It’s taken me my entire adult life to get to the point where I can dance unselfconsciously (and soberly) at a concert. And it’s still a struggle.
Even as a kid, I felt like my feet were leaden. I don’t have natural rhythm. I can’t twerk despite having a moderate amount of junk in my trunk. Me getting low has a geriatric sort of vibe. The electric slide is an honest to God struggle. I remember the torture of every middle school and high school dance. The medium-torture of every ska show where I wanted to skank like everyone else but I felt so stupid trying to move my feet off the ground and it was so hard to keep the beat.
(that’s not a hipster, that’s a sixth-grader who doesn’t want to dance)
When I see my kids spaz out during school plays, I understand how they feel — as if every eyeball is scrutinizing every move. As if everyone else is more limber, more talented, prettier, better at dancing.
I danced a lot in college. I had a whole routine. Straight to the bar for a couple of shots of tequila, and then a Long Island Iced Tea to hold on the dance floor. The Long Island was a crutch in more than one way. It softened the edges of my insecurities, and it gave me one less limb to worry about. I danced a lot in college because I was always shitfaced. I didn’t love being drunk, and I really didn’t love the brutal hangovers. I loved dancing. I didn’t like dancing with boys. I just wanted to move and sweat and sing and make obnoxious sign of the cross gestures to Like a Prayer. As you do.
It was pretty great.
But in my mid to late twenties, drinking started to make me really sick most of the time, and I was back to square one. Just a gawky 12-year-old girl again. The clubs around here pretty much suck, and I tend to fall asleep way before the drag shows turn into dance parties, so my dancing opportunities are relegated to shows, where I still manage to feel insecure despite generally being smooshed up against shitty dudebros (and women who are better at dancing.)
Concerts. You know when the band inevitably asks everyone to put their hands in the air? To clap, or jump or do that odd wavey-wavey thing? I still get all weird. Maybe it’s because I’m almost 5’9″ or because I’m thoroughly neurotic but even that makes me feel awkward. What do I do with my hands? Fingers straight? Fists? Probably not fists. That’s silly. A pointy finger? No. Everyone else has such graceful hands, and they’re waving like they actually don’t care and clearly I care, because my hands are penguin-ing at my sides and the song is over.
But lately, and maybe because the past couple of years of my life have been a little on the turbulent side, I’ve finally started growing out of giving a shit. Not completely. But a little. Enough. Enough that I danced until my feet hurt through a handful of sets at a music festival yesterday. I jumped. I put my hand in the air. I tossed my hair around and moved like Snoopy and felt joyful.
During Grouplove’s amazing set (dude, they covered Drunk in Love), my best friend and I moved out of the stifling, pot-smoking crowd and stood out in the open at the back of the pit, with several hundred people behind us in the regular seats. I knew I wasn’t hidden, but I danced anyway — until I made the mistake of looking over and caught a young girl elbowing her friends and pointing and laughing at us.
They weren’t dancing. All three of them had their phones out. They wore carefully neutral expressions.
My feet felt heavy and my skin felt prickly. I lost the beat, lost ground, felt my fingers knot up in the hem of my shirt the same way my son’s do when he’s fidgeting. It took me a whole song to get back into it, and it was the encore anyway. The next time the girl looked over, I cast her a long, deliberately, ultra bitchy look. I think the kids call it throwing shade. It was shady as fuck.
She squirmed and looked at her phone again.
As we walked out for fresh air and water after the set, I was angry. How dare this little bitch judge me for my joyful, albeit uncoordinated bouncing? Then I thought about her age, and the fact that she wasn’t dancing at all. She was 17 or 18. Maybe her feet are still heavy and the eyes behind her were too much. Or maybe she is just a juvenile hipster a-hole. Who knows. But some day she’ll be in her 30’s at a show, and I bet she’ll be having a lot more fun.