Saturday, November 22, 2008

Putting My Two Feet In My Mouth

This morning at my parent and child dance class (for children 2-5 years old), a visitor came with one of the children. Since there are already plenty of adults in the class, it's not uncommon for grandparents, out-of-town relatives, members of my fan club, etc. to join in the fun or sit on the sidelines if they prefer. I mean, who doesn't want to see Mary Poppins lead a creative movement class? Visitors are not unusual for this class but there was something a bit unusual about this visitor. I don't think I've ever met anyone who fit into as many historically discriminated-against groups. She was a female African American lesbian amputee. I only fit into one of those groups (in case you were wondering, it's female) and sometimes things can be rough. I can't imagine how many barriers one would face in her situation. Luckily I happened to see her through the windows before she entered the dance room so I was able to pull my inquisitive Una aside and whisper into her ear: "someone is coming in who only has one leg. We're not going to ask any questions about that or talk about that, OK?" She nodded her head in agreement and I hoped that she'd remember. If only I had been able to remember perhaps I wouldn't feel like such an ass right now.

My lesson plans for the class include a mix CD that I make each week and a paper on which I've typed up the order of the songs and the props/directions. I reference this paper throughout the 45 minute-long class because I can't be expected to recall the exact order or even the exact songs I'm using that week (due to my job, my iTunes library is ridiculously extensive when it comes to children's music. This is not a fact I'm proud of. It's just a fact). About half way through the class the next song scheduled was one where you pretend to put different shoes on your feet and move accordingly (marching shoes: march, running shoes: run, tiptoe shoes: tiptoe--you get the idea) and the chorus goes like this: "I've got two feet, and I really like to use them, I've got two feet, that take me anywhere." The kids love it and it's a crowd pleaser. But not when you have someone with only one foot in the crowd. I wish I'd remembered her presence before I started out on a course that was disastrous.

When I noticed that song was next, I turned to the kids and said my usual intro (it goes something like this): "show me your two feet. In this next song we get to use them in many different ways." Then I stopped abruptly when I remembered our visitor. Clearly dancing to the two feet song would have been in extremely poor taste considering her situation. I already felt rude and unfeeling having delivered my little spoken intro. My only course of action at this point was to abort that portion of my lesson plan. I lamely said "oh wait, I don't have that song today. Let's see what's next." We then proceeded with another song that doesn't repeat the refrain about two feet over and over again for nearly 4 minutes.

At the end of class, everyone had cleared the room except for our visitor. I decided to strike up some friendly banter to let her know that I am a nice person after all. I told her we loved having visitors and thanked her for coming. She said she'd be coming frequently in the future (I perked up at that. Perhaps I hadn't scared her off after all) and then I asked if she was family or a friend and she said "I'm her partner. Well, her new partner." My response? "That makes sense." What? What exactly about that statement makes sense? I'm sure she thought I was a total moron. I know I thought that about myself. I totally struck out with the one-legged lesbian today. Maybe I can redeem myself next time. That is, if she shows up next time.

For the record, this is why the partner comment made sense to me: the child who brought the visitor has been in my class for almost a year. Their entire family (the two moms and the cute girl) would come to class together every week without fail. Then a couple of months ago I noticed that the women were taking turns bringing the daughter. At first I thought one of the moms was sick or out of town, but when they continued to show up on alternate weeks without the other one I thought that maybe they'd broken up. Today when the visitor stated that she was the mom's new partner my suspicions were confirmed and it made sense as to why I hadn't seen the two moms together for months. However without that context my comment made no sense whatsoever and I certainly wasn't going to explain my logic and dig myself deeper and deeper into an already gigantic hole. I ended up cheerily wishing her a happy Thanksgiving and held the door open for her on her way out. After all of that, it was the least I could do.

Please note: I'm turning the comments off for this post. I'm sure any and all comments would be along the lines of "you're an idiot, Mary Poppins." Trust me, I already know that.