A: It might lead to dancing.
Last night, I ran across a strand of old silver Christmas garland, about 2 feet long.
I can't dance. Like, at all. My lack of internal rhythm, dexterity, and experience all culminate into not even bobbing my head to the music because it throws me off. So it may come a surprise to you that I once took a summer course in dancing and singing.
To be fair, the listing said it was a summer "Acting day camp." In the summer of 1983, I participated in a county educational program at some high school I have long forgotten (it might have been Reston South Lakes or Herndon, because those were the only two schools with air conditioning until the late 1980s). I am not sure how the summer educational program was run that year, but there were a lot of mistakes.
First, three people in the class were not supposed to even be there. One took Geology, but due to a computer snafu, she was sent to our class, which was held in the theater. She was a shy little thing, and didn't point out the mistake until a week into the course, when it was too late to change. She said she didn't mind, though, because this class was pretty cool. Another girl was supposed to be in a Flag Corps/Baton Twirling class for high schoolers, same problem. She was not so happy when she discovered that not only was she sent to the wrong class, but the class she wanted to take had started a week earlier, in another high school, and it was already full. Another guy thought he was at computer camp, and left on the first day, only to find out that computer camp had been cancelled for that year (which I could have told him, because I learned about it when I considered taking the course).
The rest of us were in the right class, but again, due to a snafu, it wasn't really acting day camp... it was "Theater Day Camp," which meant acting, dancing, AND singing, much to my horror. Apparently, they didn't have enough kids sign up for all of them, so they lumped us all into one modified class. "Didn't you get the mailing?" Yes, we got it two days after the class started. I was the only one upset about dancing and singing; many girls were VERY upset about the acting thing. But if the shy wannabe geologist could do it, so could they. Later in the day, when I approached the teacher (named Mrs. Morales, I remember, because Mr. Morlaes is the name of a part in the musical "A Chorus Line"), and told her I couldn't sing or dance, her cheerful disposition told me then I would learn. When I balked, I learned she had a very dark temper side.
Mrs. Morales was a pretty good teacher, I have to say. She was cheerful and joking most of the time, but quick to anger. Luckily, her temper was predictable, and she even said what pissed her off, and since none of what got her mad was unreasonable, I got along with her pretty good. She didn't care if I could sing or dance, she just cared if I tried. She spent a lot of time with me during downtime to try and get me up to speed, but did say, "No offense, you're a great actor with a lot of talent, but your voice is really off key and your dancing is hurting others." She explained that I needed to "round out my resume" at the time because if I wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, I had to have experience with ALL forms of theater. At the time, I really did want to be an actor, and would join the Thespian Society a year later. But for now, it was a dancing teacher in spandex and leg warmers, trying to teach me modern jazz and asking, "Your feet, your feet? Why do they MOVE like that?" and "No no, it's step kick sashay sashay down up down up jazz hands! What are you doing? You do something different every time!"
I hit and ran in to more people than I care to admit.
We studied basic ballet, jazz, modern, interpretive, soft shoe, and some of the classics like chorus lines, the jitterbug, the Charleston, and some waltzes. I was so bad. Mrs Morales had a lot of patience, and you could tell she knew I was trying, but in the end, I didn't end up in any dance numbers except for a production of "A Chorus Line," where I played Mr. Morales, and talked out his signing parts (which worked out well). But the dancing part was so hard, and to this day, "One Singular Sensation" is a dance number burned into my brain.
We did a LOT of plays that summer, most of them musicals. "Grease," "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," and my favorite, "The Fantasticks," my only role as a lead in that camp. I played "El Gallo," (the rooster), a narrator who gets involved in the story between two lovers who have been set up by two fathers using reverse psychology. The only song I was required to sing was "Try to Remember," which I was encouraged to to sing in a deep baritone in a husky whisper because, according to Mrs. Morales, it was the only range in which I did not crack and could hide the fact I was so tone deaf.
"Who understands why Spring is born out of Winter's laboring pain? Or why we all must die a bit before we grow again?"
