I’m a partner dancer, namely blues. There’s a guy in the group who gets too close when he dances. I mean the blues can be very close, but it just feels different with this guy, icky, and other female follows have backed me up that he gets close in a kind of creepy way. He’s also just over-friendly, and does hugs with kisses on both cheeks. I’m not the type of person who likes to talk when there’s dancing but he tries to make awkward conversations happen. There’s social dance not just practice, (you change partners, blues is never set couples,) if I’m looking round for a lead and someone whose resting notices that he is free they often say “oh why don’t you dance with him?” And I’m left looking for anything less awkward to say than “I just don’t want to…” or “he gives me the skeevs…” These are not options, as they would make people ask what/if anything had happened. Well no, nothing concrete, it’s just vibes, we just don’t click. And also apart from a few trusted people, I’ve not told anyone in case it gets back to him. He’d be either hurt or angry, because he hasn’t done anything, he just is creepy. More often than not, because I have made clear that I do actually wish to dance with someone, I have to accept. There’s still a bit of the outdated notion that you have to accept dances when asked unless you have a concrete reason not to (the scene is trying to change that.)
I’m not sure he means it, he seems like he’s trying to be nice. Over a recent blues workshop weekend he let me borrow his flat when I put out a plea to dancers on Facebook that I had no accommodation where I usually live for that period. I accepted, 1) I couldn’t afford a hotel, 2) he wasn’t actually there that weekend and 3) I couldn’t turn down a perfectly good offer of accommodation for seemingly no reason. His offer was first and visible on Facebook, everyone saw so no one else offered. I will end up giving him a bottle of wine for that, to show some gratitude. It was an unexpected offer, this guy and I don’t know each other well. He thinks we’re friends I think, but I just don’t want to be! My main questions are, how do you politely give someone signals that they’re making you uncomfortable? And how do you avoid spending much time with someone you just don’t like when they mix in the same places as you regularly? And should I trust my gut?
Dear Awkward Dancer,
You can keep turning down every opportunity to dance with this fellow, and you can say “Naw, we just don’t mesh well” when someone suggests it. You can pull back from hugs and kisses and say “Oh, I’m not much of a hugger,” etc. You can also assert yourself in the moment, should you end up dancing together or should you end up directly turning down a dance. Scripts:
- “No thank you!”
- “I just don’t want to.” It’s the truth, let it be good enough for you enough times and it will become good enough for others. The scene is changing? Let change begin with you.
- “Not so close, please.” + (Move your body away so there is more space)
- “I don’t like to be so close.” + move
- “I like a little more room, thanks.” + move
- “That’s a little close for my taste.”+ move
- “Thanks, but you like dancing closer than is my taste, so I’ll sit this one out.”
- “Thanks, but I don’t like dancing so close to someone, and your style is definitely not the same as mine.”
- “You’re a much more touchy-feely person than I am, and I like dancing with folks who leave a little more breathing room.”
- There’s always the default thing to say to others in lieu of explaining “what happened” to make you not like this person: “It’s great to meet so many people who are into dancing! Just, he and I have danced enough that I know that we don’t really click. Thanks for not making this more awkward than it has to be.“
If you keep it very factual and based on your own preferences – You like dancing closer than I do – there’s not much room for him to argue. The feelings you are responsible for managing are: “Do I want to dance with this person, yes or no?” Everyone else’s feelings, including those of bystanders, are their own garden to tend. His feelings may be hurt, but if he’s a decent dude, he’ll change up his style with you, or he’ll respectfully back off from asking you to dance. If he’s not a decent dude, he’ll try to convince you that his touchy-feely style is the Only Way It’s Supposed To Be and imply there is something wrong with you, or he’ll clock all the times you’ve danced closely with other people and rattle off a creepily accurate list, or he’ll play tricks like pretending to agree and then feeling up on you when you’re on the dance floor. I know you don’t want to rock the boat and invoke something that might be worse than the vague icky vibe you have now, but he is not getting whatever hints you are throwing out there, and I think it’s time to be more explicit. If you being blunt makes him do or say something explicitly creepy, I know you’re dreading the scene that it might cause, but think of it this way: At least you’ll stop wondering if this is all in your head?
Finally, if you are trying to fade away from being friends with him, maybe don’t take him up on his kind offers of housing. In my opinion, it’s not cool to take someone’s hospitality and then avoid them at other times. Of course accepting the favor doesn’t obligate you to dance with him in a way you don’t like or submit to unwanted touching, but if someone stays in my house for a weekend and then is like “NOPE I DON’T ACTUALLY LIKE U, Y U NO GET HINT?” I would be hurt and angry. I don’t invite people as guests unless I think we are some degree of friends. If you aren’t close enough friends to want to dance with him in that you literally shrink from his touch and find talking with him to be boring and awkward ordeal, find somewhere, anywhere else to stay.