That's a provocative title for a blog post, one that contains an implicit addition: when dancing. Any man realizes that the dance floor is just about the only place he's going to be able to lead a woman with impunity.
Especially if he's married, as I know from thirty-five years of yes, dear experience.
So why is it that in partner dancing it's so acceptable for the man to call the shots? Well, not only acceptable – demanded, as we keep being told in our Night Club Two Step lessons.
We've gotten halfway proficient at American Tango, thanks to Lora, our RJ Dance Studio instructor. We decided to branch out to a style that seemingly would be easier than Tango. Two steps sounded great compared to the intricacies of many Tango moves.
The reality, however, is that Night Club Two Step is turning out to be just about as challenging for us. I've still got to lead and Laurel still has to follow. No matter what the style, this is the basic hurdle that a man and woman need to overcome to have a good time together.
Or at least, be able to leave the dance floor without wanting to choke each other.
When we're practicing Laurel frequently tells me, "You're not doing what you should." My yang to her yin is, "You're not following like you should."
But what we don't argue about is who's doing the leading and following. Whether the dance is Tango, Nightclub Two Step, or something else, I'm going to be the leader and Laurel the follower.
Which feels right. That's the simple answer to why men lead and women follow. The sexes are inherently different, as Johanna Siegmann wrote in The Tao of Tango (and I echoed in "Tango, where men lead and women follow."
I get frustrated when I'm not able to lead correctly. However, it'd be immensely more difficult for me to accept being the follower. It bothers me enough when I feel Laurel getting ahead of me in a sequence of moves that I've been trying to lead.
At that point she becomes the de facto leader, a no-no. Last Tuesday our instructor took the man's role while demonstrating a Night Club Two Step routine with Laurel. Lora got a few steps into it, then stopped short.
"What are you doing?" Lora said to Laurel. "I didn't lead that move. You did it on your own."
I clapped my hands and exclaimed "Yes! Tell it like it is!" Because that's just what I'd been telling my wife. But naturally she didn't believe me.
During the same group lesson Lora went over to the sound system and picked up a remote control. "See this, guys?" she said. "This is yours in dance. You get to decide the moves. Use it!"
Just like at home. I hold the remote 99.9% of the time. When Laurel touches it I start to feel queasy. A basic law of the cosmos is being violated. The man should change the channel, just as he should change the dance move.
Nikolas Lloyd, a quirky Englishman (aren't they all?) and swing dance aficionado, has put together a spot-on "Ten Reasons Why Men Lead and Women Follow." Here's two key reasons that I especially agree with
7. Men prefer it
Men are show-offs. Men get pleasure from dancing well, not simply from dancing. A partner dance is an opportunity for a man to be masculine, and give a woman a good time. This is surely a good thing for both men and women. If a man is stupid, he might try to show the women how strong he is by shoving her around brutally. She won't like this and will never dance with him again. If he is considerate and sensible, he will look after his partner and she will enjoy dancing with him. If she looks happy at the end of the dance, that is his reward. Men get a big kick out of that sort of thing, and we are, after all, doing this for kicks.
8. Women prefer it
Despite what the politically correct may try to get us to believe, women don't actually find men who are followers in life as attractive as leaders. Weak yes-men do not win the hearts of women, while strong and decisive men generally do. Dancing with a man is an opportunity for a woman to assess him. If she is leading, she will learn less about him, and the sensation of having a man follow her is not as pleasurable as the sensation of being well led by a man who is a decisive and skilled dancer. Deny the biology of the situation if you like, but you won't refute it. It remains true that men and women both enjoy partner dancing most when he leads and she follows (for much more on this sort of thing, see my essay in the evolution section on why men won't dance ).
For a religious perspective on leading and following in dance – can you guess who the real Leader is? – check out "In Step With God."
Surprisingly, for a churchless sort like me, I found some connections between this guy's take on letting go in dancing and my own "Balanced between faith and doubt."
We agree on one thing: a man may be the leader on the dance floor, but the universe (which includes wives and girlfriends) has a humbler role in store for him once he leaves it.