In junior high I wasn’t technically allowed to go to the school dances. If I pleaded my case well to my mom, I could make it sound like the dance was a volunteer opportunity of sorts or a required social studies assignment. I know, it was rather deceptive, but deep down, I knew she didn’t have anything to worry about.
I don’t know what she thought went on there in the school cafeteria, but really it was just a big empty room filled with scrawny 12 and 13 year old boys and girls dancing a foot apart. Well, some people danced that way, the popular kids did at least. Others (myself included) didn’t have to worry about being pulled apart with a ruler because no one wanted to dance with us in that way. Instead, we chose to dance in big unisex groups. This hid our individual awkwardness somewhat and at least gave the illusion that we were busy having fun, that we weren’t all dying for someone to come ask us to dance.
Now, a decade and some years later, I find myself in these dancing situations and oh, how the tables have turned. Late on Saturday night, after watching Julie & Julia (SUCH a good movie, have you seen it? If not, go see it now!) I found myself doing something unusual. Normally, I would have put on my pajamas, made myself a cup of tea, put on foot creme, crawled into bed and began crocheting a new afghan for Roseanne’s couch. (Okay, so normally isn’t quite the right word. Truthfully, my Saturday nights aren’t nearly so wild!) However, on this Saturday night, I found myself going to a club with Denise and her friend the Police Man.
I sat sort of just taking it all in — the seizure-like dance moves of the men who’d had too much to drink, the undulating belly of the woman who forgot to change out of her baby clothes into a normal sized outfit, the way everyone at this club wore a graphic tee and matching hat tilted just so. Denise kept nudging me because my eyes must have started rolling back in my head — was it really already 12:30?? To get my blood circulating, I suggested that we dance. I picked a good spot on the floor to watch the good dancers and tried to emulate them. The good dancers seemed to dance slower, in a more controlled fashion. It’s almost as if they found the beat and kept it moving. The dancers I liked to watch less were the ones who seemed frantic, as if it were a race to get all their body parts moving all at once. The bad dancers, the ones who made me feel embarrassed, closed their eyes and tilted their heads backwards while dancing. To Britney Spears no less. Not even Celine Dion or a slow Al Green number. No, to a hyper-beat infused rendition of Britney’s Womanizer.
As we danced, if Police Man turned away to talk to some one else, guys would come up and start dancing with me and Denise or ask us to dance or else just grab our arms and whisper incoherent sweet nothings to us. No longer are the days of junior high and wishing someone, anyone would come dance with us.
Although that desire is gone, the dancing technique of unisex groups is still in place, although now it serves a different purpose. When I tried to break us into a group of dancing women, one of whom Police Man had his eye on, the group immediately closed back up, shutting us out completely. I wanted to tell her that actually Police Man wasn’t a bad guy and look, wasn’t he kind of cute too? But I knew it would be useless. Unisex dancing groups no longer are for the unwanted. They are there because they don’t want you. No matter how cute, great, or friendly the guy may be. It’s a sad truth, but for some reason, unisex dancing groups just see creepy drunkards grabbing at them in the dark. (Maybe because 9 times out of 10 they are? OR we just think they are?) We have turned from awkward 12 year olds, bopping in and out to the beat, into a school of fish, collected together for purposes of protection.