Category Archives: dancing

Merry Kwanzachrismukkahstivus

Marble and I wish you a very Merry Kwanzachrismukkahstivus. I hope you had a good weekend celebrating whatever has meaning for you, be it stories from history, a baby in the straw, oil that doesn’t quit, feats of strength, or just being grateful for not doing anything. 

Mercifully, 2016 is coming to a close–we hope with no more taking of any icons, but don’t hold your breath. I remember a stand-up routine Steve Martin did many years ago, where he proposed this ritual to break up with someone. I’d like to perform it for 2016:

You say: I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee. And then you throw dog poop on their shoes. đŸ’©

So there, 2016. We’re done.

Next week I’ll do my top 10 or 11 or 9 posts from the year, as the spirit moves me. Then I’ll be ready for 2017 with new words, a stout heart, a rapier wit (or maybe just the rapier–I believe flexibility is called for), some serious dance moves, and a case of wine.

We’ll find our way together. 

It’s a Blonde Line Between Love and Hate

Sorry I’m so late…I’m on vacation and in low gear, plus, I kind of worked today. Anyway, no excuses, here’s this week’s post…Because I’m a white, raving liberal, I tend to give non-white, non-majority people the benefit of the doubt. But, ugh, majority white people? You’re going down. My perimenopause-induced, random anger likes to flare up at all kinds of white people, but today, I hate fake blondes.

Recently, I got off the train and as I was walking to work, I found myself stuck behind a group of youngish women walking four abreast on the sidewalk. They weren’t lollygagging, but they weren’t going at a get-to-work pace either. More like, “Oh, I’m on vacation, and I don’t give a rip how fast or slow I walk in front of you slobs who are going to work.”

You know the type.

I wanted to tell them, I don’t know how they walk wherever you’re from girlies, but that’s not how we do things here in Boston. Partly it’s because the sidewalks are hardly big enough for two people. But it’s also a personal space thing. We’re Bostonians. On sidewalks, we steer clear of others. We don’t touch or brush and we don’t walk four abreast. It simply isn’t done.

But there was no way for me to get around them, so I decided to quietly judge them instead. Oh my. Where do I begin?

First I noticed they all had similarly long, fake blonde hair with enough roots showing to start a goddamn botanical garden. Their hair reminded me of a declaration my friend Mike and I made the previous Sunday while dancing. There we were, swaying and jumping with the sea of dancing men, when a couple of girly women with long blonde hair stood on the dance floor, not on the edge, but on the dance floor, and one had a drink in her hand. Mike often laments, “Why, why, why do people dance with drinks in their hand?” Because they are amateurs, and Mike and I are there to dance, so don’t blame us if one of our cool little moves knocks your drink out of your hand. It’s a dance floor. If you want to stand around with a drink in your hand, go to where ever it is they do that. In any event, Mike did his cool little spin and sure enough he knocked girlie blonde #1’s drink from her hand. She glared at him, and Mike and I shrugged, kept dancing, and declared blondes should be banned from the club, unless it’s a wig and the blonde is in drag.

So as I was nursing a good dose of blonde hate, I next noticed they were all wearing short shorts — slightly different styles, but all the same length. So that gave me the opening to judge their bare legs of various levels of fitness, ranging from none to almost some, and colors, ranging from very white to translucent white. What a bunch of fake blonde losers. And how dare they come to Boston and obstruct my commute?

Finally, the sidewalk opened up enough for me to pass them. Hallelujah! I was about two steps in front, and could finally hear what they were actually talking about. Just as I was wondering what sort of vacuous conversation they would be having, I nearly tripped when my brain, clouded with nasty thoughts, finally registered what I was hearing.

They had British accents.

And instantly I was flooded with love for all four of those fake blonde ladies, as they hail from the land of drawing room dramas, bad teeth, afternoon tea, and the Queen. I’m a hopeless anglofile. As I pondered the ridiculousness of my reactions, I resolved to meditate more. Or send my myself to my room, or at least try to just think about unicorns and rainbows rather than be a judgmental, hypocritical witch, as fun as that can be.

