Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Guys: Don't Miss the Grooming Boat

I see one of my favorite dancers and grab her between tunes while the band isn't playing (I'll call her "Julia") Before the song started, Julia blurted out, "Why do some guys have long sharp nails, and then dig them into your hands?" She was rubbing her hands trying to take away the sting from the last dance and she continued, "I was so bothered with this last guy, I finally had to tell him how much it hurt!"

"Some guys just don't get it" she complained, "trim your nails before dancing, and don't dig your fingers into our hands..." I could tell she was a little upset, and it was out of character for her. (I immediately looked down at my fingers, hoping I remembered to trim this evening.)

As guys we can have great moves, but if we miss the grooming basics, we blow the whole dance. Don't make the same mistake this guy made. It's clear to me that Julia wasn't thrilled by his grip, but if his nails weren't excessively long and scratching her, I doubt she would have said anything.

Julia is a friend, long-time salsa instructor, and someone I love dancing with anytime she is available. She's a strong, experienced dancer with a wonderful attitude. I don't remember her complaining before, and I'm sure if I was a stranger she would have kept to herself. It was like she had to tell someone or she would explode, and she knew I was the right person due to our history.

As an instructor, Julia is used to dealing with leads at all levels and I've seen her be an angel with guys who were off-time, rough, or just figuring out how basic worked. Lots of guys don't realize she can lead much better than they do. She usually goes with flow and making guys feel good about their growth, even if they're total beginners.

If she's bothered, we should take notice.

I think you get the idea that it makes sense to keep your finger nails short if you social dance. (Verifying that your grip is comfortable and not digging into your partners hands wouldn't hurt either...)

At a minimum, you should put a pair of nail clippers in your car, probably a nail file, breath mints, extra deodorant, and maybe some light cologne. Checking your nails before dancing should be part of getting dressed and grabbing your car keys before going to the club. If you miss that, check them on the drive, and fix them if appropriate.

Get over the "nail files are for girls stuff." The files take off the rough edges and some clippers leave your nails sharp, even though they are shorter after clipping. File off the rough edges; it takes all of 30 seconds and your partners will indirectly appreciate it.

The fact is they won't notice if it's right, but like bad breath, when it's wrong it's a major negative and you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Since we are on the subject, don't offend women with things we can easily fix. Being prepared is half the battle.

In my case, I have a gym bag that I throw in the car every time I go dancing. It's my shaving kit on steroids. It's evolved over a few years and sometimes you'd think I was preparing for an earthquake or camping trip. It has all my grooming essentials including breath mints, gum, electric razor, an extra shirt, socks, hair spray, brush, undies, alternate shoes (jazz sneakers), along with a couple energy bars, ear plugs, pens and anything else I think I might ever need before or after dancing. For a while it had a hammer (long story).

I don't have to think about it most of time; I just grab it as I head out the door. I restock it regularly, but as a rule it's ready to go without much thought. If I notice my nails are extra long on the way to the club, I grab the clippers or nail file and hack away as needed. If I don't have enough breath mints in my pocket, my bag is stocked with extras.

You should create your own kit. At least be sure you have nail clippers, breath mints and other grooming essentials. Grow as you see fit, and throw it in the car as you're going out the door. Then you don't have to remember the details each time, and over time it becomes your "dance bag".

Let me know what you're doing to be prepared for dancing. And ladies, please tell us guys what grooming essentials you find critical. We may not want to hear it, but we need to know your point of view on this subject.


  1. Carry ibuprofen! And band-aids. You will be thanked, often. (Hopefully you're not the cause of the headache OR the injury)

  2. Amen on the bandaids and painkillers.

    If you know you sweat a lot, or even moderately, carry a bandanna or small hand towel. Slippery hands are terrible for fast songs that you're trying to dance full-out, and no one likes getting drops of sweat splattered at them when their partner turns.

  3. It works the other way too!

    I still have a line of scratches down my forearm from a girl with long finger nails two weeks ago. She was not my partner, but one of an adjacent guy. I've had blood drawn several times before from sharp rings and other assorted jewelery and clothing.

    It partly comes down to sensible choices of how we groom and dress and partly awareness of sharp objects, hazards, our own state and how our partners are feeling and reacting. I'd guess that the guy cited in this article was pretty insensitive to his partner in general - it was the gripping that was the problem rather than the nails. Many girls manage just fine with very long nails.

  4. Joe,

    Agreed overall. But as a rule women with longer nails always have longer nails, and they have learned to deal with them in a variety of situation. (Touch screen iPods, phones, opening packages, etc.)

    Guys often just get busy or lazy and don't realize their nails are longer than normal.

    You nailed the bigger point: Evaluate your grooming and eliminate the little things that could hurt or offend others. Be prepared to handle regular issues (nails, breath, odors).

    I appreciate the comments!

  5. Aside from a nail file in the car I always carry deodorant and breath mints.

    That said, I also carry several t-shirts when I go dancing and will usually wear them under a waistcoat or a shirt. When I start sweating too much I change them. This actually has a couple of advantages, not only does the lady not have to deal with my sweaty back but putting on a fresh shirt (usually after a quick towel down) I feel a bit more fresh again myself.

    First time guys notice that I keep putting on fresh shirts they usually laugh and go on about a 'fashion show'. Second time, they often bring spare shirts themselves :). Feedback from the ladies has only been positive up until now.

    On days like yesterday (9 hour bootcamp by Edie, 2 hours assisting at 'try out' classes followed by 3 hours of dancing at a party) I bring an entire change of cloths and a some towels. With no time for a shower I'll use the bathroom faucet to wash myself in between events.

    (Un?)Fortunately I don't have too many crazy days like that :-)

  6. Una Salsera de CalgaryJun 26, 2009, 12:28:00 PM

    Great tips! As a lady, I've learned to also pack extra bobby pins, extra hair elastic, lip gloss, and a light perfume. There were days I wished I didn't just fly out the door with just my salsa shoes.

    Guys, even if you are a really beginner dancer, I happily will dance with you again if you are respectful and smell good! :)

  7. So what was the deal with the hammer?...

  8. Hammer: At the dance studio where I take classes, there are some nails at one end of the floor. I caught a sock on one during a class one time.

    I saw a hammer on my work bench a week later and put it in my bag. Now I pound them down when I see them... The instructor now points them out to me if he see's them, and I keep them level with the floor these days.

    Everybody laughs at me, but they find me when a nail gets them!


I love feedback. Your thoughts, feelings and comments are appreciated. Civil disagreements and other points of view are always welcomed!

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero