Long before we girls leave the crib, we sense that boys watch the way we move.
Once we become ambulatory the game intensifies. Puberty attaches language to this preoccupation as girls learn whether guys are leg men, butt-watchers, or hypnotized by hips. In adulthood, women discover the power to influence an admirer with a simple movement. We choreograph our own signature dance. Fully in control of our youthful bodies, we emulate the panther, the gazelle, our favorite Motown group, or in a goofy moment, a decrepit great uncle.
Developing MS is a real game-changer. When I added foot drop to my choreography, I felt clumsy and unattractive. Augmenting my routine with a cane was the finishing blow; a cane did well by Fred Astaire and July Garland, but I don’t sing “Swanee” or tap dance on ceilings. I gave up on grace and worried about tripping or falling. My dance morphed from jazzy Gwen Verdon to Chevy Chase doing Gerald Ford. Convinced that men observed this with either sympathy or disgust, I abandoned my desire to be desired.
One day, I noticed my husband, Mark, standing behind me beaming lasciviously.
“What are you looking at, you silly man,” I asked.
“You,” he said. “I love the way you walk.”
“Limp,” I corrected, “I don’t really just walk anymore.”
“It’s a geisha two-step,” he observed. “You take these feminine little mincing steps and then swing one hip. It makes your butt look great. You’re so hot.”
I peered suspiciously at his face, searching for irony. But he was still looking at my ass with that unmistakable gaze of desire.
He seemed to sense my overall low opinion of my physical affect in society. “I see how men look at you when we’re out in public,” he went on. “They can’t take their eyes off you. I know how men think, honey. You don’t even see it—and that’s the beauty of you.”
The geisha two-step. I do still have a dance. Maybe not the one I was hoping for, but it’ll do.