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Macarena's Revenge

A woman attempts to understand why men won't dance

By Max Weiss

MY BOYFRIENDS DON'T DANCE. Actually, that's not completely true. One ex-boyfriend was a great dancer--a veritable Solid Gold dancer. In the comfort and privacy of our own home, he would crank up the music and put on elaborate dance routines. He would skid across the floor on his knees. He would leap on tabletops. He was Tommy Tune. He was MC Hammer. He was Kevin Bacon in Footloose. But as soon as we got out in public, he became utterly useless to me. He became too cool to dance.

My current beau, I have to admit, is a little bit better. At least he's not a closet dancer. But the thing that bugs me is this: He's musical (well, he whistles in tune). He's coordinated. He's got hips and he knows how to use them. That seems like a recipe for a boyfriend who will dance with you.

No such luck. I mean, if I even mention dancing, his face will contort in a symphony of fear and mortification. His fight-or-flight instinct sets in. He starts talking about old high-school football injuries (rarely effective, since he never played football).

I mean, why do guys think we let them hang around, anyway? For love, sex and companionship? Ha!

Here's why women need boyfriends: To tell us when our bra strap is hanging out of our blouse. To assure us that we don't look fat. And to dance with us.

It's not like I think of myself as some kind of big-time dancer. I don't know how to do any specific dances--I don't know a tango from a merengue from a samba. And if I were responding to a personal ad and the guy listed "Dancing" as one of his interests, I'd think, Not for me. Some sort of dance weirdo. But once in a while, you want to revel in the glory of your coupleness. It's like, dammit, I've suffered through the late nights analyzing our relationship, the photo albums with pictures of your ex-girlfriend, the toilet seat being up. I've earned this!

A for-instance: This weekend at a pal's wedding, I came dateless. Not a good move. There are two ways to go to a wedding: With serious boyfriend/husband in tow, or alone but looking. My status--alone, but taken--was pretty sorry. During some of the special, slow, couple dances, I sat nursing my champagne--half dreading, half-hoping that someone would ask me to dance. I tried to look upon my friend and her new husband with such rapt adoration and attention that no one would suspect for a second that I was anything other than completely entranced. Of course, my worst fear was that someone might ask me to dance out of pity. Yes, the pity dance is worse than no dance at all.

But I had two thoughts at this moment. One: Boy, I sure wish my boyfriend were here. And two: I'd still be sitting on my ass, even if he were.

Look, it's not like I can't relate to the fear of looking like a jackass on the dance floor. Sadly, most people look ridiculous when they dance. Either they're thinking they've got something really sexy going on--all "I'm Cleopatra" gyrations and cheesy bedroom eyes. Or they look like their underwear is too tight. Quintessential example (and what may be the most embarrassing 10 minutes in the history of television): Demi Moore teaching Barbara Walters how to dance like a stripper. Not only should you dance often in front of the mirror, Demi instructed, but you should lovingly fondle yourself while doing so. While Demi made orgasm faces, Barbara looked like her entire body had been starched.

I guess I'm a pretty lousy dancer. I can't say for sure. I've never taken Demi's advice and spent a lot of time dancing at my reflection. But there are clues to the fact that I'm not a good dancer. There's the photo album from my Sweet 16 and the all-important slow dance with Fred Gilde, then love-of-my-life. I look ... how can I put it? Clunky. I'm clutching the back of Fred's sweater, it's sort of all balled up in my hand (where did I pick up that trick?) and my legs are parted stiffly. Not pretty.

But I don't care because I love to dance. I mean, I don't want to sound corny or anything (gotta dance! gotta sing!), but when music comes on, I want to move to it. And if I figure if there's something inherently pure and honest about my desire to dance, then it can't be all bad.

I suppose that's why line dances are so popular. Line dancing is like painting-by-numbers. Dancing for the coordination-impaired. And--this is a big point--you don't need a partner. You can just strap yourself onto the back of the person in front of you and "Locomotion" away. Which is why the Electric Slide, the Hokey-Pokey and all their future cousins will always be there. It's 'cause our boyfriends won't dance with us.

Call it Macarena's revenge.

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From the December 19-25, 1996 issue of Metro

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