Salsa Hurts
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa  (Sep 2011)

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            I’ve had my wrist twisted, my shoulder wrenched, my instep bruised/crushed/pierced/scraped/scarred. I know men who have been cracked in the face by spinning, braided whips. I know women whose noses were broken by overambitious elbows. No, not in the dojo. On the dance floor.  

            I have seen a lot at my favorite local salsa dancing spots. Watches and earrings stuck in hair. High heels stuck in other high heels. A big toenail split under the wide, imposing heel of a men’s shoe. Skin broken by evil, freshly-sharpened stilettos. And, in wintertime, let us not forget the ninja throwing star of snot. Watch someone execute a triple turn with a runny nose. It is truly fascinating to behold. This maneuver is not recommended for beginners, and should only be attempted when exacting revenge against a particular dance partner for a just and honorable cause. In that case, bombs away.  

            Me: Can you really hit a moving target with mucus?
            Imaginary Ninja dancer: Shur-I-ken.
            Me: Ah. I see what you did there.  

            Many find it intriguing that, generally, my karate incidents have been more serious, but my salsa incidents have been more frequent. There are two exceptions where the salsa incidents leaned into the serious category, and I had the pleasure of experiencing them both last year. One was when my hair caught on fire at a dance club in New York. Quickly spotted, quickly extinguished, so no real harm done other than the loss of a few locks, and a totally reasonable level of discomfort around open flame for about six months. It could have been quite terrible, really. I’ll save the details of that story for another time, but I did request that uncovered votive candles not be lit while displayed ON A WALL, AT HUMAN HEAD HEIGHT, in the future. As if such a thing should ever have to be pointed out! Yet, sadly, we live in a world where ATTENTION tags ask us not to use blow-dryers in the shower. Those tags must be there for somebody. I nominate the manager of that fine, New York establishment.  

            The second exception was when I got kicked in the knee. Again, salsa, not karate. This took place just off of the dance floor when some genius decided to stretch her leg by kicking behind her, much like a mule might do if admitted to a salsa party. The catch: she neglected to first look behind her. Einstein the Mule’s high heel caught me just inside of my right kneecap as I was passing behind her to leave what had, until that precise moment, been a lovely party.  

            She spun around, appropriately horrified at her own mind-boggling stupidity, and apologized. She was sincere. I didn’t need to do much more than point out the obvious, and my efforts to keep it together were only partially foiled by my piecemeal yelling. “I KNOW you didn’t do it on PURpose, but MAYbe, NEXT TIME you deCIDE to KICK beHIND you, you should LOOK BEHIND you FIRST.” I could move, I could walk, and nothing was broken or torn, so I left without saying more. I figured it would just be a bit bruised the next day.  

            I underestimated. Had I known that the next morning I would wake up with my knee swollen, tender, and in terrible pain, and that this injury would require weeks of physical therapy, I would have gotten ETM’s contact info so I could send her a bill for my copays. Accompanied by periodic hate mail.  

            No, no, I’m above sending hate mail.  

            Actually I’m not. But I will pretend I am because I don’t have her address. I’m sure I would have eventually gotten around to recommending martial arts training to her, as I can attest to the effectiveness of her rear snap kick. I might have also mentioned that, in addition to giving up my usual activities for a month, I had to sell my ticket – purchased a year in advance – to a major, weekend-long dance workshop. This is me being not at all bitter. Nope. Not a bit. Nuh-uh.  

            On the plus side, I found a collapsible cane at my local drugstore. It was more suitable than crutches, and hey, it fit in my purse! Cool! At a point when I still carried it in my bag but no longer needed it, I was walking outside when I saw a man approaching, limping horribly, as though he had just twisted an ankle and was too busy to have it looked at.  

            I asked if he was OK. He said, “Not really.” We chatted for a minute. Then, the way a woman might reach into her purse to offer someone a Kleenex, I reached into mine and pulled out a full-sized walking cane. It was like a cartoon. I decollapsed it as I lifted it out of the bag, handed it over, and said, “Just don’t ask why I happen to have a cane in my purse. God bless, and get better soon.”

            People make fun of me for carrying around a lot of stuff, yet when they need something, they always check with me, don’t they? But that’s lotion, hand sanitizer, bobby pins, things like that. Even I had to laugh at the visual of me pulling out a cane. Shrug. Modern technology. Thank you, CVS. I’m thinking of getting another one just to have on hand in case of emergency. Sure, injury emergencies, too, I guess... but I think you know that I’m talking about the kind of emergency where you’d say, “I sure wish I had a stick-type weapon in my purse.” I’ll need to learn how to use it as such, though, so first things first: time to enroll in that fencing class. Because what this lady needs is another hobby, right? I may as well choose one that is slightly less dangerous than club salsa. En garde.





