Put Your Left Leg In, Put Your Left Leg Out
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Erik is out of the office today, so we are reprinting a column from 2001.
I've been married for over 14 years now, and we have learned to compromise on hundreds of issues. But there's one area where we seem to have a few difficulties. My wife thinks dancing is fun and enjoyable, and I think it makes me look like a big dork.
I'm not talking about just any old kind of dancing where you shake various body parts to the music, hoping you don't look like a bigger idiot than the other idiots in the room. I'm talking about ballroom dancing, like you see on your local PBS stations when there's nothing else on TV.
For the most part, we've been able to avoid the issue, although we've had occasional conversations about why we don't learn how to dance. Usually when Championship Ballroom Dancing comes on.
My wife: Look how graceful they are. Why don't we ever do that?
Me: I'm more of the big lumbering type. I can't swish my hips like that.
My wife: I mean it. Why don't we ever dance that way?
Me: Because I would look stupid!
My wife: No, you'd pretty good at it.
Me: By "pretty good," you mean "really stupid," right?
My wife: I'm going to call around and see if we can take lessons.
Me: (whimpers slightly)
Happily, nothing ever materialized from these conversations. And with the exception of hiding in the basement anytime Championship Ballroom Dancing came on, I was able to avoid the whole issue entirely.
That is, until Valentine's Day 2001 when I was told that I, the big lumbering doofus, was going to have to dance in public. Not high school dancing that just meant wrapping your arms around your date and moving slowly around in circles.
No, this was dancing with a capital D. The kind with steps, moves, and names that don't include the words "funky" or "chicken."
I was so screwed.
This was a formal ball, which meant I had to wear a tuxedo, My wife was presenting an award, and since I was her husband, I was also expected to attend. And dance. Where people could see me.
My wife assured me that we would do well, and gave me my first dance lesson the night before the ball.
"It's easy, you'll love it" she assured me, pulling out a diagram of a basic swing step.
"Why do I have to learn to swing dance?" I asked.
"Because the theme is swing dancing."
"Why can't the theme be wrapping my arms around my wife and moving slowly around in circles?"
My wife ran through the basic swing step, counting the rhythm and showing me where to put my feet. Then she had me try it.
But my wife has the patience of a saint, and she worked with me, counting and helping me put my feet in the right place (i.e. not on top of her feet).
After 15 minutes, I finally started to get it. After another 10, I could do the dance without counting out loud. And soon thereafter, I could dance without counting in my head either.
"You realize we won't be able to dance that much," I said.
"Why is that?"
"Because if we dance too much, it will look like I only know how to do one dance."
"That's because you only know how to do one dance."
We practiced a few times before the big night finally arrived. As we started to dance to the first swing number, I realized, "Hey, I'm doing it! I'm dancing!" It was a proud moment. I was dancing in a room filled with people who all knew the fine art of ballroom dancing.
Then I looked again. These people weren't dancing at all!
Those cheaters were just shaking their various body parts to the rhythm of the music!
There were only two other couples who actually looked like they knew how to dance. I started to feel a little smug, like I knew something special, and here was my big chance to show it.
You can imagine my big disappointment when the song was over, and the band launched into Kool and the Gang's "Celebrate."
"I can't dance to this," I told my wife. "You never taught me how."
She urged me to stay out there and try, but it was no use. After being stepped on and bumped into by people who looked dorkier than I did, I gave up. My wife just smiled and turned to dance with her sister, who had been similarly ditched by her husband.
It was finally over. Even though I died a thousand deaths before I really did it, I was glad I was actually able to dance in public without any humiliation.
Best of all, I never had to dance the Funky Chicken.