Men could learn from Swayze's moves.
No matter what, I have to watch the final scene of Dirty Dancing if I come across it on TV. The goofy end-of-season Catskills resort talent show, the disgruntled dancers scowling in the back of the room because their leader has been unceremoniously fired, the awkward table for three where our heroine, Baby (Jennifer Grey), and her parents self-consciously sit to watch the pageant.
It doesn't matter that I've seen this mid-80s sleeper hit, oh, let's say 50, 60 times — I always have to watch it again. Not because it's classic cinema. Not because I have to hear Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle say, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" before he hauls her up on stage, although that line makes my husband laugh every single time he hears it. Not even for the excruciating singing of Baby's older sister.
No. I watch because, deep down, I believe with all my heart that with just a few turns around the floor I could learn those steps from Patrick Swayze, wear the flowing dress like Jennifer Grey, and do an unbelievable job with that final number.
If you’re a woman reading this, you're nodding your head, saying, "Yes! Yes!" Any woman worth her strappy high-heeled sandals would agree: There but for the grace of a good dance partner go I.
And guys, what does Dirty Dancing do for them? My husband may laugh at Johnny's big line, but shouldn't a movie that has captivated so many women have something to say to men?
Try just about everything. The teaching and the learning of the dance steps. The early challenges of Baby and Johnny's partnership. The slow build, from the first time they perform in public at a nearby resort to the climactic scene where they put it all out there for the world to see, is a road map for what women want.
Because what does Baby get from Johnny that makes her fall so hard for him? She gets exactly what all women want from their lovers: patience, dedication and decisiveness; confidence in themselves and their partners; the good sense to share the spotlight — and even step into the shadows occasionally — and, finally, strength.
Did Baby feel good about her first few turns around the room with Johnny? No. Did he believe he was quite possibly making an enormous mistake? Yes. Does that sound like countless first dates? Or maybe the first few years of your marriage?
But they made it through the toe squashing and the missed moves. Somewhere along the line, Johnny's patience as an instructor paid off. His confidence helped Baby polish her own natural abilities, and they became each other’s perfect partners. (Yes, Baby taught Johnny a few things, too. But that's another article.)
And the climax of the aforementioned, never-to-be-missed final scene? The lift! The scary, you-better-hold-on-tight-and-not-drop-me, I’m-not-sure-I-can-do-this lift! With grace, trust, and a look of exquisite joy, Baby flings herself into Johnny's waiting arms and is... what?
Elevated above and beyond anything she's dreamed of, truly glowing with pride and confidence, nurtured and encouraged all along the way by her lover and trusted friend. Any man who has seen the face of his woman watching this scene will want to see that look again — with himself, instead of Swayze, as the cause.
So what’s the secret? Arthur Murray? Maybe. But if you're not ready for the "first lesson is free" route, here's the big-picture takeaway:
- Hold her. Hold her tight, hold her lightly, hold her passionately. Never think your touch is old and unwanted. When you stop holding her, you start missing even the easy steps together.
- Let her go. A woman is nothing if not contradictions. She’ll need to take some solo steps, and it will help to know you're in the wings, cheering her on, watching her make her own moves from time to time.
- Dedicate yourself to getting it right. These "man/woman" steps get tough sometimes. When either of you makes a mistake, even a pretty bad one, move on together. Try real hard not to make it again.
- Lift her up. When the rest of the world tries to defeat her, remind her through your indefatigable confidence in her that she's a goddess who can soar above mere mortals.
- Look her in the eye. Fancy footwork only gets you so far. Gaze deep into her eyes and silently tell her, "I want to take these steps with you for the rest of my life."