My dancing career began with my shriek of indignity. I remember the moment vividly when my mother told me it was time to learn some “lady skills.” I had no idea what she was talking about as I jammed my hands in my little boy Toughskins jeans. I had to wear a dress at school, but when I got home off came the dress and the Mary Janes and on went the scuffed Converse sneakers and Toughskins. Think female Huck Finn.
I was a savage who’d just been told she was registered to take tap lessons. Let me say that again… tap dancing lessons. Where you do things with your hands and feet at the same time to the beat of the music. Needless to say, it was a disaster–a first-class disaster. Under the spotlights wearing a pink dress, Mickey Mouse ears, and shiny, black tap shoes, I single-handedly ruined the dance recital.
My mother’s next idea was ballet. Another pink outfit with funny shoes. I learned three positions, then I hurt my toe and my teacher left town. I don’t think it was because of me. My mother gave up and let me take Karate lessons. I learned how to kick my brother in the balls using a reverse front kick, I’m not certain that is an actual thing, but it worked. I loved Karate.
My next dancing lesson came along when I started going to clubs where people danced, except I couldn’t dance. My friends tried everything to teach me.
“Move your hips. You need to loosen up,” was followed by, “And swivel your knees. You have to move your feet, too.” To be followed by, “You’ve got to stop staring at your knees when you dance and swing you arms around, you’re all stiff-looking.” Needless to say I don’t dance—period. Okay, when I’m alone in the kitchen listening to music I dance, but no one can see me.
So when Em thought she could teach me how to waltz, I laughed the laugh of the all-knowing. “No, you can’t. Believe me.”
“Come on, let’s try it,” she said. “Please.”
“All right, but I’m telling you right up front, it’s impossible to teach me how to dance so don’t be disappointed.”
“Everyone can dance,” Emma said. She put out her arms and I took her hands. “Just follow me. Do what I do at the same time. We’re going to make a box.”
We made a box all right. She made her box and I made my box in the opposite direction. She stared at me. “How did you manage that?”
“It’s harder than it looks. I make it look easy,” I replied.
“Let’s try it again. Okay, one, two, three, four. Make a box. Just follow my feet.”
The problem was that she was going one way and I was supposed to go the other. We tried again. I did the backup part and then the other way around. Either way, back or front, I couldn’t get it.
“It’s because our feet are facing each other, so my feet think I should do what your feet are doing. See, you move your foot forward and I do the same thing and step on your foot,” I said.
“Why do you do that?” She was still trying to waltz. My feet just stumbled along with her.
“I’m on the wrong side of a black hole. On my side, everything is the opposite. That’s part of my right/left problem.”
Em stopped dancing. She dropped my hands. “You’re right, you can’t dance.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Laughter is the best medicine!