I’ve had my wrist twisted, my shoulder wrenched, my instep bruised/crushed/
pierced/scraped/scarred. I know men who have been cracked in the face by spinning,
braided whips. I know women whose noses were broken by overambitious elbows.
No, not in the dojo. On the dance floor.
I have seen a lot at my favorite local salsa dancing spots. Watches and earrings
stuck in hair. High heels stuck in other high heels. A big toenail split under the wide,
imposing heel of a men’s shoe. Skin broken by evil, freshly-sharpened stilettos. And,
in wintertime, let us not forget the ninja throwing star of snot. Watch someone execute
a triple turn with a runny nose. It is truly fascinating to behold. This maneuver
is not recommended for beginners, and should only be attempted when exacting
revenge against a particular dance partner for a just and honorable cause. In that
case, bombs away.
Me: Can you really hit a moving target with mucus?
Imaginary Ninja dancer: Shur-I-ken.
Me: Ah. I see what you did there.
Many find it intriguing that, generally, my karate incidents have been more serious, but my salsa incidents have been
more frequent. There are two exceptions where the salsa incidents leaned into the serious category, and I had the pleasure
of experiencing them both last year. One was when my hair caught on fire at a dance club in New York. Quickly spotted,
quickly extinguished, so no real harm done other than the loss of a few locks, and a totally reasonable level of discomfort
around open flame for about six months. It could have been quite terrible, really. I’ll save the details of that story
for another time, but I did request that uncovered votive candles not be lit while displayed ON A WALL, AT HUMAN HEAD
HEIGHT, in the future. As if such a thing should ever have to be pointed out! Yet, sadly, we live in a world where ATTENTION
tags ask us not to use blow-dryers in the shower. Those tags must be there for somebody. I nominate the manager
of that fine, New York establishment.
The second exception was when I got kicked in the knee. Again, salsa, not karate. This took place just off of the
dance floor when some genius decided to stretch her leg by kicking behind her, much like a mule might do if admitted to
a salsa party. The catch: she neglected to first look behind her. Einstein the Mule’s high heel caught me just inside of my
right kneecap as I was passing behind her to leave what had, until that precise moment, been a lovely party.
She spun around, appropriately horrified at her own mind-boggling stupidity, and apologized. She was sincere. I didn’t
need to do much more than point out the obvious, and my efforts to keep it together were only partially foiled by my
piecemeal yelling. “I KNOW you didn’t do it on PURpose, but MAYbe, NEXT TIME you deCIDE to KICK beHIND you, you
should LOOK BEHIND you FIRST.” I could move, I could walk, and nothing was broken or torn, so I left without saying
more. I figured it would just be a bit bruised the next day.
I underestimated. Had I known that the next morning I would wake up with my knee swollen, tender, and in terrible
pain, and that this injury would require weeks of physical therapy, I would have gotten ETM’s contact info so I could send
her a bill for my copays. Accompanied by periodic hate mail.
No, no, I’m above sending hate mail.
Actually I’m not. But I will pretend I am because I don’t have her address. I’m sure I would have eventually gotten
around to recommending martial arts training to her, as I can attest to the effectiveness of her rear snap kick. I might
have also mentioned that, in addition to giving up my usual activities for a month, I had to sell my ticket – purchased a
year in advance – to a major, weekend-long dance workshop. This is me being not at all bitter. Nope. Not a bit. Nuh-uh.
On the plus side, I found a collapsible cane at my local drugstore. It was more suitable than crutches, and hey, it fit in
my purse! Cool! At a point when I still carried it in my bag but no longer needed it, I was walking outside when I saw a
man approaching, limping horribly, as though he had just twisted an ankle and was too busy to have it looked at.
I asked if he was OK. He said, “Not really.” We chatted for a minute. Then, the way a woman might reach into her
purse to offer someone a Kleenex, I reached into mine and pulled out a full-sized walking cane. It was like a cartoon. I de
-collapsed it as I lifted it out of the bag, handed it over, and said, “Just don’t ask why I happen to have a cane in my
purse. God bless, and get better soon. People make fun of me for carrying around a lot of stuff, yet when they need something, they always check with me,
don’t they? But that’s lotion, hand sanitizer, bobby pins, things like that. Even I had to laugh at the visual of me pulling
out a cane. Shrug. Modern technology. Thank you, CVS. I’m thinking of getting another one just to have on hand in case
of emergency. Sure, injury emergencies, too, I guess... but I think you know that I’m talking about the kind of emergency
where you’d say, “I sure wish I had a stick-type weapon in my purse.” I’ll need to learn how to use it as such, though, so
first things first: time to enroll in that fencing class. Because what this lady needs is another hobby, right? I may as well
choose one that is slightly less dangerous than club salsa. En garde.