How Dancing Saved My Life

By Peter M. Friedman
Blog Post

Throughout my entire life as an Aspie, troubles and tribulations have hit me from all ends.  This has resulted in extreme depression and, many times, hopelessness.  Not just once, but a number of times in my teens and early twenties, my loneliness and depression reached a height I would not wish on anyone.  In fact, on several occasions, I seriously considered (but never actually attempted) suicide.  I had wanted so much to get married and start having kids shortly after college — but it just wasn’t happening.

Then, in my mid-twenties, which was during the 1990’s, I began noticing a growing national trend — country music and dancing.  Now, I had never considered myself a country music fan.  But I began watching country dance shows on the (since discontinued) cable channel TNN (The Nashville Network).  As I watched, I said to myself, “Wow.  Look at all those people!  They are all smiling and having such a great time, dancing and so festively dressed!”  And when the dancers were interviewed, they said, country dancing was something that could be shared with anyone and everyone.

After some time, I finally decided to try my hand at partner dancing. This was not an easy decision.  I have always had deep musical interests and involvements, but my previous attempts at “disciplined” dancing had been difficult and unfulfilling.  When I started partner dancing, I did not know of any country dancing instructors or facilities.  So, I decided to begin with ballroom dancing and then move towards country.

In 1995, not long after I started taking private lessons, I attended my first country dance competition event in East Rutherford, NJ (an event, btw that is still held annually).  It was very well-attended, as 1995 marked the peak of country dancing’s popularity.  For the first time, I saw the full impact of this thing that was taking the “country” by storm.  It very much resembled the “disco” craze of the late 70’s (for those of you who were around and “aware” back then).

I continued with my ballroom dancing lessons; but I still wanted to branch out into country because it was more exciting to me.  (Can you imagine…a New York Jew, interested in country music and dancing!?  Oy vey!  As it turned out, this didn’t exactly lend to my search for a Jewish partner….more on that later).

But dancing did something else for me. Before the mid-1990’s, I could never have even imagined myself…..

  • as a dancer
  • going out to dance clubs on a regular basis
  • enjoying and appreciating country music and dancing
  • socializing with unfamiliar women on a frequent basis

Yet, by 1996, that would all change.  My hobby had developed into a true passion!  &  As you well know, when an Aspie is “hooked,” they’re hooked!  I had insisted on being taught the 2-Step dance (which is essential for anyone delving into country western couples dancing), as well as other dances shared by ballroom and country.  I was attending country dance clubs, dance weekends, and dance competitions (across the nation) on a regular basis.

By 1997, I had found dance instructors in New York City that prepared students to compete in CW events.  However, this was a long and costly commute and for me, and and such, I was initially reluctant to pursue this on a regular basis.  However, I eventually determined that it was indeed, worth the extra time and expense, because by then, I had developed a strong desire to compete in the CW dance circuit (despite warnings from my first instructors of its “political” nature, which actually turned out to be true, but my goal at the time, anyway was to be the best dancer I could be, rather than specifically to “win”).

As my dance life blossomed, I became very “out-going” (literally!).  My Saturday nights were no longer lonely.  No longer did I need a “date” to go somewhere fun.  Fortunately, in the CW dance scene, any stranger can ask another to dance.  I had an outlet that put me in a very friendly social setting without fear of rejection.

As you may have guessed, my passion led to something that changed my life forever — something I had been wanting for many years:  I met the woman who would become my wife and the mother of my child.  We met through a dance partner search and decided to practice and compete together, and, yes…now we are married, with a beautiful young daughter (whom I predict will conquer the world).  My wife was not Jewish when I met her, but she agreed to convert, which was important to me and my family.

My wife and I still dance, but only occasionally, as our time is occupied otherwise.  I can honestly say that if I had not taken to dancing as I did, I might not even be alive to write this piece — much less be the “hubby” and “daddy” I am today!