(As the youngest of my siblings, by eight years, it was never that necessary for me to keep all of the really extended family members straight or even really know their names, so this has always been a weak point in my family social skills. I don’t remember people – especially in my own extended family. I can’t tell you the number of times my brother Mitch introduced me and re-introduced me to this or that cousin. He was always disgusted by my inability to remember all of my cousins but, dude, there are so damn many. *My apologies to any cousins reading this. If you’re not my Aunt Jo or Aunt Di’s kids, you may have to remind me multiple times how we are related*)
Anyway… I went to this wedding reception. And I was at that age for a girl when you just start thinking about boys (and, okay, so maybe I was a slightly early bloomer) and understanding what “romance” is, in a very ridiculously silly – though real – way. And, yet, I had not yet developed that total self-conscious awkwardness of the pre-teen who knows better than to dance all night in front of people who feel like, basically, perfect strangers. So, I did. I danced all night. I danced my silly little 10-year-old butt off. And, I met this guy…
…his name was Andy. And he was… get this… BRITISH!... like Simon LeBon… and Sting! (This was 1983 people). And he was a great dancer! And he was 19!!! (or maybe even a bit older – but for some reason 19 rings in my memory). And, 19 was SO OLD. And no… it’s not what you think! He was the boyfriend of one of my cousins or maybe not, maybe just the boyfriend of someone who happened to be at the party. And, he thought it was adorable that I was dancing my little ten-year-old butt off. And, he was, let’s face it, probably wasted. And, he thought it was funny how I knew every word to every song (I have always loved music). But, TO ME, he was a dream! He was an every-little-ten-year-old-girl’s-version-of-romance dream. And get this…
At some point early on in the evening, I had made it clear that I loved The Police. So… (oh my god, are you ready!?)… when “King of Pain” starts playing, near the end of the night… Andy runs through the whole crowd of dancers over to ME!?!! and picks me up in the air! Holding me high above all of these people who are smiling and going “aaaaw, how cute!” and he SLOW DANCES with me to the first part of the song. THEN… when the tempo picks up, he sets me down on the floor and we dance TOGETHER – to “King of Pain” and I am FREAKING out inside because clearly this man is a British Prince who is going to whisk me away in some kind of golden chariot pulled by white horses and take me away to a castle to be fed chocolate all day and wear glass slippers… or something like that. Oh. My. God.
The fact is, this sweet young man was really kind to this weirdo little girl that night and made me feel really special – for years to come (as I replayed the memory again and again and again. And the fact also is, that there was probably a fair amount of alcohol in him. But still… the die was cast.
I love to dance. My favorite place to dance is where you wouldn’t expect people to be dancing. Dance clubs are fine, I guess but mostly, as an adult imbibing alcohol, they’re like window shopping for bodies. The people on the dance floor are the mobile mannequins displaying the goods and the people sitting on their barstools are the customers. So..ick.
No, the best place to dance is at a wedding or in a carpeted dive bar or at a restaurant while Jake Frysinger is playing guitar all low and mellow and sweet. The best place to dance is in the parking lot of a pool hall in Las Cruces, New Mexico – after they’ve closed down and the only DJ left is your car stereo. The best place to dance is on the Pier in Frankfort on the Fourth of July. Where no one really expected to see anyone dancing. No one came to watch anyone dance. No one cares if you dance. And you just feel so excited, so happy, so full of YAY! that you HAVE TO DANCE. That’s the BEST kind of dancing.
When I was little, there was no DJ on the Pier on Frankfort Beach before the Fireworks. If you wanted music, you brought a little radio or a “boombox.” But, I have to say, I have very much enjoyed the addition of this DJ. And, this year, there was actually live music before the DJ as well! All of that. Love. Keep it up, Frankfort.
While the DJ played this year, I didn’t dance. But only because I became entranced watching the people – the girls and women mostly – who did.