But that’s what this is, right? Realizing how we can all be walking, talking, very nice judging machines, who are making snap judgments based on nothing more than a bad day of perimenopause hormones or a distaste of fake blondes. Many years ago, I was a grad student in a writing program, and I wanted to try out teaching. They gave us two semesters of freshman comp. God help those poor kids. Let’s hope all the money they were paying was well spent on the other teachers in their later years. The second semester was themed multiculturalism, and even as I write it now, I don’t think people even call it that any more. Christ, I feel old. Anyway, we had a couple of training session so we wouldn’t completely  traumatize those freshman. I remember one of my fellow teachers having this realization while we were trying to figure out interesting ways to teach mostly white kids about multiculturalism. She had caught herself in a moment of frustration waiting in a long line, saying something to herself that was not nice about the ethnicity of the person in front of her who was not moving up as quickly as she would have liked. And then she realized a lot of the shit we say about other people can be boiled down to “Get out of my way.” That always stayed with me, and I remembered it after my little hissy fit with the fake blondes who were in my way, but then ended up being something I love, goddamn it.

So next time I’m behind a guy with an annoying man bun or one of those huge, overly manicured beards (sorry dude, I’m still not kissing you, that’s nasty) and slicked back hair, I’ll just take a deep breath and try to remember they are not really in my way, and if all else fails, I’ll pretend they’re  British.

 

Photo credit:  Get your own bad dye job here.

Dancing Should Not Be an Act of Courage

Hi everyone. I really tried to find something lighthearted and funny to say today, because we need it, but I couldn’t. The Pulse night club shooting is disgusting and horrifying, and another shooting in a long, exhausting list of shootings. I’m bone tired of it. If shooters don’t care about killing kids in schools and people in theaters, why should we be surprised that someone wants to kill gay dancers of color at a club?  And yet most of us are surprised, so that’s something. The minute we become desensitized to these shootings is the moment we are lost. But we are becoming numb and overwhelmed. It feels hopeless sometimes. Have any gun laws changed since Sandy Hook? Has the conversation between responsible gun owners and people who are horrified by guns advanced? It doesn’t feel like it. It just feels like many dispersed organizations are working on different aspects of this madness. Maybe we are moving the needle, but it doesn’t feel like it’s nearly enough. Well, actually it isn’t enough because this shit keeps happening.

Most of my best times dancing have been in gay clubs. The thing is, I like to actually dance, and when I went to straight dance clubs in my 20s, I could dance the way I wanted to until about 1 am. Then the straight boys who had been hugging the walls and were previously too sober to cut loose and dance were very drunk and looking to score before the 2 am deadline. So there was a lot of slobbering and grabbing in that last hour, and most of my dance moves were deployed to avoid them. If they had actually danced with me–really danced with me earlier –they might have had a shot. There is nothing sexier than a man who can dance and be comfortable in his own skin. The straight men of previous generations who could only legitimately be close to a woman by dancing with her got that. Or they were at least forced to learn how to dance if they wanted to meet women. I don’t mourn all the sexism back then, but I do miss a straight man who can dance and enjoy himself .

So where’s a dancing girl to go? The gay clubs of course. There I learned so much about gay culture and history. Back in the day the clubs were often unmarked and you could only get in with a password. They were and are hallowed and safe places for people who are often reviled for just being themselves. I came along after the password era, but some of the clubs I went to were still unmarked.

Then and now, once I enter a gay club, I am among men and women who can dance. Who are enjoying themselves. Who are dancing like there is no tomorrow. My kind of people. I spend many Sunday nights at a gay club, Club Cafe at what they call a tea dance, one that starts in the afternoon, rather than at 10 pm. Here’s the history from the Back2Stonewall website:

“By the late 60s, gay men had established the Fire Island Cherry Grove and also the more subdued and “closeted” Pines (off of Long Island, in New York) as a summer resort of sorts. It was illegal at that time for bars to ‘knowingly sell alcohol to homosexuals’ and besides many of the venues there were not licensed as ‘night clubs’ or to sell alcohol. To avoid attracting attention, afternoon tea dances were promoted. Holding them in the afternoon also allowed those who needed to catch the last ferry back to the mainland to attend.”

