There was religiosity doctrinaire that silently prevailed in and around my church, albeit not written on stone tablet or in Old English print, which forbade boys from dancing with girls. Dogma spoken by some pulpit pontificators and well meaning but stern faced fundamentalist parents. “Thou shall nots” a fundamental catechism meant to save adolescence from a sudden tumbling into smoldering pit of fire and ash. All because they might have danced and touched each other’s hands. With music playing loud while shuffling feet. “For goodness sakes Arthur Murray!
This was the cloud of darkness that followed me each day I was in school. “Don’t dance with girls.” Stay out of the gym when loud music was playing from the portable record player. But I did go and watch. My friends were giggling and shuffling with their shoes off and dancing on the wooden gym floor. All the while Mr. Russell, who looked like the cartoon Dennis the Menace’s father, stood about with a 12-inch ruler in case he needed to place the stick between dancing couples. “Please stay one foot apart from each other, he admonished each dancing pair.” Never mind most were just holding at a distance one hand or not at all while twisting and bopping.
So after school I would go home and watch Dick Clark and American Bandstand on TV. A live dance program broadcast from Philadelphia. Mostly high school kids in a gymnasium-looking room with Clark as the host and disk jockey. Kids fast and slow dancing while current rock singing artist came and ‘lip-synced’ their own hit records. I hate to speculate where these dancing couples are today. What fait might have fallen on them?
Never the less, I never asked a girl to dance. I was very much afraid what smoke and ash might suck me into the ground. However, several girls asked me to dance. Then I was faced with the dilemma of what to say. What excuse could I use? What could I fane as a reason to not dance. I was too young to suffer such a sudden doom.
I was asked by Terri at our graduation party to dance. It was obvious she liked me. So I told her I didn’t know how to dance and it’s too late to learn. I was asked by a very cute and petite Jewish girl to go with her to her schools Christmas dance. I told her I was working two jobs and trying to finish my first semester at a community college and didn’t have the time. I was asked by a drunken lady at a roadhouse where my friend and his band were playing. I told her I have never danced and wouldn’t make a very good dance partner. Especially since her husband was at her arm. I was asked by the new bride at her wedding party to dance with her and I once again said I don’t know how to dance. While at a training session I was in a side room listening to some jazz on the radio and a lady about my age came and wanted to dance. ME? Me dance? I don’t know how. Go ask someone else.
I went with a couple of friends to a dance club on the other side of town and so I just watched and listened. Then a girl I knew from high school came over to me and asked to dance. And you know the rest of the story.
None the less, the queries came and came. Could we please dance. And each time disappointment covered their faces. Why did they keep asking me? Why was I to give them the bad news? I just figured someone had to do this. Bad news is what I do. It’s what I learned from church.
While talking to a friend while riding the bus to downtown I mentioned all of this “don’t dance” blather to him and the bus driver listening to our conversation almost lost control of the bus. Laughing in total hysteria at the fact I don’t dance in fear of the floor opening up and swallowing me alive in to a fiery pit.
So let me leave you with this from the singing duo Loggins and Messina. A song made popular in the 1970s.
“Yo mama don’t dance and yo daddy don’t rock and roll. So there!