In 10th grade, just as we started the ballroom dance unit in gym, I came down with mono. So, while I was glad to know the reason why I was nodding off in class like a common loadie, it wasn’t much fun to have to write a paper about ballroom dance instead of just dealing with the sweaty-handed-ness of doing it.
CONSEQUENCE: I don’t know how to ballroom dance.
For the rest of high school, dancing occurred at school dances, after I’d chugged a few beers behind the grocery store, skated in and fooled the teacher I wasn’t drunk and then air-guitared my head off with my friends to Motley Crue and Ace of Base.
CONSEQUENCE: Probably I looked like a dumbass? But it was very fun.
For most of my college years, there was also no dancing. Unless we sneaked into a bar and saw some faux-hippie jam band. That just involved swaying and nodding, though, no actual dancing. I believe there also may have been some dorm-room dancing with my girlfriends, to say, something like “Me and Julio Down By The School Yard” or, worse yet, some piece of shit Grateful Dead song (barfs), but that also involved intoxication and sounds much more fancy/titillating than it was. Also, there were weddings I attended in those years, which was a mix of free beer and jamming out to Billy Idol.
CONSEQUENCE: Still believe that dancing involves mood alteration. This is not good, kids.
My last year of college was spent in South America. This is where people dance a lot. They dance at parties, they dance at discos, they dance in the driveway after a costume party as the sun comes up. I couldn’t avoid it. I was chastised for being a stiff American who didn’t know how to move her hips. I was taught to salsa in my host family’s living room by a man named Micho who was 6 foot 5, and instructed me while smoking a cigarette. It was hard to grasp, because Micho’s thighs were in my chest, and I was mesmerized by his bronze belt buckle. I was terrible but the host family wouldn’t give up. Every family function involved some new relative trying to instill rhythm in me. One night, I went to this disco strip with some Columbians and some of my gringo counterparts and drank too much rum and lemonade. Rum in Spanish is ‘Ron’ which cracks me up, still. Anyway, that night I drank a ton of ‘Ron’ and then did actual Saturday Night Fever style disco-dancing, which was super fun. Also, I made out with a boy. In a taxi, I think? Or behind the disco? God. ‘Ron’ blurs things. Anyway.
CONSEQUENCE: Bad dancing is more fun than being taught to merengue on the patio by someone’s deaf abuelo.
Then the rest of my life, dancing isn’t an issue.
My best friend Heather does mention that I should call myself Grace, since I have none of it. My friend Heather is one of those magical people who studied dance for real, with, like, toe shoes and what not.
I also notice that my father never dances with my mother at weddings unless she does something drastic like twist the top of his ear.
And then one time, I ask Adrian to dance with me at a wedding. Matilda is about five years old, and she’s already out leading up a conga line on the dance floor. The band is actually appealing, it’s a country-style band, but it’s fun and the singer is good and I’ve had a bunch of gin and tonics. We dance and Adrian’s face is all squinched up and annoyed. Like it gets when I try to describe to him how I do math problems in my head, and he’s all aesthetically disgusted by my lack of elegance and surfeit of idiocy. We sit down after one song and he explains that I’m terrible, that I try to lead, that I don’t know where my feet should go, and in what order or rhythm. It’s physically awful to move about and touch me at the same time, in other words. I don’t believe him at first, but he’s so earnest and the look on his face is painful as he describes my shittiness. Like he’s telling a little kid she’s ugly or something.
Needless to say, I order another drink. Because I feel so spectacular about all this.
CONSEQUENCE: Have come to believe that we should take ballroom dancing classes together. Not in an effort to revive our marital bliss (barfs), but so I can learn how to do it, actually, and not have shame at someone’s damn wedding.