By Susan Morton

I looked down at my bloody toe peeking out from my open-toe sandal. Ten minutes into my first session of ballroom dance lessons, I knew that my husband, Rob, and I were in trouble.

Limping to the sidelines to sit for a minute, I realized my fantasy was going up in smoke. I'd never be Ginger Rogers to my husband's Fred Astaire.

I am a huge fan of the TV show

Dancing with the Stars.

I've watched it for the last three seasons, mesmerized as the celebrities and their professional partners glide across the dance floor. It looks so romantic and exciting. It made me think that dancing lessons would be just what my husband and I needed to put, shall I say, a little zing into our marriage.

When the local adult evening school offered dance classes this fall, I couldn't contain myself. I was elated when my husband agreed to go. This would be a great bonding experience. And how hard could it be?

We showed up at the high school gymnasium that first night along with 15 other couples. The women were bright-eyed and smiling. The men shuffled in slowly with that "How'd I get myself into this?" look. Most of us were middle-aged, married couples. There were a few teenagers getting ready for their prom, one slightly older couple, who were seasoned dancers, and one younger couple practicing for their wedding.

Our instructor was a short, average-looking man with a shaved head and day-old stubble on his face. I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I'd hoped for a tall, dark Latino-type with smoldering eyes and a heavy accent. But the instructor was nice enough and knew what he was doing.

We were taught the basics of the fox trot, waltz, rumba, tango, cha-cha and swing. My husband mechanically led me through the steps. He held my hand so tightly that by the end of a dance he had it completely bent backward as if we had been hand-wrestling. My carpal tunnel syndrome began to act up.

Our foot placement - which was supposed to be aligned with alternating feet (my right to his left; my left to his right) - somehow got misconstrued. Thus, the stomping on and bloodying of my toe.

I squealed on my husband to the instructor, showing him my foot. Wincing, he reiterated that we were obviously not getting our foot placement right. Embarrassed by my tattling, my husband shot me a dagger-eyed glance and began thrusting me into random spins until I felt dizzy.

Both verbal and nonverbal clashes ensued until I got silly and started dancing free-style, spinning whenever I felt like it. I was in it for the fun. My husband, however, was in it to win at all costs - like every other game he played.

As the night progressed, I noticed that the women had stopped smiling and the men were clenching their jaws. I overheard one man say to his wife, "You owe me big time for my birthday!"

Of course, there were the one or two show-offs who were getting it right, like the older couple who were gliding across the dance floor while dreamily gazing into each other's eyes. The only dance my husband and I seemed to nail down was the tango – maybe, in part, because it is a dance of passion, and by that time we were dancing the fine line between love and hate.

After two hours, we left the class bloodied, weary and suffering with foot cramps. The next morning we woke up stiff, sore, and feeling like we had gone three rounds with George Foreman.

Our second class went a little more smoothly. The third class we skipped out of sheer exhaustion, but by the fourth class, we were able to laugh and let our defenses down a bit. The steps started to fall in place. We were able to relax and enjoy ourselves.

We've managed to complete our first course of dance lessons with our marriage still intact. We have also learned some lessons along the way: lessons in forbearance and stamina, that is, and maybe a few dance steps here and there.

Susan Morton lives and writes in Riegelsville.