But when Theater Camp was over, I never danced again. I went to a few "dances" at school before I knew better, and just hung out awkwardly, feeling as lowly and unpopular as ever. The last school dance I ever went to was one I ended up volunteering at, and I recall working the drink table, looking at the corner where the unpopular kids hung out, and thinking... "they look pathetic." Then I realized I looked like that over there. The exchange kids with the name no one could pronounce, the unwashed kid playing a handheld game, and the handicapped girl with headgear.
I wish I could go back to that moment, and instead of saying to myself, "This is grody to the max, I am never doing this again," I went to the handicapped girl with the crutches, smiled, and asked her to dance. I could have at least said, "Hey, maybe we can't dance like the popular kids with the feathered hair, but maybe we can take down some of them in our attempts. You get them from below, I'll get them from above. Whattia say?" I bet she would have been a cool dance partner.
But it would take another event years later to change my sour grapes into a wine that was less bitter.
My first official recognition that my yearly cycles did a rough September/August instead of Jan/Dec like everyone else started in 1986. One of the "up/down" chaotic events was a definite "up" part when my best friend Neal, who lived in Texas, got a Christmas present for me to fly down and see him. There was a lot of stuff that happened on that trip, but the one I will focus on involves the New Year's Party by the debate club at Neal's school.
My high school didn't have cliques, really. Yeah, some people were more popular than others, but I don't recall them treating me poorly. Kennard Williams, one of the most charming people in my graduating class, and elected class president many times, treated me as an equal, and I will always thank him for that. Chris Archer, also popular, was very nice. The kids who treated me poorly were the ones no one liked much anyway, like Trey Tyler and Mike McConnel, who had more money than sense, and were known cocaine users (I knew Mike's dealer from Langley High, and his nickname for Mike was "deep pockets, shallow head"). But even though this was the case, I never attended one high school dance. I even skipped my prom.
So when I went to a Debate Team New Year's party at a popular girl's house, I was a little hesitant. I had gotten sick during the trip, and was recovering, and the plan was we go to the party, and when the party winds down, I had to take an early flight out of Houston to Nashville on the way home.
The house was nice, like McLean nice. I recall thinking it was a newer model, with high ceilings and a very large open area that made for good party space. There were a lot of people, maybe like 40-50, and some punks crashed at one point. I went to go hang out with them, but Neal gave me a warning shot across my bow, and sure enough, they were huffing something, and one got real sick.
When the music started, some girls wanted me to dance.
Yeah, I was really confused. This never happened. Ever. My libido and sense of dating was so far buried that when a girl flirted with me or asked me to dance, I had this response that I could only say was a confused stare. Luckily, one of them, I think the hostess took me out to the floor. I tried to imitate what she did. Then when she started with someone else, I went back to the wall. Then another girl asked me. Then another. The hostess noticed kept going back to the wall, and she said, "Come ON! Dance with me..." I said I was tired, and she did something very strange.
She took a strand of short silver Christmas garland, wrapped it around my neck, and dragged me to her while she danced. So, being the shy yet friendly sort, I just went along with it. She stared me in the eyes a lot, which made me wonder if I was offending her, but her body language didn't seem like it. Now, we never really touched, there was no slow dancing or anything that might anger a Baptist, but I recall wondering why she kept looking at me submissively. "Is she being sarcastic?" I wondered.
Yeah. That clueless.
Later, as Neal was driving me to the airport at like 4am, he was enthusiastically saying, "Man... she was FLIRTING with you something heavy!" I was dumbfounded. Flirting? As in... flirting flirting, or as in she's friendly to everyone like a lot of girls in fandom?
"No, she was really into you," he said, still pointing to the strand of garland around my neck. I still have that garland, too, as you saw because it serves as a reminder that I can have fun.
