i went gay club dancing on saturday night. i spent most of my hours at the club holding space for a younger dancing machine to shake her goodies. i was having more fun outlining her perimeter than i would have had dancing in the center, plus i had the better view. from my vantage point, i scanned the crowd and watched the dynamics of people getting drunk and slackening their bodies and minds saturday night gay danceclub style. all but one.
there was a pretty youngster in a flannel shirt and beanie and boots and low slung jeans slowly sipping her bottled beer…and she reminded me of too-young-to-drink but old-enough-to-have-a-fake-id version of me…and for reasons i don’t want to admit, she intimidated me. growing up with a raging violent bullying father knocks out the capacity for almost everybody in the world to intimidate me, so why this girl? she is smaller than she seems and pretending to be tougher than she is which means she’s scared and defensive and trying to hide it and i know about those things because i was all of that in my late teens and early twenties. her palpable vulnerability beneath her defensive façade intimidated the heart-broken-open pain-turned-inside-out grown-up version of me.
i wanted to approach her. i wanted to say something. she watched me watch her. she and i kept looking at each other and looking away when the other noticed. later she came to stand behind me in line for the bathroom. she wanted me to talk to her. i wanted to hug her and look into her eyes and tell her that some of this bullshit gets easier in the next couple decades and some of this bullshit doesn’t but that she’ll survive it all and thrive through most of it.
but i didn’t say anything.
i stared straight ahead until the age-appropriate hottie standing in line in front of me started flirting with me. i felt the little one in the flannel-beanie-boots behind me sigh and lean against the wall. the moment for action had passed. i let it pass because i was afraid she wouldn’t understand what i wanted to express to her. i was afraid she’d feel dismissed because of her age. but what if what i wanted to say was exactly what she wanted and needed to hear? what if she’s exhausted being defensive and pretending to be tough all the time? what if i could have given her one moment’s reprieve to be safely vulnerable and deeply seen in the ridiculous amusement park environment that is a gay club on a saturday night?
we’ll never know because i didn’t speak up when i could have. i’ll never see that little one again but there will be another one somewhere someday and i hope i send my heart through my voice to say, “i see your strength. i feel your weariness. i honor your intensely guarded vulnerability. thank you for letting the light in and the truth out through tiny moments whenever and wherever you can.”