Monday, March 14, 2011

The Dance Contest, Part I of 2

            No one would ever guess that I’m a maniac on the dance floor.  When the music starts, my body can’t seem to control itself, and my eyes search frantically for a potential dance partner.  Once located, I creep casually up to my prey and ask him to dance.  Most men are flattered by my boldness, while most women are horrified.  But I wasn’t always so bold.
            From the time I was a young girl, I wanted to learn how to dance.  I would constantly bug my older brother to teach me how to dance to the House music he blasted on the stereo in his room.  He would try every once in a while, but would give up after a few minutes. I was hopeless.
            One afternoon, I attended my best friend’s 11th birthday party.  She and I had become friends in Kindergarten, but after that I was put in a Gifted and Talented class.  Because of this, I didn’t know any of the girls at her birthday party.  It didn’t seem to matter, though, because we were having a nice time, shrieking and giggling loudly as preteen girls tend to do.  Until someone suggested we have a dance contest.
            “Yeah! Let’s do it! A dance contest!” the girls shouted excitedly, clapping their hands and jumping about.  I tried to join in the excitement, but was become increasingly nervous as the girls put on MTV and positioned themselves in various lounging poses on the surrounding sofas: some leaning against the wall standing on the seat cushions, others lying upside down with their feet in the air.  I sat down on the edge of one of the sofas, trying to hide my anxiety.
            The birthday girl went first, expertly moving her body in the same way as the girl in the music video.  We all cheered and clapped for her.  When the song was over, she sat down and the next girl shouted “My turn!” and stood up.
            I suddenly missed my own group of friends.  We would probably have started pointing fingers at each other saying “No, you go! No, you! No, I’m going last!” which would eventually lead to the dance contest never happening at all.  But not this group of girls.  They knew how to dance and were proud of it. 
            The rest of the girls did pretty much the same moves as the birthday girl had done.  Finally, it was my turn.  I was the last one to go.  By this time, the T.V. had been turned off and a cassette was playing the music.
            The girls started cheering me on before I even stood up.  “Come on!” You can do it!” My best friend gave me a little shove.
            “Well, okay, but I don’t really know how,” was my disclaimer.  I stood up and they pressed the Play button on the stereo.  I tried not to look at them as I began moving my body awkwardly.  Mostly, I stared at the floor. 
            “Yeah!” the girls shouted.  “Move it!”
            I moved my arms around, trying to keep up with the beat as the stereo blasted “I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie!”
            The girls cheered for me. “Whoooo! You go girl!”
            I started feeling a little more confident, and I began moving my feet the way I’d watched my brother do it so many times.  The girls started chanting, “Go Cindy! Go Cindy! Go! Go! Go Cindy!” 
            I looked up and saw that they were smiling widely at me and dancing along on the sofas.  I was ecstatic.  They actually liked my dancing!  By the end of the song, I felt pretty good about myself.
            The next day I was on the phone with my best friend, discussing the party. “I really liked the dance contest,” I said. “Your friends are good dancers. And so are you.”
            “Yeah,” she said matter-of-factly.  “We practice all the time.  You just have to pay attention to the music videos.”
            “I guess so.  I’m glad they liked my dancing though.”
            “Oh...yeah,” my friend said distantly.
            “What?” I asked, slightly alarmed.
            “Oh no, it’s nothing.”
            “Come on. Tell me.”
            “Well,” she began, hesitating. “You know how my friends were cheering for you?  Well… they weren’t really cheering.  They were laughing at you.  They were making fun of you.”
            “Oh.” I felt my face turn red.
            “I told them to stop, and that I wouldn’t be friends with them anymore if they did it again,” she added quickly.
            “Oh…well…who cares? I don’t care.”
            “Good,” she said. “They’re stupid anyway.”
            Yeah, they’re stupid,” I said.  But I couldn’t help feeling like I had been the stupid one all along.  I ended the conversation quickly, then hung up and cried in shame.
            At that moment, I vowed never to dance in public again.