And now some gun-owning person stunted with hate has made going dancing a courageous act. And going to school, and going to a movie theater. It’s bullshit, ridiculous, and tragic. I’m sorry, responsible gun owners. You have to step up. You have to help figure out the solution to this. I’d ban every effing gun in the country, but the NRA and many of you find that unacceptable. So what is the answer? You’re the one with the gun, with the passion. Tell me. How do we keep guns in the hands of people like you and out of the hands of stunted people who hate? Tell me. I’m going to go dancing looking over my shoulder, looking for the man who is not dancing, is not comfortable in his skin. So you tell me. What is the answer? Tell me.

Let’s Party Like It’s 1999

Damnit. Prince. Not you, too. I’m still not over Bowie or Robin Williams, or even Michael Jackson for that matter. And I still miss Fred Astaire. I have a tendency to hold on to things, like those four vinyl albums in the picture. I used to have 1999 too, but it was warped, and I had to throw it away. In addition to listening to all the Prince I own in every format for the past few days, I was lucky enough to get to see one of the showings of Purple Rain in the theatre on Saturday. It was transformative. People of all colors and orientation gathered simply for a musical genius who embodied creative sexual energy that transcends gender. It still does. I had recently come to appreciate his insanely exquisite guitar riffs, but I don’t think I ever quite appreciated the full genius of his creativity until Saturday. In honoring his talents and gifts and making his own rules, he gave us the opportunity to be better and to break out using whatever creative energy we’ve got. What a gift.

When I first heard the news, I texted my friend Sonia, my U2 mate, because we also bonded over Prince, especially Purple Rain.

“What are we going to do now?” I texted forlornly. Without missing a beat she responded, “Dance like there’s no tomorrow.”

We’ll no doubt be awash in musicians’ tributes and Purpleness for days to come, and that’s all right. Me? I’m going to dance like there’s no tomorrow.

 

All that Glitters Is Fabulous

I worked all weekend at my usual Monday through Friday job (I know, I know, cry me  a river, wah, wah, wah). I only mention it because I had thought I was prepared to still post whilst I was working my behind off (don’t you just love that British word, whilst? It’s the ultimate in word economy). But it turns out polishing a rough draft is still more than I can manage when I have to work all weekend. So instead of a crappy, unpolished blog about farting–I bet you can’t wait for that one, can you?–I present to you fabulous closure to my post about protecting my hearing while I’m dancing. For those of you who missed it: I go dancing a lot. The music is loud. My ears ring. I got my hearing tested so I could get musician grade earplugs. An adorable young audiologist tested me and gave me pamphlets to give to my “loved ones” about hearing loss. Hilarity ensured.

But none of that matters. What was really important was getting those coveted musician grade ear plugs. And the key here is “musician,” because it turns out musicians require colorful materials for their ear plugs. The choices were overwhelming, but in the end, for this disco queen, there was only one choice.

Gold glitter ear plugs. I’ll see you on the dance floor.

You Should Be Dancing Part II

I’ve written a couple of times about dancing.  Nearly every Sunday early evening I dance at a mostly disco tea dance. Friends and family have asked me at various times in disbelief, “Do you really go dancing every Sunday?” Then they recount how they are in their pajamas on Sunday nights or don’t have that kind of energy. But what I try to explain is that the dancing and the music feeds me. I want to go. Unlike the gym, which is rarely fun to drag myself to, but I’m glad I did, dancing for me is fun to anticipate, fun to do, and  fun when I get home sweaty and hepped up endorphins by 9:30 or 10 pm (so much easier than club dancing that starts at 10 pm). Body moved! Calories burned! I certainly wouldn’t drag my ass out on a Sunday afternoon to listen to a lecture on the meaning of dance as a transformative activity in society. Heck, I probably wouldn’t watch other people dance on stage, either. I recently went on a  Sunday to see the Oscar-nominated short films at the Institute of contemporary art a few weeks ago, but that freaked me out, so that was not a good substitute for dancing. All I’m saying is if there’s something you love to do and it happens on a Sunday from 6 to 9 pm, you do it, which brings me to my topic. You were having serious doubts that I was going to get there, weren’t you?

The harsh reality is that I have not been going dancing as much lately, mostly because my fabulous dancing friend Mike broke his foot. The story we’re sticking with is that he was getting chased by a group of hot, young man who wanted to have their way with him; he is such a giving man, but in trying to accommodate them all, he broke his foot. As a result of his Herculean heroics, he’s been in a cast and on crutches for six weeks and just found out it will be four more weeks of the boot.

