When our wedding was still an abstract concept lurking happily in my mind, I always imagined the dancing. I could see so clearly the hugging, laughing huddle of my far scattered galpals and myself taking up the whole dance floor. I could see leaning over to kiss my new wife while all of our guests jumped and fist pumped to the Backstreet Boys, and I was very excited. Then, a month or so ago when our wedding was no longer abstract, but looming, Julie came into the house after work, beaming. “I found the perfect first dance song!” she exclaimed, running to pull it up on YouTube. I realized I had forgotten that there was another kind of dancing often featured at weddings. As the four, romance-filled minutes crept by, I could practically see Julie’s own hazy, happy vision of our wedding. It involved slow dancing as public spectacle, and I assumed she’d want me to be her partner in this vision. I started to sweat.
Dancing and I do not have an illustrious history. For instance, our eighth grade promotion included a semi-formal dance. When the big night arrived, my good friend, Jeanette, and I hatched a plan. Convinced that we were brimming with sophistication and allure as almost-high schoolers, we decided to ask a couple boys to dance at the next slow song. As soon as we heard the whistling intro to “My Heart Will Go On,” we split up and approached our respective quarry. Summoning all of my bravery, I walked up to my chosen fella and asked him to dance with me. I watched his face confidently for a second before he sputtered “Oh God. Um. No.” and retreated to the boys’ restroom, where I believe he spent the remainder of the event. Mostly, I remember feeling surprised, as opposed to devastated. This was helped by the fact that Jeanette enjoyed no success either, although with less spectacular results.
In high school, Jeanette’s boyfriend invited her to his senior prom, and mentioned that his best friend was still looking for a date. Jeanette knew that her relationship was on its last legs, and rather than spend the evening alone with her boyfriend, she informed me that I was going to be the boyfriend’s best friend’s date. I agreed, as I love my friend dearly. The evening spent with a short, silent date did nothing to endear slow dancing to me.
Jeanette and I decided to be each other’s dates to our own senior prom.
What no one tells you when you’re a teenager is that, once you’re out of high school, opportunities for slow dancing are few and far between. Since we’ve attended weddings as a couple, Julie and I have danced together, but there’s a huge difference between being one of many couples rotating slowly on the floor and being THE couple. I casually suggested to Jules that, like other wedding “traditions” we didn’t feel were a good fit for us, we could maybe skip our first dance. My fiancée looked stricken. “We won’t get this back,” she said, echoing the words I’ve used toward her with regards to a multi-day honeymoon, among other things. “This is our only first dance.” Because, she has acquiesced to everything that I’ve really wanted for our wedding (and, ever), and I like to make her happy, I agreed to try to make my peace with dancing.
My friend Alex, our Head Usher for our wedding, turned thirty recently, and demanded a celebration at his favorite place in Denver, a downtown nightclub that offered 80s night on Saturdays. I begrudgingly agreed to go. When I arrived at his designated booth and accepted my drink, I looked around, and it seemed every bit as bad as I thought it would be. A tiny dance floor, surrounded by red neon, and the promised 80s hits, which a handful of people were dancing vigorously to. I glowered threateningly at Alex when he asked me if I wanted to go dance. “I don’t dance.” I said, and I returned my attention to people watching.
What I had missed on my first glance was that the group on the floor was actually… awesome. Three or four were still embracing the Goth movement. There was a tall girl practicing the same series of moves, regardless of the song, or the beat, over and over all by herself. And there was a group of women in mom jeans, t-shirts, and Reeboks rocking out. No one looked self-conscious. No one seemed to be paying any attention to their fellow dancers. Everyone was just doing their thing. So, after I finished my drink, I headed out to join Alex and a few of our friends on the dance floor. Because of the small crowd, I felt more exposed than I normally might. I couldn’t rely on the bob-and-bounce I usually bust out when I’ve been convinced to go to a club with friends. I had to actually try to dance. And I did. And no one laughed, and no one hid in the bathroom, and really no one paid any attention to me at all, other than Alex, but that was only because he wanted me to sing along to Depeche Mode with him.
I’m able to think about our first dance with something less than abject terror now, although I still wish we could do it without everyone watching. Thanks to Alex’s birthday, I’ve got a plan, and it involves a couple glasses of champagne, and remembering that it’s only four minutes to make my wife happy. So I’ll try dancing like the only people watching are wearing black lipstick and mom jeans. Jeanette won’t be there to see it, but I know she’d approve.