Dance first, eat later

Payments whittled my budget until things got so dire one week my fridge held only carrots and mustard.

Voluntarily eating for one week on a $21 welfare allowance, though uncomfortable, is a far cry from the reality of being forced by financial circumstances to face the everyday grind of an inadequate food budget week after week with no relief in sight.

This I learned at age 24 when I naively signed up for an enjoy-now, pay-later deal simple math would have convinced me was foolhardy. I could not afford it.

I was working in a New York City hospital 40 hours a week for a weekly salary of $84, a respectable secretary’s income at that time.

All winter I had attended night courses every Monday and Wednesday evening with plenty of homework sandwiched between work and classes. My only physical exercise consisted of a 30 minute walk to work each morning.

When May arrived and classes suspended until September, I saw an opportunity to flex a few leg muscles.

An ad in the daily paper for Dale Dance Studio showed the silhouette of an elegant couple like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing in evening dress.

Impulsively, I signed up for a 10-month course of ballroom dancing.

What possessed me to select ballroom dancing is something I’ve never been able to explain satisfactorily even to myself.

The surest gauge of my fear and folly has to be my memory loss of that signing moment. Beyond the fact the course cost $900 with $90 monthly payments, I recall only an office person asking, “Are you sure you can handle the cost of the course and the size of the monthly payments?”

Without hesitation, I signed on the dotted line.

And so began months of evening practising by myself of the cha cha, the dance craze of that summer, to the beat of an LP spinning on my record player.

The dance studio on Broadway was hangar-sized with a hardwood floor and mirror walls. A few wooden chairs offered minimal seating.

Students paid to dance, and that’s what we did, in the arms of young instructors with ramrod spines wearing suits so fitted by comparison Howard Wolowitz’s attire is roomy.

The studio offered degrees of classes, from bronze beginner level up through silver and gold to platinum. Platinum students tended to be elderly ladies who took the lessons year after year more for companionship and the occasional school party.

Carrying a bag lunch was routine for myself and the 12 women I worked with and that didn’t change.

We took our coffee breaks in the hospital tea room where a coffee was probably 10 cents, and augmented our lunches in the cafeteria with an iced tea or slice of iced cantaloupe.

On paydays, three of us would go to the nearby bank to cash our cheques then order lunch at a diner next door. My choice was always franks and beans; it was my comfort food.

I’ve never been much of a cook. My tastes range to fresh produce, veggies such as carrot sticks, apples, or other fruit.

For my solitary suppers, I liked to fry a quarter pound of ground beef and have that topped with either ketchup or Libby’s mustard along with bread and a salad.

When I signed up with Dale, I failed to comprehend how those course payments would sap my weekly food budget, little by little, like ticks on a deer.

Payments whittled my budget until things got so dire one week my fridge held only carrots and mustard. That I remember clearly. Even I could see my situation wasn’t sustainable. I refinanced my lessons to lower monthly payments.

Dale’s lessons didn’t make me a great dancer, but they did teach me to save first and always pay cash.


Just Posted

Former resident wins filmmaking award

Veronika Kurz will be able to make her film with $15,000 cash and in-kind services, up to $100,000

Terrace River Kings win CIHL regular season

The boys held a strong enough lead in points to claim the banner after a 15-2 win Saturday

Terrace residents discuss poverty at provincial engagement meeting

80 people were there as well as the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction

Shames Mountain named one of the world’s Top 10 ski resorts

The UK magazine listed Shames alongside Whistler and hills in Italy, Japan and Austria

Who wants to live here?

Northwest governments partner on marketing plan to attract workforce, residents

Diplomacy on agenda at North Korea summit in Vancouver

Foreign ministers from 20 countries are meeting Tuesday to discuss security and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Kids chained in Calif. house of horrors; parents arrested

Authorities say an emaciated teenager led deputies to home where her 12 brothers and sisters were locked up in filthy conditions

‘Reprehensible’: Trudeau abortion policy raises ire of U.S. right

“This man is reprehensible,” tweeted former White House staffer Sebastian Gorka

‘I shouldn’t have to have a husband:’ Winnipeg woman criticizes men-only club

Jodi Moskal discovered the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club continues to ban women as members, as it has done since opening in 1909.

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

The false alarm came two days after Hawaii’s emergency management department sent a mistaken warning

Toronto girl dies after being pinned between vehicles while picked up from school

Police say an SUV with no driver in it rolled forward and pinned the girl against her father’s car

Freezing rain warning in effect for B.C. Southern Interior

Environment Canada issued the freezing rain warning for most of the Southern Interior Tuesday morning

Senior randomly stabbed in B.C. mall food court

Woman arrested after victim, 71, suffers serious injuries

Most Read