Many years ago, when I was in the seventh grade, my mother got the idea in her head that I should learn to dance. Dancing lessons for junior high students were to be held in the local armory every Tuesday night. The cost was 75 cents per lesson, which gives you a clue as to how long ago it was. I went to the first lesson, and the girls were on one side of the armory with the guys on the other. This was fine with me, because I wasn't interested in girls yet, and I certainly had no desire to hold one. For the remainder of the lessons, my friend Bill Keller and I took our 75 cents and went to A&W Root Beer each Tuesday. Our mothers never knew.
The year of my first and only dance lesson was also the year that I started playing the trombone, and by the time I was in the eighth grade, I was playing in the high school dance band. Because I lived in a small town, our dance band played at most dances. Thus I never learn to dance - at least not well. In college I played the string base in a jazz combo and avoided all dances that didn't involve me playing an instrument. Somewhere during my band period in high school and college, I became a strong advocate of not dancing. After watching literally thousands of people dance, I concluded that only about 5% of the people really knew how to dance, and the rest of them looked ridiculous. I didn't want to look ridiculous. During the rare occasions when extreme social pressure forced me to slow dance, I was always very uncomfortable.
Thus for many years I avoided all social occasions that involved dancing. I also do not drink, and there are very few situations where there is dancing but no drinking. Apparently alcohol is the fuel for dancing, and people who drink either don't mind looking ridiculous or they are not aware that they do. Don't get me wrong. I don't find fault with people who enjoy drinking and dancing. I'm happy for them, and they have my blessing. At times I'm even a little envious of them. But, as with the sports fans that drink beer and shout at their televisions, I don't care to watch them or join them.
My big nemesis has always been weddings. It is the one occasion for drinking and dancing that I have not been able to avoid. Except for my own wedding where there was no dancing, I've yet to go to a wedding where drinking and dancing were not dominate activities. I have always been a lousy date for wedding receptions, and more than one woman has dropped me like a hot potato after going with me to a wedding.
At the most recent wedding I attended, something happened which changed my life. I was sitting at the reception with eight other people, consisting of two unmarried couples, three single women, and one other single guy. All of them were in their early to mid 20s except for yours truly. My friends have alternately referred to me as being 'older than dirt' and 'so old he farts dust.' I don't mind this because, if I really was that old, they wouldn't joke about it.
The reception began, like all receptions, with music that was too loud., and I was unable to flirt with Kim, the very attractive blond girl to my left. Across from me was Derrick who appeared to share my opinion about dancing. The one big difference between this reception and all others I have attended was the fact that no one there knew about my aversion to dancing or drinking, and I was reluctant to reveal it. I started drinking some wine.
By the time that the first slow dance began, everyone at my table was sitting there looking uncomfortably at each other. I rationalized that if I was going to be uncomfortable, it might as well be while I was holding an attractive young woman on the dance floor. Besides, I was the eldest and needed to set a good example. The fact that many of these people had been students of mine just two years earlier added to the pressure. I asked Lori, one of the brides maids, to dance.
The dance with Lori was an uncomfortable one, but I don't think she noticed. She seemed uncomfortable herself. I hoped it wasn't me. The next song was Cubby Checker's "The Twist" so I quickly retreated to the table, feeling somewhat good about the fact that I had martyred myself for the God of good examples. Our table was empty except for Jennifer. Jennifer was larger than I was and she smoked. I hate smoke, but she was bouncing around in her chair like she was doing a lap dance. I felt guilty. I took another healthy drink of wine and said to myself: "What the hell!" I asked Jennifer to dance. I couldn't have picked a better partner. She was outgoing, fun loving, and didn't give a damn what I did. She was having fun.
The twist went on for what seemed to be an eternity. It turned out to be just the first song in a medley of fast songs that spanned the 50's through the 90's. By the time the medley ended I was sweating profusely and my legs hurt. I had danced more in that medley than in my entire life up until that time. I'm not sure what I did on the dance floor, but I came away from it like a recruit comes away from boot camp. I felt like I had been through hell, but I felt good about having done it successfully. I drank some more wine.
Kim, the attractive blonde, returned to her seat next to me, and I got the distinct feeling that if I didn't ask her to dance, it would be an obvious slight. Besides, she was the best looking woman in the entire room. I took a swig of wine and asked her to dance. After that dance I lost track of time. I don't really know how many times I danced, or how much wine I drank. I do know that I was not drunk. I also know that somewhere during the evening, I began to dance because I wanted to dance, and it didn't make any difference who I danced with. Had I become a dancer?
At one point I was the only guy on the floor dancing among seven women, including the bride. It was a fast, free form dance, and we were all being creative. Lori started seductively removing one her elbow-length gloves and trailing it around as she danced. I put one end of it in my mouth and danced while she danced at the other end. The bride began doing the limbo under the glove while the photographer captured it all on video. There must have been 200 people watching us, and I wondered how many of them were men like me -- sitting there thinking how ridiculous those dancers looked, but secretly feeling some envy. I felt sorry for them, because I use to be like that.