You’d think that would’ve stopped our dancing in its tracks, but it actually had only curtailed us. The photo above is exhibit A: dancing with cast. We’ve gone dancing twice now and because we’re professionals we quickly adapted to the new situation.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are our 4 tips for dancing with a broken foot.

  1. Get a stool, preferably one that rotates, but a non-rotating one will do. This seems like a no-brainer, but what we quickly realized is that the stool becomes a dancing prop much like my scarves. Sure, at first Mike just sat on it, but the beat of the music has its own life force and it must be obeyed. Soon Mike was rocking it out in the stool.
  2. Stool placement is critical. Do not place the stool next to a fellow dancing regular who always sits in the same place every week. This is his or her territory, so be mindful of that. Where we dance, Whistle Guy has such a spot. He sits there for most of the night, blows a whistle rhythmically and with discretion during the right songs (Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” is a favorite), and he bestows beaded necklaces that he makes himself on the lucky few during the night. I’ve been lucky four times in the past two years. His stool is near the tables at the back of the dance space. Because it’s more practical to not have to drag chair through a crowd of dancing people, we set up Mike’s stool close to Whistle Guy. He was pretty good about it, but I got the undertone to his joke about “not getting too comfortable.” Rule #1 among the regulars is to keep peace among us. The interlopers will come and go and may disrupt the routine from time to time, but we regulars are in for the long-haul and must get along. As the night went on, I understood that he’s got his thing going on and didn’t want us cramping his style. Duly noted. The second time we went dancing I cleared a path through the bodies and carried the stool closer to the front of the room. I waved at Whistle Guy as I went past. His big smile and thumbs up was all I needed to know. All was well in our little dance regulars world.
  3. Your stool is a dance partner, not a piece of furniture. If you’ve ever seen that scene where Fred Astaire dances marvelously with a coat rack, you know this is true. It took us a little time, but Mike was soon learning to move around on the stool. Then when he turned it around and straddled it with the back support between us, we were transformed. Suddenly, his leg was up in the air and I was holding on to the back of the stool and sliding underneath it. I shimmied, Mike swirled. We hit our stride when Mike, an infuriatingly natural back-bender, began to do back bends to the floor, sometimes holding on to the back of the stool, sometimes not. I held on to the back and did my own back bend in counterpoint.
  4. Have fun, and don’t worry what you look like. The fact is you’re dancing with a boot. You look and are absolutely fabulous.

Mike and I have 4 more weeks of stool dancing–who knows what moves we’ll make up next.

Can I Hear You Now?

As I’ve discussed in this blog before, I go dancing almost once a week and have been for more than two years. I love it, but the very loud music doesn’t love me. Even before then, I’ve had that ringing in my ears, called tinnitus, which looks like it should be pronounced “tIn-EYE-tus” like every other “-itis” word; but no, it’s pronounced “TIN-uh-tus,” as if we need it to be any more annoying than it already is. It generally doesn’t bother me, but over the past few years, I noticed it was getting a little louder, so I first tried wearing sleeping ear plugs while dancing, which were aesthetically and auditorily useless — why do they come in Day-Glo colors? I quickly moved on to some off-the-shelf musician earplugs, and they worked fairly well for the past year, except they slip out while I’m dancing. What can I say? I’m grooving and sweating, and the damn things need to keep up. Recently the ringing kicked up another notch, so I decided it was time to move up to the big guns — custom musician ear plugs.

But that requires an audiologist, a hearing test, and before that, a referral from my doctor for a hearing test. My initial mature reaction to that was, I don’t want to know if my hearing has been damaged. Because if I don’t know about it, then it can’t be real, right? Besides no one is yelling at me. Yet.

In the end it was my love of dancing and not maturity that won the day, and on a recent Friday I found myself in a little booth talking with a perky audiologist student placing headphones on me. It was a more elaborate version of the kind of hearing test we got in grammar school — beeping in your ear and raising your hand when you can hear it. Of course, I’m a lot older, and lately I’ve had the focus of a dog in a squirrel park, so it was hard and tedious. Plus, I knew when I wasn’t hearing stuff.

