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Go dancing. Impress people.

When the boy took me home, the house was dark. Most dads would be waiting, but not mine. He might be home by two in the morning or sometime Sunday night. I could never be sure.

I kind of liked the boy, JC, but mostly I was grateful he’d asked me out. My first date and I was 17.

We stood in the empty carport. At least Dad had remembered to leave the outside light on. “You’re not afraid to be in there by yourself?” JC asked.

“I’m used to it,” I said. The date had been…okay. I hated the movie, Police Academy some number or another, and the video arcade, but he was nice. And prom was coming. I really wanted to go to the prom.

“Well,” he said and stepped backwards. “I’ll see you at school on Monday.”

“That’s right,” I said. “Thanks for the movie.”

“I had fun.” He took another step back.

“Me, too.”

I stood at the kitchen door in the glare of his headlights, waiting for him to back up out of the long drive. There were never cars to wait for, and he was quickly gone. Unlocking the door, I didn’t know how I felt about no kiss goodnight (foreshadowing), but I hurried inside to call my best friend, S. She was up and waiting for me to call.

He didn’t ask me to the prom. He wrote me a note and explained that he liked me and I was smart and funny and many other great things I didn’t care about, but he wanted to take someone who would impress his friends. Brandy was that kind of girl.

“Well,” I told my best friend, “he doesn’t dance anyway.”

“He doesn’t dance or he can’t dance?” S. asked.

“It’s against his religion. He said he’s religious.”

“What’s wrong with dancing?”

“I don’t know. I love dancing,” I said, thinking I’d have given up dancing for the ability to impress a boy’s friends.

My grandmother was a dancer. She’d been one of those dancers who wear the beads and feathers and walk down stairs with a dozen other girls.

grandmother at 67

grandmother at 67


She taught me to walk with a record on my head and how to walk down stairs to “show off your lines.”
ready for my first dance recital

ready for my first dance recital


What is wrong with dancing?

I can’t really tie this into writing tonight (too exhausted from digging too deep into certain memories and trying to climb back out), except that I wonder if people who think dancing is a sin, don’t think all creativity is a sin. And who wants to spend time with these people?

Well, I suppose that one night I did.

But this is for sure–when I find the end to my novel, I’m going to dance whether I impress anyone or not.

Dancing is a wonderful thing.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

11 thoughts on “Go dancing. Impress people.

  1. How much do we give up “for the ability to impress a boy’s friends”? What price approval? We seem to come wetwired to pay it, especially as we clamber up onto the rim of adulthood. The self-we-could-be is so often lost to the ache for the self-that-breeds-well.

    Maybe we’ve stayed too long on Darwin’s Playground.

    Maybe it’s time to teach our children, “What you are can’t be about what they want. All that noise will make you crazy.”

    Maybe it’s time to teach all of them to dance.

    Oh. And what Sophie said. 🙂

  2. Just. Cannot. Dance.

    Not a theological statement, and I don’t think (think ) that I mean “cannot dance” in the sense of “cannot swim.” It’s just hard to draw the line between (a) overwhelmed by self-consciousness, to the point that I get a mental feedback loop going and at the moment probably couldn’t do anything else requiring motor skills, either; and (b) truly spastic.

    The “big” novel which I first wrote ~15 years ago (and will finally write for good, one of these days) — when I finished the first draft I didn’t hear dance music. And, per the above, probably wouldn’t have recognized it as such anyway. But there was definitely a huge sense of, y’know, Man, I am SOOOO ready for a glass of beer…

    As for who wants to spend time with these people?, yes yes and yes. Have you ever read The Crock of Gold, an old (1912) fantasy novel by James Stephens? (Just checked — there are numerous copies of the whole thing online) (not that online is the best way to read anything!) (well, except blogs, heh) There’s a line in it by a character named the Philosopher: “‘I would like to dance, indeed,’ returned the Philosopher, “for I do believe that dancing is the first and last duty of man. If we cannot be gay what can we be? Life is not any use at all unless we find a laugh here and there.'” I always liked that.

  3. So very interesting. I am not quite sure why so many religions are afraid of the pleasures of the body, unless it is in reaction to our animal instincts. Rather than trust the people to learn how to manage these instincts, they make rules saying that the body, dancing, ankles, an ear lobe, are dirty and must be hidden or suppressed. Oh, and let’s not forget sex. And of course, making these rules leads to the backlash of well… perversion…. but I think the perversion starts with the rules that are against DANCING. I can’t think of something that gives us a more immediate connection to the divine than dance… maybe that’s why dancing was banned. Can’t have people getting god on their own, god must come through books and churchmen.

    Forgive me. I rant. I rant.

    Darcy, I think this is coming in part from the comments on your blog. It makes me angry that they say these things to you, to any woman. And it makes me angry that your church is saying these things to them, and they have to take it or leave everything behind. I am also a little bit afraid of them. But then, I’m a heathen.

  4. I don’t know if this has occurred to you… but as I’ve been reading these personal posts and how you tie them into fiction writing and creativity with the “rhetorical” questions (I put this in quotes because for a writer they aren’t rhetorical at all), the idea has occurred to me:

    This would make an excellent book on writing — in the Writing Down the Bones tradition. Seriously. You have taken personal history and made it universal and applied it to your craft. I LOVE these stories and photos. I relish the vignettes, these short-short stories. Keep writing them. And give thought to the idea. I know it’s not the kind of publishing you seek, but it’s a start, it’s got a “hook.” Maybe something will develop over time.

  5. Tom, “ache for the self-that-breeds-well” is well said. These days I’m hoping to teach my son to dance.

    JES, I hardly mind the person who “can’t” dance. I worry about the people who tell us not to. I’d certainly never force anyone on the dance floor. That quote makes me want to read that story. I shall find it.

    D’Arcy-oh, Kevin Bacon!

    rowena, of course, while this boy was all I-don’t-dance-because-I’ve-got-a-better-relationship-with-God-than-you, he was also determined to take an “easy” girl with him to the prom. What do you do with that logic?

    kathryn, I’m not sure I’m up for that journey. It is not like putting these moments on the web is private. I know that. But there is something about even thinking of putting them into a book that makes me uncomfortable for several reasons–including the idea that my dad’s second wife or the ex-boyfriend would find out. I’m doing it anyway, but I’m not entirely sure I should be using their lives at all. Seems unfair.

    But then again, I want to write.

  6. Ah, the things we’d do to, the hasty willingness to lower the bar just to impress and win the attention of a boy (and latter, a man) who does not deserve it. And that boy seems to be, uhm, shall we say, shallow?…

    I think there will always be people who are afraid of any form of self expression and art, or anything that’s a bit off the safe beaten path. Sad, really.

  7. This was touching- I love the digging you did. You managed to capture that feeling of innocence and vulnerability. You painted a vivid, yet delicate picture of a young woman with a young man at the very edges, the very beginnings of their lives. And the dancing ..to me, that was hope. I loved that image of you dancing…honestly I felt it fit in there – there is a connection you just need to write it out….thank you for sharing …and those pictures are priceless….what beauty in you both

  8. Oh man, I know about those people. I have no desire to spend any time with them either. I don’t know much, but I do feel that dancing, singing, creating art – those are holy endeavors.

  9. Pingback: Experienced Enough for This « writing in the water

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