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COLUMN SIX: Dancing days done

A good run, but writing is on the mirror

BY JANE BEDARD
Special to the VOICE

I can’t dance anymore. I’m not injured. I wish I could say that I was, that this was the reason—that I broke my ankle landing some sort of fancy jump at a club late last Saturday night. Or I was out with the girls at a bar, when a spontaneous twerking competition erupted out of nowhere, and I sprained my right glute.

Nope. I think I’m just feeling…old.

A few minutes ago, I was doing some cleaning with my headphones on, listening to the soundtrack from Mama Mia (which should have been my first clue that these were age- related symptoms) and found myself carrying a laundry basket past a full-length mirror. I did a double-take as I caught my reflection. Suddenly my hips started moving, followed by my feet, followed by the sound of the laundry basket hitting the floor as I went into full-on Dirty Dancing mode (another clue).

I think I used to be a pretty good dancer. I caroused downtown clubs in many cities, in several countries, going out when most people were arriving home, hitting club after bar after club. It didn’t matter what song was playing, my friend Tanja and I would go into auto-choreograph-pilot and somehow synchronize our moves as if we were in a Broadway musical, breaking out into dance like the Sharks and the Jets in West Side Story (gosh, yet another clue). (Gosh? Who says that anymore? Another clue.)

Now I’m struggling to keep a beat. The mirror doesn’t lie. I awkwardly step and reach and kick and…jiggle in all the wrong places. I can’t seem to sway to the music any more, and my once fluid movements come across angular and clumsy.

Now I’m losing confidence. Perhaps crowds used to part around me when I was younger, not to watch me, but to watch out for me—arms and legs flailing. Could I ever really dance? Am I creating a different history, misremembering one where I was cool and carefree?

The evidence of a life too busy for clubbing is all around me. It’s in the laundry basket, where mounds of kids’ clothes have been building over just the last two days. It’s in the accumulation of stuff I don’t really need, begging to be dusted. It’s in the chaos of my desk, where stacks of files miraculously reorganize themselves nightly so I can’t locate them the next morning. Most importantly, it’s in my undeniable need for sleep, and my inability to function on less than eight hours of it. And let’s not forget that, given my recent discovery in the mirror, it’s best that no one sees me at a club anymore, dangerously gyrating to the beat of my own drummer.

I see myself through my children’s eyes and understand the eye- roll. It’s the look I used to give my mother when she used to dance. I’m just one shimmy away from the look of admiration young people give grannies who still dance at weddings. “Look at her! She’s still got some moves, bless her geriatric little heart!”

As I shuffle my feet and jerk my thumbs out to the side in an alternating sequence, à la John Travolta, Staying Alive becomes less of a song and more of a goal. I see myself clicking my dentures in and out from my lips to the beat of the music. Mrs. Doubtfire becomes my new role model.

But wait. Let’s not give in just yet.

I’m not old…well, not that old. Age is a state of mind, right? I may not be club material anymore, but with a little practice, starting in the privacy of my bedroom, perhaps I could eventually move up to the kitchen, and if I find my mojo again, the living room awaits, in full view of my tortured children. The true unveiling would come after a few drinks at a Christmas party. The guests would part, creating a circle around me. I will tell myself that they are impressed by my dancing, even if they are actually protecting the Christmas tree ornaments from my step–ball–kick and protecting me, lest I get too close to the fireplace.

Yes, practice may be the key. Or I could take the easy way out and just change my mindset, adopting the expression, “Dance like nobody’s watching” as my new mantra. It may not be cool, but it certainly suggests carefree…or senility, depending on the audience.

I’m going to a wedding next week. Who knows, maybe the little kids will form a circle around me, chasing the strategically placed loose change that sprays from my pockets. They won’t judge me. The more spastic I get, the more money they get. It’s a win-win.

Regardless of which table I’ll be seated at for the reception, it will be quite obvious come dance time that, “Nobody puts Granny in the corner.”

 

 

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