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But I don't dance...
September 21, 2010 - Scott Muska
"Baby, I don't dance, it's not that I can't, there's a pistol in my pants."
This is something I used to jokingly say to friends and significant others in high school when I was presented with an opportunity to dance. It's an Eminem lyric, and every time I used it the "I don't dance, it's not that I can't" part was true, but there was never a pistol in my pants, because I'm a pacifist. (I've actually only shot a gun once in my life, and that was earlier this year in a controlled environment. I never really needed to, because I learned how to grocery shop at a young age and don't like to wake up early, so I never got into hunting.) Usually, people would be so shocked that I had the gall to use an Eminem lyric in casual conversation that the entire dancing question was completely forgotten. So, it worked.
With so much important stuff going on, it was just never a priority for me.
I tried to fight this feeling (like REO Speedwagon front man Kevin Cronin), but it didn't go away. When my Mom tried to convince me to take ballroom dance lessons a couple months before prom, I declined. She was pretty persistent, and I eventually had to compromise with her. I said I'd learn before I got married. I thought I was playing a pretty good joke on her, because there's always been a pretty good chance that I wouldn't get married. (In fact, a girl I used to date told me recently that I can't commit to a pair of socks in the morning. I was amazed that she would use such an analogy, because I very rarely wear socks anymore. I'm sockless right now, actually.) I gave it a shot last fall by taking ballroom dance class for kinesiology credits at Penn State, probably so I could talk about how much money it cost to learn how to dance in an overheated gymnasium, which was probably somewhere in the area of John Travolta's initial salary for starring in Grease. But I dropped it after two weeks because of the embarrassment I felt at having the sweatiest hands in the world and an inability to remember any of the salsa moves we were learning.
It turns out I was wrong.
According to pretty much every female I spoke with on the matter when I was trying to write this - including my mother, who revealed to me that my own Dad hasn't ever been one to cut a rug - it wasn't so much that they were looking for some guy to come out on a dance floor in a tuxedo and sweep them off their feet. They were looking for a guy who didn't care what he looked like, that had confidence and would come out and move around and not care what people thought about him.
Of course a few of them also said it was a turn-on if a guy knew how to lead a girl through a traditional ballroom-style dance, especially on their wedding day, which I can concede is very understandable.
I'm not sure how I didn't know this in the first place, because it seems pretty obvious. Especially when I think of the only other prom experience I've ever had. It was two years after I graduated, when I attended my little brother's prom as a chauffeur/chaperone (long story). He had taken a couple dance lessons, and had taught himself some moves using Michael Jackson videos posted on YouTube in preparation for his big day.
Ryan, who is usually a pretty socially inverted dude, was out on the floor beasting it the entire night, without any visible signs of feeling awkward. The kid couldn't do the foxtrot if you offered him a check, but he was only one step away from yelping out "hee-hee" and waving around a white-gloved hand. And he was the man of the evening. Everybody loved that this quiet kid was out on the floor essentially auditioning for Step Up 2: The Streets. It was inspiring.
On the way home, he told me that prom had been "one of the greatest nights of his life." I don't think I'd seen him as excited before or since unless the Pittsburgh Penguins were involved.
So I guess what I've learned is you can't sweat the technique, that you just have to quit worrying about it and throw yourself out there. I guess the only reason I ever felt such awkwardness was because I'm conceited and think people would actually care what I looked like when I was dancing, and that's generally not the case at all.
I plan to quit worrying and give dancing a shot the next opportunity I have. As luck would have it, I'm going to a wedding reception this weekend where I can put my new non-awkward resolve to the test. We'll see how that goes.
And for now, I'm not going to worry about learning to dance the right way. I'll just stick with my original plan: I'll learn to dance before I get married.
I figure once I get to a point where I have the relationship part right, it'll make more sense to actually get the dancing right.
I should've been worried about getting a better haircut instead of what I thought I'd look like while dancing.