I broke my date's heart at the dance last Saturday night.
It was the Daddy/Daughter Sweetheart Dance for the Girl Scout troops in the area, and Cassie and I have gone to this the past two years. It's loud and seems like it goes on forever and the games and crafts are usually pretty lame, but she seems to have a good time.
The problem is that I'm not good at dancing--AT ALL--and I'm very aware of it. Honestly, the idea of dancing in public gives me more anxiety than speaking in public. I would rather address a crowd of hundreds of people than have 5 people see me try to dance. I thought it said something about what I'll do for my daughter that not only have I tried to quash this anxiety for the past two years, but a few years ago I agreed to be in the Daddy/Daughter dance number at the recital for Cassie's dance studio. This was a choreographed number on stage and everything. It went okay, but I don't think I've been more nervous in my entire life.
The past years at the Girl Scout dance, we'd usually spend some time at the games, then a few songs on the dance floor. Cassie would usually run off to be with her friends, leaving me standing there, feeling like a doofus. Then she'd run back a short while later and want me back on the dance floor, then run off again. I should mention that each time going on the dance floor meant taking off our shoes, because for some reason they keep having the dance at a junior high that is ultra-paranoid about their gym floor. (You're a junior high school--get over yourselves.) So we would have to take off our shoes and put them on again 5 - 7 times a night.
This year, something kept me from going on the dance floor; I don't know exactly what it was. Maybe part of it was that I realize Cassie is growing up, and I expected her to spend more time with her friends and not notice me that much. I think part of it might be a fear that she's getting old enough to realize what an embarrassment her father could be in front of her friends, and I was trying to head that off before it happened. It didn't help that the DJ has a weird idea of what songs make for good dancing. How do you dance to Styx's "Come Sail Away"? House of Pain's "Jump Around"? (Besides simply jumping up and down for 3 minutes, which wears me the hell out.)
So every time Cassie asked me to go out to the floor, I said not right now. When she was out with her friends, I had my Kindle out. Maybe that's odd behavior at a dance, but I am less social at this point in my life than I have ever been. Small talk drives me crazy, mostly because I suck at it. Cassie asked me to at least come on the dance floor and stand there, but that would have made me even more awkwardly self-conscious.
I knew she was disappointed, but she still seemed to have fun. I didn't know just how disappointed she was until we got home. I walked through the room where Cassie was talking to Annette, and she stopped talking. I heard enough of the last sentence to know she was sad and that it was about me. Then when Annette spent a good ten or fifteen minutes with Cassie in her room with the door closed, I knew I screwed up big. My not dancing made Cassie sad enough to cry.
So now on top of being self-conscious and awkward, I feel guilty for letting my 10-year-old daughter down in a major way. I always thought I'd be a really good father, but it turns out that's probably not the case. Not as often as I'd hope, anyway.