First, let me get this out of the way. There is something sexual about dancing. It’s borderline disturbing (for reasons I’ll get kind of get to later) to see a young girl dance to certain, even seemingly innocent, songs. I’m thinking specifically about the about-11-year-old girl I saw singing the words and shaking her hips to “Future Husband” by Meghan Trainor (“if you wanna get that special lovin’”) And it’s straight-up obscene to watch a grown (yet still young) woman in a teeny tiny bikini pole-dancing against the DJ tent pole (and several different men’s bodies). I actually covered my daughter’s eyes on that one! We all know there is something, some little tinge of sexual to dancing. But, I think I’m calling it “sexual” because our culture is just uncomfortable admitting it, talking about it. The truth is, it’s really not as inherently “sexual” as it is “sensual” and because we’re a bunch of puritans, unable to talk about sex without shame and embarrassment, we get “sensuality” and “sexuality” confused. Of course, I don’t think there’s anything dangerous or wrong about either of those things but “sensuality” is quite innocent actually. Sensuality is just enjoyment/pleasure through the senses. The problem is not with sensuality (or even sexuality) itself – the problem is with our warped perception of it, our twisting something natural and beautiful into something obscene and naughty (There are lots of feminist explanations for why this happens in our patriarchy – and perhaps these are what I SHOULD be spending my time discussing -- but , because I have some other things I want to concentrate on, I’ll save them for the moment).
With that out of the way, let me explain what I was so entranced by on the Frankfort Pier for that hour or so that the DJ played on the Fourth of July. Girls and women letting loose, laughing, smiling, giggling, moving every inch of their bodies, shaking from fingertips to toes, swinging their heads from side-to-side. Girls and women of every possible age – from toddlers to octogenarians -- having fun. Girls and women enjoying themselves fully, in their bodies, loving their bodies, moving their bodies with total joy. Wow. SO. Beautiful.
What I was thinking, watching them was, why doesn’t the whole world continuously, every available moment, celebrate the inherent wholesome amazing awesome miraculous-ness of the human body and its ability to express itself through movement? Why doesn’t the whole world continuously, every available moment bow down to the pure goddess energy in every single female on this planet? Why don’t these girls and women know how breathtaking they are? Because the truth is, the vast majority of us don’t.
And these questions have everything to do with the parenthetical feminist explanations and patriarchy I mention above – but again, I don’t have time at the moment to go there just yet.
These questions I sat there asking myself made the beauty of this movement, this total letting loose, all the more poignant. It was breathtaking. And a genuine display of “independence.”
Which brings me to the patriarchy. And I’m going to skip the feminist explanations because if you don’t know them yet, I don’t have time in this moment to teach you. I’m going to skip right to my reaction to those explanations: There is NOTHING inherently wrong or naughty or shameful or obscene or trashy or embarrassing about a girl or a woman – of any age – experiencing bodily pleasure of any kind. When that bodily pleasure becomes wrong or naughty or shameful or obscene or trashy or embarrassing is when she is objectified – when she is no longer seen as a living breathing person with her own volition.
And THIS is why I love those girls and women dancing down on the Pier at Frankfort Beach. They moved of their own volition. They let themselves, in those moments of dancing, experience bodily pleasure publicly without worrying about anyone objectifying them or shaming them.
When that self-conscious awkward pre-teen moves in to your head and sets up shop, she starts to repeat all of the messages she’s been subconsciously soaking up since you were born. And she knows she is objectified. She knows she is expected to feel shame.
My Andy story has always been a lovely memory for me, for simple reasons. But the more I think about how watching those dancers on the Pier made me feel, the more I realize the complexity of my first dance as a (very) young woman being my last dance as an innocent child. Soon after that night of dancing my butt off, I was being invited to bar mitzvahs galore and then (even though I still spent plenty of time dancing my but off) the focus shifted from finding my own pleasure to the lip gloss and dresses and hairstyles I could wear to be pleasing to others.
Fuck that. (I’m sorry, sometimes that really is the best thing I can think of to say.)
Dance everywhere, especially where they don’t expect it. Dance if you want to, because you want to, as long as you want to, however you want to. And keep dancing and dancing and dancing and dancing…
with or without your British Prince Andy
with or without the Patriarchy’s permission
with or without even your Mother’s permission – though I am so glad to say that I know for sure I always had mine.
Dance with love, Dear Readers!