I wonder if my parents ever danced? I think not. The gene pool of engineers, artists, and fishermen did not benefit us in the rhythm department. I did ballet for a couple of years when I was little. I LOVED the blue eye shadow my mom put on me before class. That was pretty much all that I loved. Oh. And the mouse ears! I was good enough to be one of at least 100 mice in the Christmas production of the Nutcracker. I had the job of waking up Claire. Until the night that I became preoccupied with my floppy ears during the performance and forgot to wake up that snobby bitch. I’m sorry, that may sound mean. She WAS the dance instructor’s daughter. I was demoted to just a mouse. A mouse who did not have the feet for dancing.
Besides my feet being genetically uncooperative, I have the build of a logger. I have the grace of an elephant. And I tend to break a toe at least once a year, by tripping over rocks or walking into walls. I started crying at night because my feet were sore (and the jealousy over my sister’s toe shoes got to be too much) and I was allowed to quit. That was at the ripe old age of 8. After that, I didn’t even want to dance until junior high, unless you count the occasional moon walk.
In junior high I discovered tap. All the cool girls did it. They had snazzy outfits, and shiny shoes, and crimped hair. For some reason, the tap teacher never returned my calls. I thought she didn’t like me. In reality, I think my mom never paid the sign up fee. I watched the junior high girls perform in the talent show, tapping through Corey Hart’s I Wear My Sunglasses at Night. They were so cool. Their moves were flawless. It was like watching Cirque Du Soleil. Can you tell that I have not yet actually seen Cirque Du Soleil? I mean, junior high tap dancers? Not quite the same level of talent. Those girls were probably just as uncomfortable as I was in my early teen body, except that they were on stage in front of the whole school. They probably tripped, and slipped and totally messed up the timing, but to me the performance was epic.
I went to a couple of painful school dances in junior high. And the first high school dance that I attended? A senior asked me to dance. To Stairway to Heaven. He was not a sexy senior. He was shorter than me. He was kind of greasy. I felt undeniable claustrophobic in his too tight embrace after about nine minutes of that song. God that song is painfully long.
Fortunately for me, in high school I discovered the dead fish. This became my signature dance move for the rest of my dancing days (and apparently kept many creepy boys away… probably the not-so-creepy ones, too). It involves a shoulder shrug, limp arms, straight legs – that flex only a bit as you bounce up and down. Picture a mosh-pit, for one. That is my dance style. Sometimes I break out of my comfort zone and move my arms like on I Dream of Jeannie. It’s quite a sight, I’m sure.
When I was a senior I used my dead fish dance moves to survive the winter blues of a New Jersey boarding school. At the end of study hall, I would race up a flight of stairs to my friend Heather’s room. She was actually one of the famed tap dancers from junior high. It didn’t take her long to forget her once choreographed moves. I can do that. Make people forget how cool they once were. While the other teenagers would go hang out after studying, putting the moves on their love-interests, we would put on some Madonna, and do the dead fish. We danced and danced, emerging from our winter funk… stopping only when the laughter overtook us and we thought we might pee.
Bathed in cheap lamp light, tears of laughter running down our cheeks, beads of sweat forming on our brows, arms limp at our sides, bouncing up and down to Madonna. If anyone saw us from outside her dorm room window, I’ll bet we looked as cool and talented as those junior high tap dancers. Or people thought we were stoned (probably more likely).
Since it was working so well for me, I carried on this particular dance style through my college years. I would go to the clubs, and before there was even time to get properly intoxicated, I would be out there, sporting my combat boots, flannel shirt and a beaming smile, doing the dead fish. I attracted some odd dance partners, usually ones that seemed to be on heavy drugs. They looked at me like quizzically. Probably wondering what kind of drugs I was taking.
Just high on dead fish, baby!
Once everyone else was drunk and dancing, I usually bailed. A dead fish needs her space. I wish my dead fish partner lived a bit closer. We are both mommies and massage therapists, now separated by the borders of our countries. If she were in my neighborhood, I’d walk over to her house right this minute, some freshly downloaded Madonna on my iPod, and we’d demonstrate for our daughters how to effectively dance away the winter blues (and most boys, besides the druggies).
When winter comes, and family is taxing your resources, and you’ve had a cold on and off for two months, and your toes refuse to warm… just do like I do. Call your sister and vent.
Then! Break out the dead fish. Drop those arms, put on some excessively cheese ball music, and dance with only slightly restricted abandon. My bubble is always ready for a mosh-pit of one, or two (good bouncy walls to crash into, without injury). Be warned though. It might make you smile. Or accidentally blow your nose just a little upon landing. It’s probably best I never made that tap dance team. I don’t know if they could have handled such awesome moves.