I hate dancing. Or at least I thought I did before I took the time to assess the aversion.
I used to avoid the dance floor at all costs, as if touching it with even a quarter of a toenail imprisoned me to a life of eternal damnation, or at least obliged me to set it loose for a few songs.
I wasn’t sure which was worse.
I used to duck out to the bathroom when I noticed numbers dwindle at my table and the threat of being singled out as the only non-dancer became inevitable.
I used to smoke cigarettes specifically because my smoke breaks counted as legitimate excuses from the dance floor.
And you know what? I still do–on all accounts except for smoking. At least now I’ve come to realize it’s not dancing that’s the problem. It’s me. It’s my innate fear that all around me thousands of sets of eyes are watching as I pull off a cheesy move reminiscent of the jitterbug. Only with Madonna blaring over the speakers instead of Glenn Miller.
It’s not a pretty picture, but only because I never allow myself to be myself. Like, ever, if I really think about it. It’s weird. I’m sure you understand the phenomenon, in quite your own way. Like most of us.
It’s my cousin who helped me understand it.
From the moment he was born he knew how to be himself. For a vintage example of what I mean, we have to go to one of the most obligatory of the please-don’t-force-me-to-dance situations in my life: the family Christmas party.
This was an event of magnificent proportions each year. There was a hall rented out and a DJ hired (from within, of course). All the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and cousins of cousins were invited. There was a visit from Santa, who’d pass out gifts to everyone in attendance. And in any given year you could find yourself sitting ring side at a fist fight between two cousins, or enjoying a delightful and half-drunken serenade from an esteemed grandparent, or bearing witness to a marriage proposal.
No matter the circumstance, the place was always packed. And it became the perfect venue for my cousin to make his mark. While I was busy trying to make myself part of the wallpaper, my four-year-old cousin was out on the dance floor in his mini casual Dockers and his pint-sized button down with matching tie, and he was working the crowd.
Here I was, an awkward teenager trying to muster up the courage to say hello to a girl in public without my voice cranking to the pitch of a Michael Jackson song, and my cousin was busy pulling off moves that would have made Michael jealous.
Armed with a tight crew cut, two baby-faced dimples, and a glint from his big, blue eyes, all it took were a few wiggles and twists, a couple of Elvis-like gyrations of the hips, and everyone at the party was eating out of his hands.
All he had to do was be himself.
Loud and clear, buddy. Loud. And. Clear.