I’M at a small house party, lounging on a couch, drinking a beer, flanked by girlfriends, safe. Everything is fine. That is, until some hateful former college DJ feels the need to crank up his party mix and “Staying Alive” fills the air. No matter how hip and alternative people are, they lose their minds when they hear the Bee Gees.
“This is such a good song,” someone shrieks, movement erupting in her shoulders. An outbreak of social dancing is suddenly and irrevocably upon me. I am trapped.
“I know you want to dance,” someone yells over the music, pointing at me with one hand while attempting to wrench me off the couch with the other.
No, I don’t. Not now, not ever. Not in a packed, dark club where no one can see me and certainly not in a brightly lighted and sparsely populated living room, where I’m miles from anonymity and feet from a cheese tray.
Years of ballet lessons as a young girl have robbed me of any natural ability to move my body to music without choreography or a barre. When Madonna sings, “Let your body go with the flow,” I honestly have to wonder, go where? I’m stiff, supremely inhibited and I dislike drawing attention to myself; this is the trifecta of bad dancing predictors.
If I’m absolutely forced to dance -- and this happens much less now that I carry pepper spray -- I study other dancers in the crowd, their eyes half closed, deep into their own groove, euphoric, and it’s obvious that I’m the only one doing a sort of dance MapQuest in my head: Move hips twice to the right, step to the left, turn right with hip swivel, do the back and forth step for 0.2 miles before arriving at end of song.
Like many of us, my few “moves” are stuck in the era in which they were created. If you went to high school during the late ‘80s, you had to figure out how to dance to synth-pop. You had to Wang Chung. You had to get funky to depressing bands like Yaz and Tears for Fears. Whatever contortions you once invented or copied -- as inorganic and asymmetrical as the hairstyles that went with them -- those are probably still your go-to moves.
Even in high school, I was the girl who always had a “sprained ankle” on dance night and feigned disappointment at having to sit out Depeche Mode’s “Master and Servant.”
Today, I sense a dangerous pro-dancing mood encroaching on my dance-free lifestyle. Not only has USC quarterback Matt Leinart famously enrolled in a ballroom dance class, shows like “Dancing With the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” are so popular, even I’m a fan. I’ll gladly watch a “dance-off” between Team Monaco and Team O’Hurley, but if this trend means I have to hit the floor, I’m going to find Tom Bergeron and force him to watch me samba with Evander Holyfield.
Speaking of painful, forced partnerships, please hear this: When it comes to dancing, no means no, for both genders. Leave us wallflowers alone.
If I’m at a wedding reception, clearly making no move toward the dance floor, not scanning the room for a partner, just minding my own business digesting a stale dinner roll and keeping my eyes on the wilting centerpiece, stay back. I do not “let loose” or “freak.” I avoid the chicken dance and the Conga line, the Hora and the hustle.
It’s all fine and good to watch others dance, or even compete in a made-for-TV dance-off, but if I have to dance, it’s off.
Teresa Strasser is on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com.