How we met — my teacher, not husband

Salsa class by Paulina Altuna
Salsa class by Paulina Altuna

It was a Monday evening when my husband and I got ready to try a new salsa class. Ten years ago, we used to go dancing several times a week, back when we were just friends. But then he seduced me, we got married, moved across the Atlantic, had a child, and completely forgot about salsa. Over the years I also forgot all about my sexuality, feeling desirable and having strong feelings of lust. As we were walking towards the social center where the salsa classes were held, I had no idea of the changes that were to come.

You were waiting for us at the door, grinning what I thought was a knowing and slightly mocking smile. I had communicated with you via email, and so you knew that we had danced salsa before (but not Cuban salsa) in Virginia. Since the salsa you were teaching was Cuban, we tried the level I class. We loved it. You are a great teacher as well as  an amazing dancer. But it wasn’t until the level II class right after that I got excited. I had forgotten how good it felt to be flying around in someone’s arms – especially the teacher’s – someone who was holding me tight, leading me confidently and whose full attention was focused on me. It was heaven, and at that moment I couldn’t believe that I had voluntarily sacrificed dancing for more than a decade. I was lost.

Samba by Valerie Vescovi
Samba by Valerie Vescovi

In that moment I didn’t realize yet what you would come to mean to me, but the seed of my feelings must have been there all along. I must admit that I googled you, and felt intrigued by the things I read. You seemed intelligent, worldly, educated and accomplished. You also apparently spoke English.

I briefly entertained the idea that you were gay. Not at all because of your physical appearance or behavior, but for two reasons. The first was that you made a Freudian slip – or at least I interpreted it as such – when you said “when the boy dances with the man”, after which you corrected yourself. The second reason is that I felt no interest from you whatsoever, despite you being Cuban. And no, I don’t think a man is gay simply because I am not his type, but we are talking about a Latino man here! Usually there is at least a look, a curiosity, a little ogling going on because I happen to be blond with blue eyes and Latino men happen to find me attractive. At least that’s what normally happens. You just ignored me completely. And it somehow bothered me, although I wasn’t fully aware of it, and even less of why I would be annoyed.

A couple of weeks later we had a social dance, and that’s when I first realized that I had a crush on you. I went with my husband. When I danced with him, it was a little frustrating because he (understandably) couldn’t remember the Puerto Rican salsa moves we had learned so many years ago, and we hadn’t yet learnt enough Cuban moves. But I was aching to fly around in someone’s competent arms, and nobody else invited me. The biggest disappointment was that you didn’t dance with your students, or anyone else for that matter. I felt crushed in my heart, even though I hadn’t even been aware up till then how much I had been looking forward to dance with you socially.

And then someone pointed out your wife. It hadn’t occurred to me that you could be married! And for some totally illogical reason that knowledge flooded me with disappointment. She gave a speech. It was your birthday and she asked all women to give you a kiss on the cheek. I queued – I wasn’t going to miss my chance – said happy birthday and kissed you. You had that mocking smile on your face again and I had no idea how to interpret that.

Bailando salsa by Humberto Pinochet
Bailando salsa by Humberto Pinochet

Soon afterwards my husband took me home because he was tired and it was way past our usual bedtime. It was a sobering night and I cried. I used to be very popular on the dance floor. I wondered if I had lost my looks with age. I felt insignificant and undesirable. But I wasn’t about to give up…

Because the beginner’s class that I was taking with my husband couldn’t meet my needs (of flying around with a competent lead), I signed up for the level II class all by myself. A few months later I took a third and even fourth class, more specifically to learn bachata. I was slowly getting to know the people in the dance community and they were starting to get to know me!

There was only one small annoyance: you consistently ignored me in class, only to occasionally flip on me completely and give me a warm hug or hold my hands or suddenly be shy with me. What was I supposed to make of that?


Click here to see how our story unfolds.

Click here to read the first poem I have written in 22 years
and here for a little background information on my past.

xoxo, Cuban salsa girl.


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