Boop, boop boop (silent pause), I raised my hand. Softer boop, boop, boop (silent pause), raised hand. Barely there soft boop, boop, boop (silent pause), raised hand. And then
 nothing. Shit. I knew damn well there was a boop, boop, boop going on, but I couldn’t hear it. For a second I thought about raising my hand and cheating, as if doing that would get me something, like admission into a better college. But apparently I have matured, because I next heard in my brain, “I’d only be hurting myself,” said in the Ben Stein voice from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

But my tricky mind wasn’t done yet. During that disappointing silence, my brain said:

“Hey, hey! I think I heard something! Raise your hand!”

Ears said, “Shut up, you idiot! We didn’t hear diddly. You just want to hear a sound.”

“No, no, really! I heard something!”

“Shut it!”

And then the faintest boop, boop, boop came back, and with it, a sigh of relief as I raised my hand. That is until the audiologist changed the tone, and it started all over again: Beep, beep, beep (silence pause), raise hand. I thought it would be done after we went through the range of sounds, but then she came in and put more headphone things on my head. Then we did it all again, but with various kinds of white noise in the background, as if I always have conversations on the side of a highway or by active train tracks.

Once again my brain tried to tell me we could hear stuff, but it and my ears were getting tired, so it gave up pretty quickly. Then came the third part the test. The audiologist explained that I’d be hearing a man’s voice saying sentences, and I needed to say the last word of the sentence. I’m not sure if it was because of the way she explained it, or that I’m a die-hard English major, or that my brain was on the verge of over-focused delirium, or that my son is studying for the SATs, but I immediately thought I was going to have to listen to a guy while he recited a paragraph, say from literature, and I was going to have to do a kind of verbal listening comprehension and pick out the last word of each sentence.

As I was wrestling with my low-level panic, I had to stifle a full on laugh when a computer-generated voice said, “Say the word, ‘eye’.” Oh. Duh. “Eye.” “Say the word, ‘ear’. “Ear.” My relief quickly gave way to fatigue-generated irritation: Why is a man telling me what to do? Why can’t it be a women? Of course, the sentences kept coming, so drifting off with irrelevant side thoughts wasn’t helping.

Then, because my perimenopause sometimes renders me into a teenage boy, the sentences themselves started to distract me.

“Say the word, ‘wood’.” I immediately heard Beavis and Butthead giggling, “He said ‘wood,’ heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh.”

Now my brain was having to rein itself in: “Pay attention, focus, and say, ‘wood,’ goddamnit! We’re going to fail this test too!” A couple of sentences later the man said, “Say the word, ‘stiff’.” I mean, come on! Really?

But before I could go too far down that puerile path, he said, “Say the word ‘mews’,” which turned out to be my equivalent of trying to read that last line of impossibly tiny print on the eye chart. Mews is a British term, and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t use that in an American hearing test, unless he also asked me to say “lorry” and “footman.” Then he said. “Say the word, ‘mees’.” Oh fudge. I also knew it was wrong because he continued to ask for that word three different times, like a teacher trying to help me out on a test. I finally realized by the third time he was was probably saying “knees” and that “mews” was most likely “news,” but by then I was too tired to care. I just wanted to say the word “done.” And finally it was.

The student audiologist came in and explained that I have some hearing loss, but not enough for hearing aids (no shit, Sherlock!), but I couldn’t really get mad at her because she earnestly gave me these helpful pamphlets, one called “Tips for Talking to Hard of Hearing Persons.” She said I could give it to my “loved ones” (seemed presumptuous). Then she told me the highlights of the pamphlet, looking directly at me just like tip number one said to. Then the supervising doctor came in and gave me the seasoned version, but I was already moving onto getting my custom musician earplugs. Both of them seemed to forget the main and very important reason I was there — to keep on dancing. Interestingly, because of some hearing differences in my ears, she didn’t think it was the dancing music that was causing the ringing. “But it’s not helping, either,” she said, giving me her stern doctor’s hairy eyeball. She thought it may be genetic, which means I really don’t have any control over it, so blah, blah, hearing, blah, blah, can we get on with the custom ear plugs?

Getting the molds done for the plugs was much more fun — they come in cool colors, and I picked clear with gold sparkles because if I’m going to be hard of hearing I can still look fabulous. And just a tip for all of my loved ones. Next time you’re giving me mews about your mees, be sure to look at me directly.