And in this corner: I can’t dance

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Do any of you know the old song that goes: “I won’t dance, don’t ask me?” Well, that’s my life story. Don’t try to lure me out on the dance floor with an enthusiastic gesture and shouting, “Come on!” It’s just not going to happen, and I don’t bow to peer pressure. Plus, that’s more embarrassing than anything.

It’s not just that I don’t dance, it’s that I can’t dance. But oh, how I wish I could. To be at one with the beat and rhythm, to be able to move around uninhibited and to be the person that folks smile at and watch rather than point and laugh at–– It’s a total pipe dream.

Being able to dance is a secret jealously I have of those who can do it. I’m especially jealous of those who can dance really well. It’s the whole sense of freedom and the ability to be comfortable and uninhibited while enjoying music that I envy–– and the ability to look good doing it, too. I certainly have dreamt that I could, but you really don’t want to see me try.

I have been to plenty of night clubs, concerts, weddings and after-hour parties and imagined myself being out on the floor and just doing my thing with all the right moves. I have it all played out in my head to just have fun out there. But the reality of the “doing my thing” part would be more nerdy and manic than anyone would need to see. No thanks.

I grew up watching all those old musicals with the big dance numbers. I’ve seen the seven brides dancing with seven brothers. I watched the Jets and the Sharks face off in dance battle, and I’ve seen Roxie Hart gives us all that jazz. I always admired the style and grace of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Those guys made it all look so easy. In fact, as a kid I loved Fred Astaire so much that I asked my mom to make me custom spats to wear on my dress-up shoes. On our kitchen floor I pretended to tap dance as well as Shirley Temple. Later I marveled at Michael Jackson and Gregory Hines.

I have been self-conscious as far back as I can remember. At religious school, I would try to ditch out when it was time to go downstairs for dance class. My face was probably red the entire time while forced into the dance steps. I think dancing “The Box” at my junior high prom was probably the last time I did any type of public dancing for an extended amount of time. The best thing I could do was slam dance at punk rock gigs. That didn’t take much skill other than the ability to push and shove, take a punch, and have a fair amount of cardio endurance. One time, at a company party, I got away with bobbing, weaving and stepping to my left like I was in the boxing ring. It wasn’t pretty and I think most of the guests thought, “What’s with that guy?”

Some people are just so natural that even the slightest movement of head, shoulders, or hips can do the trick. I can get mesmerized by a good dancer even by the slightest of moves. As I got older, I gained a huge appreciation for ballet and the athleticism it takes to be a dancer–– the grace and strength of the leaps and turns. Maybe, I should have taken up ballet instead of playing soccer? No. I’d be too shy to even try it.

At home when I dance for Marley it looks more like I’m priming a water pump than copying the cool kids on the video she’s watching.

I’m also jealous of Break Dancers and how their bodies move and contort into unbelievable positions. That old school Hip-Hop was just made for to get your groove on, or at least put on an Adidas track suit and show off what you can do. In my case, the only thing breaking would be my neck.

On a First Friday, a woman from the neighborhood called out all the dances in rapid fire and showed us the Watusi, the Mashed Potato, the Jerk, and the Stroll. Damn, how come I can’t do that? I love the old footage of American Bandstand featuring the latest dance crazes. Those dances done right made the kids look so cool. It seemed like everyone else could get the hang of it while I’d be counting out time or remembering what move happens next. I’ve got those proverbial two left feet people talk about.

I went to a concert at the Greek Theater and watched a guy a few rows in front of me dancing by himself to the B-52s “Plant Claire.” No one laughed as the guy just went for it. He was totally uninhibited and in the moment. I’ve seen people of all types doing their things at festivals and shows. No fear, just fun. And I certainly applaud everyone who dances in the parking lots of the summers concerts we host.

These days, I watch a guy like Justin Timberlake who is such at ease when he dances and I think, “Boy, if I had his skills and arsenal of moves to use at any club or party I would knock ‘em dead.” But if Justin’s got “moves like Jagger” then I’ve got the moves like Frankenstein. I’ll sit this one out and just watch, thank you.

I’ve been to raves, electronic-dance-music shows, and reggae festivals where I really loved all the music but was still just the guy hanging around the back and nodding my head to the music. Even this past summer, at the OC Fair with the great tribute bands, I just kind of bobbed and swayed with Marley on my shoulders. Other people all around me just went for it.

And at this age, things are even worse for me. I’m older, and my back and hamstrings are so tight I can barely even bend. All hope is lost. I’m the guy they talk about in movies and commercials being so awkward at weddings and other special occasions. It’s really almost too embarrassing to write about. And poor Alissa. She knows I’ll avoid any type of dancing when possible. As a matter of fact, at my own wedding not only did I not have anything to eat or drink to fill me up with energy and courage, but when forced out on the dance floor I just stood there stiff and said “I’ve got nothing.” I had no moves, no ideas for moves, nothing deep in the archives to pull from. Not even one special move to fake my way through it for a few minutes. How ridiculous is that? I bailed out and went back to talking to guests. However, if there’s a slow song, or if Moonlight Serenade comes on, then I’ll grab Alissa and hit the floor. At least I can hold on tight and not feel like I’m in the embarrassing spotlight.

I think it may just come down to this: It’s a four-drink minimum for me. Give me four Tom Collins to drink, a big room with dim lighting, and some good and loud 80s New Wave, and then I may join you on the dance floor to get daffy. Until then, I won’t dance. Don’t ask me.

That popular saying goes, “Dance like nobody’s watching.” Well, I better keep it all to myself. You’ll be happy that I did.