Obviously I felt like a stranger. A former girlfriend of mine was absent, having gone to visit her mother; all other faces looked unfamiliar.
Getting myself a cup of punch, I searched in the dimly lighted room for a table with an empty chair. There were over 170 persons crowded in the large recreation room. Finally eying an empty chair, I settled down to listen to the live band and observe the couples on the dance floor do their thing. At this point they moved in single file around the room in step to a square dance number.
Wiregrass Singles was a club for single people 25 years old and older-divorcees, widows, singles, and widowers. No alcoholic drinks were allowed or served at the dance, but punch and coffee-sometimes snacks-were provided. For the price of $2.25 each, an attendee got to dance to live music-mostly country-western-to socialize, and to consume all the refreshments one desired.
And since I was allergic to tobacco smoke, I was relieved that a no-smoking policy had been approved.
I removed my gold-colored metal rimmed eyeglasses, picked up a napkin, and polished the lenses as I studied the dancers. They all wore casual attire-but no jeans. I fit in with my red polo shirt and khaki slacks.
During the evening several square dances, get-acquainted dances, and ladies’ choice dances encouraged socialization and variety. When one of the latter dances was announced, a middle aged woman from my hometown hurried up to speak and asked me for a dance.
I accepted and we danced to a slow waltz, then to a rock-and-roll tune. After that I sat out the next dance to catch my breath. The band leader then encouraged everyone to take part in the next number, which was a get-acquainted dance.
In this dance the men formed a circle inside with hands joined, and the women formed another circle outside with their hands joined also. Each group then circled to the right until the band leader yelled for the men to pick a partner.
During the get-acquainted dance couples frequently switched. In this manner a person met more people, thus becoming more widely acquainted. When the band leader announced that each man should choose a partner, two women passed by me to dance with other men they knew or took a fancy to. I glanced around awkwardly, but at that moment a slender, platinum-blond woman in a tan jump suit strolled up to me and took my hand with one of hers and pressed me to her with the other, putting her cheek intimately against mine. It was pleasantly and excitingly warm-and unexpected! She stood about my height, which was five feet, seven inches.
“Hi, she said. “I’m Julie. I’m a widow and a divorcee.”
Somewhat startled, I gasped, “Uh, hi-I’m Benny.” Then I added: “I’m divorced myself.”
“It’s bad-being divorced,” she spoke softly, “but that’s the way it is sometimes, isn’t it?” she suggested sadly.
As she continued to press warmly against me, I grew more aroused. When the dance ended, Julie suggested they dance the next slow number together. I had no argument with the idea.
“Okay,” I replied, scarcely believing my luck in meeting this warm, pleasantly assertive woman.
She went back to her table, and I returned to mine. I kept glancing her way until she suddenly jumped up from her chair, spoke something briefly to a lady friend at her table, and arrowed her way toward my table, where I cavalierly pulled out a chair for her. She remained with me the rest of the evening.
As the evening passed, Julie and I learned more about each other. Both of us were Aries and had birthdates only four days apart in late March. Church wise she was Baptist, and I was Methodist (off and on).
“But that’s not so important, is it?” she ventured, as we got up to dance to “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” one of the great contemporary love ballads composed by Don Gibson Her remark referred to our different church denominations.
“No, of course not,” I agreed. “We’re both still Protestants, right?”
Later, during another dance, she whispered, “You like to be loved, don’t you?”
I choked. “Sure-don’t you?”
“Yes,” she murmured. “We’re both Aries, aren’t we?” As if that made a difference! I held her more tightly, thinking, “This is the girl-woman! A soul mate. She has to be the one!”
The impulsive Aries in us worked overtime that evening!
Even the differences in our educational backgrounds seemed to present no obstacles. Julie had a high school diploma, and I had a college degree. She had been a bookkeeper but now worked as a receptionist in a physician’s office. I currently worked for the state of Florida as a social work specialist, but before that I had been a teacher and journalist.
For the remainder of the evening Julie and I danced only with each other, embracing each other passionately, whether the tempo was fast or slow. She pressed more tightly against me, at the same time running her slender fingers caressingly through my medium-brown, newly trimmed hair. We kissed softly. The chemistry between us really sparked. After the dance at the recreation hall ended, Julie and I got into my car and drove to Shoney’s, a popular restaurant for late evening snacks, meals, and socializing on the Circle. Over coffee and dessert we chatted more about each other, digesting as much as possible in this single meeting-as if it might be our only liaison.
Both of us were surprised to learn that the other was older than either appeared. That was typical of Aries-born people. Julie would be 49 in a few days; I would be 50.
“I would have thought you were about 38,” she said.
“Well, I’ve always been considered younger than I was,” I responded. “I would have thought you were only in your late thirties.”
“That’s partly because of the way I wear my hair,” Julie suggested. “Short and slightly curled about my face.”
Her outfit made her look more youthful, too. Julie confessed that she made all her clothes.
As to children, my favorite blond announced that she had two grown ones, a daughter who was a computer programmer at Cape Canaveral, and a son, who worked as an electrical engineer.
I volunteered in turn that I had a son, 13, and a daughter, 10. I added that both had been adopted.
There was so much more we wanted to learn about the other, but the hour was late and I still had to drive back to my hometown about 40 miles south. As we rode back to the community center, where the Wiregrass Singles met for the dances, for Julie to retrieve her car, she remarked,
“My father thinks I didn’t wait long enough before marrying George, my second husband.”
“How long did you date before you got married?”
“Well, that seems like enough time, Julie. I guess it really depends on the individuals and how they feel-not how others might feel. Besides, this isn’t like the days when our parents were young and more importance was attached to long courtships. The pace is much faster this day and time-and that isn’t necessarily bad.”
I thought about the Liberation Movement.
“George kept going back to his former wife. He said he didn’t love her, but he still went back. I couldn’t accept that-I tried to do so much for him, but he didn’t seem to appreciate it-so I divorced him.”
I thought about that for a few moments; then I asked, “How did your first husband die-your children were by him, weren’t they?”
“Anne and Kenny were by him. He was an alcoholic. That’s what finally killed him.” I noted the sadness that had crept into her manner as she recalled the unpleasant memories.
Hopefully I asked, “Do you think you’ll get married again?”
Julie waited a moment before answering.
“No-I don’t think so. I’ve failed twice. I’m not sure I want to try again.”
“Don’t you get lonely?”
“Yes… but I’m learning to live with it–the loneliness; and my children keep in touch. They’ll look after me.”
And maybe George will, too, I thought to myself. George wasn’t permanently out of the picture yet.
At the community center Julie and I kissed, made plans for a date, then drove away to our separate homes-two lonely Aries who, for one evening, had helped each other forget some of their unhappiness.