Dancing around a problem
by John Gosselink
wife wants to go dancing.|
At least I think that's what she wants. When
she really wants something, she slips into her sugary East Texas drawl and gives
me her best Scarlet O'Hara look. She starts batting those eyes and Scarletting
me and my resolve melts in about two seconds. But sometimes I misunderstand the
Southern belle pronunciation. For instance, the word "Bassett Hound" is pronounced
So when she cuddled up to me last week and told me
she "would surely enjoy some dansin," I knew however it was pronounced, I was
in a kind of trouble I wouldn't be able to dance my way out of.
men can be put into one of two categories when it comes to dancing: those who
hate dancing and those who hate dancing but pretend to like it to keep their wives
happy. I fluctuate between the two depending on the circumstances. Most of the
time, if we are at a wedding or other mandatory dancing event, I'll pretend a
couple of dances with the wife are not the equivalent of dental surgery or a Amway
presentation from a supposed close friend.
But if we are leaving our
friendly confines with the sole purpose of dancing, I draw the line. My personal
dancing history and place in American history precludes me such activities. I
believe my dancing experience is pretty standard for men of my generation, which,
if you are scoring at home, has been tagged Gen X. I don't know why my generation's
name sounds like a prescription drug for baldness advertised on TV, but I'm thinking
it's not a good sign of what's to come.
only formal training with the distasteful art came back in the 7th grade when
a bunch of moms came up with this nefarious plan to make us normally happy, well-adjusted
children devastatingly miserable by organizing a formal dancing class. The fellas
weren't sure what we were in for, but when we found out it involved wearing our
itchy church clothes on Tuesday nights and contact with girls, we were calling
the ACLU and seeing if we had a "cruel and unusual" case.
of heartfelt and slobbery pleading, begging, and screaming, "Why are you doing
this me? You don't love me anymore!", my Mom tells me this dancing class will
help my social skills.
Social skills…what social skills? 12 year old
boys don't need no stinkin' social skills. We socially relate by punching each
other, laughing maniacally at any bodily function, and teasing the girls we secretly
liked. At our formal dancing class, these important skills were not only neglected,
they were noisily frowned upon.
I have a sneaky suspicion that my mom
thought this class would be a good character building experience. I still haven't
figured out how one actually builds character. Or even what character is. But
if spending 3 months of Tuesdays in a musty church gym with an unruly mob of punching,
obnoxious noise making boys while trying to stay as far away as possible from
the blushing, giggling group of girls on the other end of the basketball court
builds character, we built it in spades.
When we stopped punching each
other long enough to actually dance, we learned the waltz, the box-step, and a
bunch of other dances I've never attempted since. I pitched for us learning the
Watusi; I don't know what it is, but it sounded like it would be good to list
on a resume.
This class had about as much real world relevance as the
three years of Latin I took in high school. There was that one waltz I danced
with my grandmother at a cousin's wedding and I think I almost got an analogy
question right on the SAT using Latinate root clues. In both cases, my time would
have been better served learning a skill I could actually use, like crocheting,
or maybe phrenology.
was one little glimmer of joy in this dancing darkness. Dancing in high school
and college was so informal it was actually fun. For the last 30 or so years,
dancing for young folks meant doing anything you want. Put on something with a
good beat and then flop around like a fish in the bottom of a flat bottom boat.
Since there are no predetermined steps, there is no way to say if one is
a good or bad dancer. It's impossible to flop and/or wiggle poorly. Sure, your
average high school gym on prom night may look like the student body is having
a mass epileptic fit, but it sure is fun, especially if you don't swallow your
Even when the DJ slowed the music down, it was the same philosophy,
except with touching. You find a willing girl, wrap your arms around each, and
then rock back and forth hoping to brush against as many reproductive body parts,
even the cursory ones, as possible.
But these salad days of no pressure
dancing are short lived. Once you reach a certain age, the flopping around the
dance floor just looks silly, and way too many parts jiggling.
where I'm at now, basically untrained, jiggly, and looking for someone to punch
in the arm for old times sake. Which brings us back to that 1 percent of men who
actually enjoy dancing. Not only do they like it, they're good at it, and they
make life miserable for the other 99%.
What makes it tough is that these
good dancers are the unusual suspects. The wife and I will be at a 2-steppin'
bar and I'll see a guy sitting on a bar stool who looks like he enjoys beer, I
mean REALLY likes beer, if you know what I mean. This guy who looks like he'd
have trouble getting off the barstool is suddenly floating across the dance like
a Soviet ballet dancer seeking asylum.
Then the sighing starts. She doesn't
say it, but I can tell from the way the wife looks at me as I bounce off other
couples and my lips move as I have to count "1-2, 1-2," she's thinking, "Tiny
over there is tripping the light fantastic and I'm stumbling around with Mr. New
Born Colt with Arthritic Hips."
I have a plan this time; I'm going to
use my lack of fluency in Belle talk to my advantage. When Saturday evening rolls
around, I'm going to walk into the house with a wiener dog.
you mean, you didn't want another dog? You just told me last week you wanted a
dachshund. Oh, dan-sin means 'dancing,' not 'dachshund.' I'll be darned. Well,
at least now our Strom Thurmond will have someone to play with."