Taking Off The MASK

In the studio, the Cha Cha music was playing loudly; Radu, our teacher was barking the beats madly; Shyi-Dong and I were twisting and twirling wildly. Out of breath, we finally could follow the music. The Olympic trained teacher Radu barked: “Expression! Expression!” I squeezed out a smile and continued with my steps. Radu snapped: “No, not that kind of smile!” I tried again. Radu roared: “No, I don’t want to see a mask. Show me your true feelings, passionate feelings!” I was stuck. What are my true feelings? How could I show passionate feelings?

Growing up in a very conservative society, I have learned how to hide all my feelings. Smile was my way of pleasing people because it never failed. Shyi-Dong and I have been taking dance lessons for over 12 years; Cha Cha is just a piece of cake for us. However, Radu is really tough. He can’t stand watching us just shake our bodies or wave our arms; he wants MORE. Something more than what we can do!

Stepping to the music, I couldn’t control my thoughts which brought me back to a friends’ gathering. One friend said: “One day when I was in college, the President of the school happened to pass by our classroom when I was discussing the yearbook with a girl classmate. On the following day, I was summoned to the office…” The other one said: “When I was in college, dating offended the school rules. The students would be kicked out of the school because it was as severely punished as stealing…” The third one said: “When I was a freshman, the school superintendent questioned me about why there were boys writing letters to me? I told him the letters were from my uncle who was three years older than me. The superintendent got very mad because he believed that I was lying. He questioned why I said the letter was from my cousin the last time and it became my uncle this time? I ended up showing the superintendent my ID to prove it…..” The fourth one said: “One day when my class was holding a dance party, the police came and arrested all the students; brought them to the police office and informed the parents to take them home. I was smart, I sneaked away quickly.” Listening to all the stories, we laughed till our tears dropped. All those people have become leaders in their professions, but the perception of love or dance was badly distorted when we were young. The stories explained how we grew up.

The music is still playing loudly; Radu is still bellowing at the top of his lungs; I have decided to go home and send him a text message: “Please don’t ask me to take off my mask. I will feel naked.”

Bih-Hua Chen
May 3, 2009