by: Shelly Phillips
It’s a surprisingly cold night for October, and a friend and I arrive at a hole-in-the-wall Latin nightclub called Tequila in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Upon entering the somewhat seedy establishment, I quickly determine that I am underdressed; sporting a somewhat dowdy pair of jeans, a print tee, and a pair of black flats, I instantly wish I’d worn something more club-worthy. All of the other women are wearing your typical clubbing outfits—leggings, high heels, tight jeans and short strapless dresses.
The air is dim, and the nightclub is split in two. In the first room, you find a bar, a DJ and a dance floor filled with young Latino guys and girls bumping and grinding in clubbing fashion. A strobe light circles above; as a woman, I am eye-fucked by dozens of Latino men standing in groups around the edges of the room, and the music is mostly hip-hop, with only a few Spanish songs thrown in. Mostly Daddy Yankee.
The other room is a completely different world. A mariachi band is playing banda music on stage, the lights gleaming on their guitars, trumpets and accordions. The group is older here, and the men are dressed completely differently—tight jeans, cowboy hats, belts and pointy boots. Couples rapidly tip-tap their feet and dance around each other at a speed you wouldn’t think was possible. They barely touch while the couples in the other room are essentially dry humping on the dance floor.
I am in the first room and am surreptitiously admiring the beautiful morenas and guapas that crowd the floor, often dancing together. I try to pretend I’m not watching them when, of course, I am. But how can I show it? As far as I know, homosexuality is not exactly lauded in Latin American culture, and all of the women I see are probably straight.
I spy on two particularly gorgeous young women who are dancing the salsa in front of a group of leering boys. Their hair is long and black and falls in shining waves down their shoulders. This is something that has always driven me crazy about women.
They are lovely and enticing, and I force myself to look away.
Later, a short, Mexican woman invites me to dance. I know it isn’t anything; she is simply offering to show me how to salsa and probably finds it completely innocent. After all, don’t groups of girlfriends dance together all the time at bars and clubs? It’s no different, she is probably thinking. I wish I was, too. But I can’t.
How odd it is, I think, to dance with a woman. She is shorter than I and not noticeably attractive. But then her hands find mine, and they are soft, and I can smell the shampoo in her hair, and suddenly, she is the most beautiful thing I see. I try to play nonchalant when I am inwardly in a sea of bliss. How different it is to dance with a woman—to feel soft hands instead of rough, to be the leader instead of the follower, to look down instead of up.
The dance ends, and she beams up at me and goes to join our mutual friends. I smile back, hoping she didn’t notice anything.
Shelly Phillips is an Ohioan who doesn’t really care about the Buckeyes, but is just a little too obsessed with all things British. She also enjoys traveling, reading, Chai tea lattes, and late-afternoon naps.