I Dance Horribly


I don’t believe the trouble is my inability to dance like nobody’s watching. I have heard that advice a good deal and when I dance I find I can live up to it because anyone who would watch soon turns away and in some cases curls up into a ball and weeps. I suppose someone really determined might watch me and judge, in a way that would be harsh, but they would surely give up judging and just feel generally sad if they tried. I can accept doing things that make onlookers feel sad and a little embarrassed for me, as everyone who’s seen the way I dress myself has noticed.

Now it isn’t that I’m not up for trying to dance either. I’ll give it my level best, but that’s terrible. For example, I can see that other people have mastered these dance moves where one sometimes raises one’s hands above one’s head. I’ll give that a try and it comes out all wrong: I can maybe get my hands up to about the level of my belt, or when I realize that I’m doing this all wrong and I have to go higher, up to about belly button level. People raising their arms correctly, over their heads or so, might even straighten their arms out so as to look festive and give a sense of whole bodies in interesting movement. I can kind of straighten out my elbows, but that puts my hands back down again, and often enough into my pockets.

And it isn’t true that I have no sense of rhythm, although goodness knows people wonder about that. I am very well aware that there is a rhythm to the music, and I hear it in the music and see it in the ways that people move. It’s just that my body has these natural modes of swinging for my arms and legs and it so happens these are the patterns you’d get if you were to pick me up by the shoulders and drop me from a great height, possibly onto a trampoline, possibly onto a sheet of blacktop because you’re annoyed that every dance step I have looks kind of like the warm-up exercises we had to do at the start of gym class in ninth grade, which is where I learned them.

It’s not that I’m incapable of breaking out of this. Thanks to the WiiFit I got to be very good at some step aerobic moves, and with the aid of several pieces of consumer electronics I can pretty well do moves where I step forward and then step back again, a lot, and sometimes throw things for a little loop by stepping to the side and the back again quickly. In some of the advanced modes I even raise a foot without taking a further step and then quickly put my foot back down lest I kick something, such as the Wii. It just takes me about the length of my entire time on the dance floor to realize that if I’m nowhere near the rhythm of everybody on the floor then I should do something about that, such as try.

It’s not clear to me whether this has any effect on the people around. I would like it if sometime there were actually more people on the dance floor when I left it than when I started, but maybe that’s just coincidence. A weird coincidence that turns up every time I try to dance. Heck, maybe it is my fault. Maybe people see me out there, wobbling sideways a little bit, hands kind of waving around my hips as if I were trying not to get caught rolling imaginary cookie dough, and then they realize I’m there in cargo pants and snow boots and a hoodie because I’m a little chilly, and they don’t want to have to witness this suffering. It would explain how often people go up to my dear spouse and say “You’re so brave” or “I admire your patience” or “Is there some foundation we could maybe donate to?” or just hug us and squeeze our hands.

To sum up, I have the dance moves of a Muppet suffering from a knee injury.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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