The times they have a-changed: This morning, I woke up to an invitation to come dance at the nearby disco. There was a time when waking up to an impromptu disco dancing pajama party would have been nothing short of cool. That would have been the kind of story I would have told my friends over and over again, as proof on my own coolness.
The impromptu disco dancing event I woke up to this morning wasn’t that, but there I was, dancing in my pajamas, like the rest of the family. Son woke us up to join him in his room, in his disco, where he was the DJ, playing music from the Harry Potter movies. Daughter did cartwheels, and Wife and I careful dance moves: she was cool, I was the dork that I am on the dance floor.
Partly, it’s because I’m stuck in the fifth-grade state of mind in which guys don’t dance. When I was in fifth grade, and we had our first class disco, our teacher made everybody pay one Finnish markka for every declined invitation to dance. I wasn’t a great dancer, but I wasn’t going to pay, either. I was still in school, living with my parents, I couldn’t afford it.
The next time I was in a disco, it was the last day of a sports camp. I didn’t dance then, but I did fall in love with “I surrender”, and the following week, I taped it on a BASF C cassette with a yellow sticker. I still have the tape, but whenever I hear the song, it doesn’t make me want to dance, it makes me want to sing.
It took me another year or so to get inside another disco. I was in Oxford, England, on a language course, and every Wednesday, there was a disco in downtown Oxford. I was there once, but I didn’t dance. I did learn to count to five in Italian, thanks to a girl named Antonella. The day after that, she happened to be right where an orange I had thrown up in the air after my team had lost a orange carrying relay landed, and I thought it was best that I didn’t show my face at the disco anymore.
There was the school dance in high school, but I wouldn’t call teenagers dancing 18th and 19th century waltzes a disco. Even then, I was prepared to not dance at all, because I couldn’t bring myself to asking a girl to dance with me. I was assigned a partner for the practices, and I suppose I would have danced with her at the dance, if not another girl had asked me to be her partner. I dangled my feet, sitting on the teacher’s desk, and said, “sure”. My practice partner danced with another girl.
After that, I didn’t dance for a few years, always happy to just sit and observe what the others did. That’s what I was doing in Vancouver in the summer of 1990, but my friend Terry, as is typical of him, wouldn’t have any of that.
“What do you mean you can’t dance?”
“I just can’t.”
“Idiot. Everybody can dance,” he said, in a encouraging way.
“Listen. It’s like playing hockey, just make a move like if you were trying to go around a defenceman,” he said, then disappeared into the crowd with his then-girlfriend, now wife. In the middle of the floor, he turned around, and started to “skate”, sending pucks left and right.
Now, I had always been the better player of us, so surely I could do that dance thing, too. I got on the floor, holding an invisible hockey stick in my hands, and started to skate past all those defencemen, shooting backhanders top shelf.
It wasn’t Travolta, more like Esposito, but the music didn’t stop, the other people didn’t stop dancing, and, as far as I could tell, nobody was even staring at me. The hockey dance was my style for a while, and I added new “steps” to it: jumping up and down, the lateral skip, and other hockey off-season workouts.
By the time macarena entered the scene with its straightforward choreography, I was already doing breakdancing. I only had one move, and I needed two friends to spin me on the floor, but I had come a long way. Then, one day at the gym, Son’s Godfather noticed that all our shoulder workouts – the behind the neck press, the upright row, the dumbbell front raises – looked like dance moves. This, together with the words of wisdom of another friend, that you should always only move either upper body or your feet, never both at the same time, made me an even more confident dancer.
But my best dance floor move was to not move at all.
After our initial contact in Italy, and our extensive emailing, Wife and I had become very interested in each other. But, officially, we weren’t a couple. Not until the Christmas party.
Yes, the Xmas party. We all gathered in the big conference room facing the Royal Castle in the Stockholm Old Town. Wife, who had been on the organizing committee, had conveniently made sure that we sat at the same table. A few hours, and a couple of drinks later, the tables were cleared and pushed aside, to make room for the dance floor. I jumped and did my lateral skips, but I also wanted to be the DJ, so I spent a lot of time standing next to the CD player, changing CDs.
At one point, somebody suggested that we’d take our party ten blocks south, to our partner company that had its Xmas party at the same time. I put another CD on while the others put on their clothes and slipped into the dark, and cold Stockholm night.
I wasn’t going anywhere, not alone anyway, so I sat in the conference room waiting for Wife, who had gone to the bathroom. Then I heard footsteps, and just seconds later, I saw her half-run into the room, ready to rock the house, only to see just me, just sitting inside, just waiting for her.
(Later, after we officially decided that Dec 10 would be our anniversary, the starting point of our relationship, we’ve also told a version of the story in which she ran into the room, and dropped on her knees playing the air guitar, but that’s probably not exactly what happened.)
We joined the crowd at the other place, and, yes, we danced: On the dance floor, I kissed her for the first time.
That’s why I can call her Wife these days. And that’s why I do love doing the shoulder dance in my pajamas early on a Sunday morning.