Tag Archives: Dancing

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.

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.

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.

You Should Be Dancing

Last year, a good friend who was single at the time invited me to a GLBT breast cancer fundraiser dance. She invited another good friend of mine, also single, who she had recently gotten to know better — I was in heaven — a night out with my two favorite dancers. We are now well into midlife, but back in the day, I’d gotten to know them separately and had spent many happy hours dancing with each of them when we were still young enough to pull off a night out that starts at 11 pm. Still, we sounded like the beginning of a bad joke — a lesbian, a gay man, and a straight woman go to a lesbian dance…but what was the punch line?

Oddly enough, it was “I’m getting divorced.” We three share the same sense of humor and we use it liberally to get us through the indignities and unfairness of life. So we riffed off one another all night. As L and M recounted their bad dates and online dating photo and profile exaggerations, I contributed in a fake peppy voice, “I’m getting divorced.” I don’t know why it was funny, but it was — we weren’t even drinking (that much). M lamented that many men his age had gone to seed, and L countered with the observation that many lesbians our age are either partnered or live in the suburbs. Again I added “I’m getting divorced.” And again we laughed, perhaps at the absurdity of it all, of finding ourselves in a place we’d never intended to be and the opposite of what we’d hoped for at this stage of our lives. And we’d discovered the galling truth is that it’s just as awkward and difficult to be unpartnered now as it was when we were 20. Maybe we thought age and wisdom would make it easier, but that’s turned out be a bunch of midlife propaganda. Instead, we turned to the wisdom of our 20-year-old selves, and danced away the hurt with heart and soul. By the end of the night, the long scarf I’d brought as a dance prop had both coiled and floated playfully around L and M and had steadied M as he gracefully came out of a back bend on the dance floor. It was glorious.

We came, we laughed, we danced, and for one night it didn’t matter that M had pretty much chatted up every single woman there and we still hadn’t found L a viable date. It didn’t matter that I had a mountain of divorce paperwork to sift through. It didn’t matter that neither L nor M had gotten messages from their respective love interest. I was getting divorced, and while we danced, it just didn’t matter. 

photo credit: http://www.smouseproductions.com/