Confessions of a Chorophobe

nerd-danceI can’t dance.

Or rather, I can flop around on a dance floor like a nincompoop, looking painfully embarrassed the while, but I’ve got no sense of rhythm, no cool moves, and so I won’t dance. If I can help it.

People want you to dance, and I don’t really know why. You go to a party or a bar, and after a while, once most folks have consumed sufficient quantities of alcohol to produce all the effects of inebriation, everyone starts to dance and insist that you too shimmy about. That’s when it gets dicey for me.

Women in particular feel it necessary to literally drag an obviously unwilling man onto the dance floor, and there’s always this fine line between wanting to be gallant – not wishing to appear a boor or party-pooper –  and fearing that you’ll make an ass of yourself. Generally I hold out as long as possible, imbibing courage until it’s no longer feasible to resist, then I shuffle out, lurch around stiffly for a bit like a mannequin trying to dislodge a scorpion from his slacks, then beat a hasty retreat.

It all started in middle school. School dances are always fraught with drama – couplings, betrayals, jealousies, agonizingly exquisite yearnings – but throw acute inhibition and an unhealthy dose of adolescent gangliness into the mix and you’ve got a situation in which a young boy will feel dread sluicing from his brain, swirling in his bowels, and settling in his leaden feet.

Slow dances were okay, since they required one to simply hug a partner and spin in slow circles. I could handle that, even though a teenage boy, hormones thumping in his groin like deep chemical bass, will inevitably find a newly-developing part of his body standing at attention.

This requires one of two solutions. You can simply go with it and grind away, hoping the girl will be flattered instead of utterly disgusted, or you can arch your back a bit, sticking out your butt so that your partner doesn’t realize that you are (or at least a part of you is) desperately in lust with her. I lacked the confidence for the former, so there I would be, sweatily clasping a young girl in my arms while my bottom stuck out like the head of an octopus – an ashamed octopus.

This problem was always most pronounced during “Stairway to Heaven” – invariably the last song of the evening, when everybody had to find a partner. Nobody wanted to be alone for “Stairway to Heaven.” Trouble is, it’s an 8-minute anthem that starts out slow and almost spiritual, but by around the 6th minute you can’t really get away with spinning slow circles anymore, so you must disengage, hide your burgeoning woodie, and jerk around to a 2-minute hard rock guitar solo. I’m fairly sure I never looked much like Robert Plant at those moments. More like Pinocchio, I suppose. But with my nose in my trousers.

A while back my wife and I took some dance classes. This is something different entirely. First of all, you’re expected to be incompetent, since everyone is just learning the same prescribed steps. Secondly, most of the men in the room are there under duress (when my wife told one of her male colleagues that we had enrolled in dance classes, he responded, “Oh no, what did he do?” His assumption, of  course, what that I’d done something horribly wrong and the classes were my punishment), so there’s a certain awkward male comradery at work. Lastly, many women, for reasons largely obscure, seem to regard ballroom dancing as a form of foreplay, so you’re likely to get lucky – you just have to suffer through 2 hours of bungling Lindy Hop to get there.

These days I try to avoid situations that will require me to cavort around in arrhythmic fashion. I wish I could dance. I envy those who feel joy when they do so. I’d love to glide on the dance floor like Fred Astaire or even pull off a John Travolta strut. I couldn’t agree more with Lee Ann Womack when she advises her kids, “When you get a chance to sit it out or dance – Dance!”

Right on, Lee Ann. I want my kids to take chances, to push themselves beyond their comfort zones, to reach out for reckless joy and boogie with abandon. Personally, though, this is simply one case in which I just can’t lead by example. I’m up for every and all forms of metaphorical dancing, but when it comes to the real thing – I think I’ll sit this one out.

11 thoughts on “Confessions of a Chorophobe

  1. N. really likes dancing and he is funnily confident about it, although he makes half of the moves up. I, on the other hand, lack his confidence and am always scared of how ridiculous I actually look while I am dancing on the dance floor.


    • Yup, I lack confidence when it comes to shaking my booty. In case the post didn’t make that entirely clear. 😉
      There’s a photo of me on the dance floor that, unfortunately, appeared in one of my high school yearbooks. I look like an ass. A badly-dancing ass. Ouch.


  2. The funny thing about this post is that I was driving my kids to school today and that phrase “Dance like nobody’s watching” was in my head and I was thinking of doing a post about how I embody that idea when I dance at a wedding or wherever. It’s a given, in those situations, that I’ve had a few glasses of poor quality banquet hall wine, of course, and then I’m awesome. At least, that’s what I think at the moment.
    Luckily, I have no known video documentation of such displays of unhibitedness.
    As long as you have something you enjoy that you can do like no one’s watching…crochet like nobody’s watching? Play the harp like nobody’s watching? Then it’s all good, even if you have two left feet.


    • I’m more than happy to fish like no one’s watching, but then, generally no one is. Funny thing is, I’m fairly uninhibited in general (I’ve been known to get naked in public places on occasion, for example), it’s just the dancing thing that does my head in.


  3. I, also, am not a dancer. Not a rhythmic bone in my body. Just not my thing. Sydney is just getting to the age of middle school dances and I get to chaperone dances at my job so I will get to witness the horror that is now a part of MS dances…..twerking!!! Didn’t go to my own MS dances and am not looking forward to going to these, hoping to hang out by the concession table. Take care, Matt.


    • Actually, a conga line is fairly innocuous as far as I’m concerned – at least you don’t have to do much so there’s little chance you’ll look foolish. They are, however, the stinkiest of cheese, so you’re absolutely right to refuse to engage in such a thing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s