It's a good thing our marriage doesn't depend upon our compatibility on the dance floor. We recently emerged from our third ballroom encounter in six years and have decided to sit out the next few community functions before having another go at it.
Our first dance together, in the summer of '77, was fleeting but fun. We were vacationing at the time, having supper on a hotel patio overlooking a shimmering Caribbean beach, when someone struck up the steel drums. The only way out was across the pulsating patio and we had a pleasant shuffle through the crowd on our way to pick up our room key.
Then, about three summers ago, some friends invited us to join them at a 1920 -vintage dance emporium, where the wall mirrors and twirling ceiling fixtures competed for attention with saxophonists who looked as if they could tell some hilarious stories about Benny Goodman as a child. It was there that we discovered that our foxes didn't trot to quite the same beat.
It may have something to do with geography. In the small Midwest town where my husband grew up, Saturday nights were a time for pizza on the back porch. But in Maryland, baby, you danced. It didn't matter whether it was at the recreation center or in the school gymnasium. Come the weekend, we'd roll out the 45s and stroll the night away.
We danced our way from junior high school right through college, from the carefree days of the monster mash to nights of mellow cha-chas. There were few prerequisites for a date in the mid-'60s. If he could pony, the evening was a guaranteed success.
Although we changed partners faster than Stevie Wonder changed voices, I knew that when my knight waltzed into my life he'd be short and blond and come complete with a set of Beach Boy albums. When he turned up tall, dark, and humming Beethoven, it took some getting used to.
Pooling our record collections was the first challenge. I'd always alphabetized, beginning with Frankie Avalon and running out of room somewhere near Diana Ross and the Supremes. But his classical platters were arranged by centuries, in thematic groupings that required a degree in music theory. The American Bandstand crowd would have given them consistently low 40s: no lyrics, no beat, terrible to dance to.
Still, we managed to amuse each other. He was fascinated by my instant recall of ''sh'bops'' and ''oo-ees'' whenever a radio station dug into its golden oldies and came up with a classic like ''Purple People Eater.'' I, in turn, was star-struck by his whistling of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2, cadenzas and all.
In the intervening years, we've developed a tolerance, if not a growing admiration, for each other's tastes in music. For our anniversary last fall we bought a stereo tape deck for the car, plus one Mozart concerto and one James Brown cassette, both of which get equal play.
Then last summer, on a fog-shrouded island off the coast of Maine where no one knew us, we even tried a square dance. Neutral ground, we figured. No danger of stepping on anyone's musical toes.
We squared our set on cue and struck out with a left-hand-to-your-corner, only to collide in the middle of our do-si-do. We'd forgotten that my size 6's and his 14AAA's weren't built to share the same floorboards.
The most promising development since then came a couple of weeks ago when he cleaned the paint buckets and bicycles out of the barn, set up his exercise equipment, and wired the rafters for sound. I stopped in one evening after my jog around the neighborhood to find him doing sit-ups to the tune of ''A Hard Day's Night.''
He likes the Beatles! Says they wrote remarkable harmonies, inventive melodies, music that can be played by any symphony in the world.
Now if I can just sneak a little slow-slow, quick-quick into his evening workout, who knows how long it may be before we're kicking up our slightly mismatched heels?