For years I have tried to tell myself the girls liked me because I was "the exotic forbidden Yankee," or some such nonsense. The fact that a girl I had never met would like me was pretty weird. I still felt that way when Christine "was getting ready" to go out with me the day we met. What "getting ready?" She's putting on makeup? Using hair spray? In the fannish world, this isn't very common. I am not going into that date, which was FUN, btw... but the only times we have danced is our wedding day and right after we got married at some FanTek con, where we slow danced to "One More Night" by Phil Collins, and I think we laughed because we both hated that song, and danced anyway because we loved each other so much.
I stepped on her foot twice.
A few years later, I am hanging out a few nights here and there with Suzi, Rogue, Kai, Anne, Margaret, Roni, Paladin, and/or Cambion at Traxx, the Black Cat, or the revamped 9:30 Club as well as some other places on Goth nights, and my only real memories of these days are one night when Suzi and Eden sat with me at a bar, making fun of how Goths danced.
Kai and Anne describe it perfectly.
But apart from that, I don't dance, and recently, it's started to bother me because while most of you have some kind of internal rhythm, I don't. I can't "move to the beat," and last night, after seeing that garland again, I spent a few minutes alone in my den, trying to move to some techno, house, rap, and J-Pop. Earlier in the day, takayla had been playing Esthero's "Wikked Lil' Grrrls" (I think), and the beat was so not 4:4 (it sounds like it's starting and stopping), I got a headache that literally left me in a bad mood. I had to get my brain back into some groove, but my lame dancing reminded me that the reason I listen to a lot of techno/industrial/pop while I write is it sets my brain to an external clock.
Because I have no internal clock. I bet almost all of you, if asked to do something five minutes from now, have some "sixth sense" that alerts them five minutes in the future. Or it seems that way to me. Time is such a vague concept for me that I have to wear my watch all the time to get an idea of how much time has passed. I don't know "hour" from "day." I could tell you that 24 hours make a solar day, but I could never tell you what an hour feels like or means other than something you map events to. Time is as abstract as modern art to me, and the fact you guys can all move together is amazing. It's like watching levitation.
So I tried to analyze why I can't dance, and I have always been told by friends and the like that I think too much and I don't just "move to the rhythm." Like some automatic process takes over if I just trust it. I tried to heavily focus on the music without thinking about my body, and then I fell down because I can't stand and concentrate, which I had forgotten about: my balance is directly connected to my stream of consciousness. I guess when most of you walk, you don't think about step left step right... I do...! And guess what? If I focus too much on that, I forget to breathe until I am gasping for air! When I walk, I am literally thinking, in my head, how to walk, how to balance, and how to breath more rapidly so I am not gasping when I exert myself... and in a crowd all while not crashing into things and people. Those who have hung around me know in a crowd, if I have to move, my conversation drops to nothing. And this is because all my brain power is dedicated to the act of walking and not crashing.
I see people talking on cell phones while walking, and it's like witnessing Hollywood-style witchcraft to me. I have to stop and lean on something to dedicate enough brain power to a conversation.
If I wear a Walkman, though, it's different, because it provides the rhythm for me. The internal mechanism for knowing sequence of events is paced out, and I can do many things very fast. The usual jumble of thoughts has a framework, and it can all be lined out in order. Writing becomes fluid to me, and you can bet during NaNoWriMo, I was listening to techno a LOT. Dance floor pop, you better believe it, but if you knew some of the songs I'd play, some of you would boo me. Well... probably not anyarm, but I think a few of you would actually berate me for "supporting certain artists by calling that song music." But it does the job.
So why can't I dance if it provides the artificial framework for time and event sequencing? Because normal dancing has no sequence. And I say this because, in my head, I know what foot movements go to, "ONE... singular sensation... every little step she takes...!" [... two, three, four] but if someone plays "Saturday Night" from the Bay City Rollers, I am at a loss. There's no choreography to that!
I can't even "Time Warp" on cue, and I have hosted nearly 50 RHPS showings, and been the audience to countless more, even though I know it's just a jump to the left, a step to the right, put your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tight, and it's a pelvic thrust that drives you insane.
[Dammit, now that song will run in my head all day.]