Respect the Scarf

My friend Mike (from the “You Should Be Dancing” post) and I have continued our dancing shenanigans. We found a club that plays 70s disco on Sunday nights from 5 to 10 pm. It’s like a middle-aged dream come true—it’s our music and it’s at our time. It is technically called a tea dance, but you can call it anything you like in my book if I can dance hard and be home and in bed by 10:30 on a school night. Mike and I made it our mission to become at least semi-permanent fixtures on Sunday nights and what has helped us succeed is our fabulous dancing and my prop: a big flowing scarf. It earned me the nickname butterfly, or 8i8, for the cool kids in the room. I discovered the magic of the dancing scarf many years ago when I wore one to a birthday party. It took on a life of its own as it made its way around the dance floor, people passing it around like a cheap, but inspiring bottle of gin. It made shy dancers bold and good dancers invent new moves on the spot. Eventually it found its way back to me and, sure, it had everyone’s sweat on it and gotten more action than I’ve had in years, but that was just proof of how good it was.

So of course the first night out dancing I brought the scarf, the same one from that party long ago, and Mike recognized it immediately. I have since instituted a scarf rotation. Sometimes the scarf solicits a smile and other times I can tell someone is eyeing it, covetously. Similar to Linus in the pumpkin patch, if the dancer seems sincere, I will present the scarf with great flourish to him (it’s mostly hims as it’s a gay bar). Then I stand back and enjoy the show. Some will wrap it around themselves or envelope a nearby dancer; others will work it like a chorus line girl. One of our dancing friends, also a fixture, likes to wrap it around his head like a turban.

But there is a dark side to the scarf, I mean besides people having to witness my dance moves using it. Once a straight couple had somehow found their way into the club—it happens occasionally. They had just come from seeing “The Book of Mormon” musical, which the somewhat drunk guy informed me was the wildest thing he’d ever seen. He couldn’t have been more than 25, so I forgave him for that. Plus, they struck me as people who were fairly buttoned down, and finding themselves at this gay dance club had given them permission to let loose. I was in favor of this until the guy continued to get drunker and say random things to me; meanwhile his girlfriend was getting squired around by various gay men. Mike and I were trying to get on with the business of our own dancing when the girl came up and complained petulantly that she didn’t have a prop like me. She was wearing a thick bolero sweater and rather than figure out how to use that creatively, she whined about the scarf until, just to shut her up, I gave it to her. She handed the sweater to her boyfriend who then handed it to me as if I was his mom mule. No matter, I used it like a scarf—it wasn’t the most elegant prop, but hey, I’m a professional, so I made it work. Then she was happily dancing among the smiling gay men. Perhaps feeling out of his element, the guy continued to gravitate toward me and shout drunkenly, “Is it always this fun?”

I admit they were starting to wear on me.

Eventually the girl reluctantly brought back the scarf, like Cinderella having to watch her coach turn back into a pumpkin, and the next thing I knew they were arguing. I moved as far away from them as possible. Mike, who likes to get the scoop, informed me that the girl had put her purse down and someone had taken it. I was unsympathetic because 1) that’s what you get for taking a purse to a dance club, and 2) they are fun, gay men, not saints. What did she expect?

Well, they got the last laugh, or at least the straight guy did. As I was leaving I walked by him and smiled goodbye (and good riddance) and was rewarded with a hard slap on my ass. I whipped around to see his goofy smile and thumbs up, but I was too shocked to respond except to shoot him a dirty look, which was certainly lost on him. I vowed to be more judicious in granting scarf privileges in the future, which is harder to do than you might think.

Another time the scarf caught the eye of a very drunk younger man who was with a much older boyfriend. Younger drunken man looked sincere, and I knew he wasn’t going to slap my ass, so I bestowed the scarf upon him. He theatrically wrapped it around himself, did a back bend onto the little dance runway, and did some passable dance-like rolls. Then he sashayed to his boyfriend and tried to envelop him in the scarf (a nice romantic touch, I thought). Then the boyfriend took the scarf and with a look of distain, dropped it on the floor. That was worse than slapping my ass! The scarf must always be respected, not to mention lord only knows what the hell was on that floor—sweaty bodies are one thing, but dance floor effluvia is quite another. Being a mom, I invoked the 10-second rule and rescued the scarf. Drunken guy wandered over a number of times, but it was game over for him. The scarf, my friend, is a privilege, not a right, and you might want to rethink your choice of boyfriends.

Speaking of older gentlemen who should know better, I was once fooled by one who had gotten up on the runway and was dancing in a funny/sexy way. Some of the younger guys started stuffing dollar bills in his pants—half joke and half approval, like saying, “Go for it old queen!”  We were all generally encouraging. I mean who among us doesn’t want to be pushing 70 and rocking it out on the dance floor? So when he not only eyed the scarf, but outright asked for it, I leaned toward yes, when I should have realized this was a violation of the unwritten rules of the scarf. These rules, by the way, I silently make up as they occur to me. One of our wise dancing friends heard the request and said simply. “Don’t do it. You won’t get it back.” I was torn. On the one hand, I knew he was right, on the other hand, the scarf had a life of its own and another unwritten rule of the scarf is he who needs the scarf must have the scarf. Old Queen continued to ask for it, and I thought, no one would really take the scarf, would they? (Clearly I hadn’t learned the lesson of the young woman’s purse from the first story).

I relinquished the scarf.

At first it was OK. He was working it in a little routine and getting more dollars. Then he stuffed it in his back pocket—more a sign of ownership than borrowing. Still, I wasn’t worried until he asked if he could keep it. Then I thought he was joking, playing up his part as a runway tart, so I laughed nervously and said, “I’d rather you didn’t.” He continued to keep it in his pocket, and now my posse of fellow dancers were keeping an eye on the guy. The scarf’s honor was clearly in jeopardy, and they were mobilizing like a disco version of West Side Story. There was a scuffle when one of my friends took the scarf and one of the Old Queen’s posse took it back. The Old Queen then headed to the bathroom and Mike bravely followed him in and snatched the scarf back, only to be confronted by another of the Old Queen’s posse. Of course Mike emerged as the victor and the scarf was safely rescued. Old Queen came up to me later, claiming he was going to give it back. I should have said “Sure, I believe you!” and slapped him on the ass.


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