Tonight, dude, I gotta dance. What? Chicks? No, no, fuck chicks dude. I wanna dance!
– Dane Cook
I never thought I’d become a person who enjoys, simply and wholeheartedly, the act of dancing at the bar or club. Even the connotations of the word are nebulous. Am I dancing alone, or with friends? Is this a date? Am I in a group, a circle? Am I in contact with another person? Am I performing a practices routine or just shaking it? The whole thing seems somehow un-masculine. Men don’t just “go dancing”, as the Good Reverend Cook famously explained.
And yet, somehow, I seem to have become this dancing fool. Did I undergo some ecstatic transformation and realize the wondrous poetry of articulated movement? Well, sort of. I certainly feel good when I’m dancing, but I can tell that there’s also something ulterior at play here, something greedy and power-hungry, prideful and full of lust. I want to build on that thing, nurture it into a state of tumescent maturity – and reap its harvest. However, I have been stymied – I’ve hit a wall, or perhaps a plateau, one I need to mount or traverse in order to join the community of bold society. I speak of those striding, lacquered demigods who can talk, freely, without crisis, to strangers, even – unbelievably – attractive members of the opposite sex.
I suppose I’ve been a decent dancer for a while. When I was but a whippersnapper, I used to go to countless ‘teen nights’[i] and 21-and-under dance clubs. However the objective there, or at least the only one on the minds of me and my contemporaries, was the grind. Mindless, cheaply intimate, pseudo-gratifying, but also artless, vulgar, shameful in hindsight. Thinking back on it, I had the same problem then that I do now…
When I was in elementary school, I took group dance classes at school and later at a studio, from a friend’s father – a Vietnam veteran and an interesting fellow. I remember enjoying the classes, and feeling like I wasn’t too bad. Alas, nothing came of it.
Flash forward to now. I have discovered that in doing the sort of goofy, spontaneous dances that one does on a dance floor, I possess certain tangible measures of grace and abandon. There are racial implications here. Have I been blessed with “Rhythm”? That’s Rhythm with a capital R, the kind that ‘black people have’ and ‘white people don’t’. I won’t get into that discussion here, for I fear nothing positive can come of it[ii].
I rarely sought out dance environments in Chicago. The reasons:
– I can’t stand nightclub culture – ohhh all the posturing and rules. Guuuhh the expensive drinks and dress codes, bottle service and judgments, hired ‘hot’ girls and dangerous bouncers[iii]. Who cares what kind of shoes I’m wearing, you big black-shirted fascist! Blaaah the fights, hedonism, glamour, money worship, bad manners and ego-preening. Ugggh worst of all the black bathroom attendants. Go back to 1934, you unpleasant reminder of black subservience!
– I also can’t stand going out with overachievers or ‘soft company’[iv] and getting stuck in a dance ring. You know what I’m talking about – the formation where everyone dances poorly or at least unconvincingly in a circle – too indecisive or shy or nice or mild-mannered to do anything, really. Some invisible but perceived minefield exists out there. There are just too many relationships and feeling to consider, there’s too much to lose. The result is a boring evening and a sense of life unlived.
But I realize now that I wasn’t using my powers. I was in Chicago, I could have found anything I wanted, dance-wise. I could have made hay at the Hange-Uppe. I lived right near Crocodile. I never even set foot in Bar DeVille, even though it sounds exactly like the kind of place I would seek out now.
When I moved out here to Rhode Island, I experienced a measure of self-actualization. I attribute it to getting out from under the ponderous weight of my miserably boring and unengaging career and attempting a new start in a new environment. I think those feelings of renewal extended to my dancing as well. Motive forces of bubbling freedom animated my limbs. My new posse and I started going to an absolutely delightful bar in Providence called Salon. Their DJs, working downstairs, use visuals and meticulously selected setlists to create a sublime dance experience that enlivens the very soul.
But that’s not all. I also read “The Game” by Neil Strauss, and “The Definitive Book of Body Language” By Allen and Barbara Pease. I began to see that I had an advantage on the dance floor. My figurative plumage was shining bright. My movements approximated a coordinated and humorous mating dance. Compared to the shyness and social terror I radiate in other stranger-filled situations, I was broadcasting a bright and fearless signal on the dance floor. In this motion laboratory I could make lasting first impressions, create personas for myself, investigate signals of interest, move about freely (bailing out of awkward situations easily, if need be), play games with proximity, use mirroring, social and intimate gazing, burn calories, reduce my dependence on alcohol, establish myself as a ‘fun guy’ and more.
I also began to get acquainted with feelings of adequacy and yes, even superiority[v]. Sometimes I can look down from my kinetic Olympus and declare “Foolish mortals, you can’t dance like me.”[vi] I can skip a number of the courtship/pickup steps and get straight to “demonstration of higher value”. I have received a number of positive attentions from women on the dance floor, usually in the form of unmistakable physical attention[vii] and some sort of compliment.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY PROBLEM.
What do I say to these girls?!?!?!?!!!?!?!???!?!!!?!??!!!!!??!!?!????
I have had women say things like “You’re fantastic”, “Nice moves” and other such things in my ear during the mating dance. A seasoned pro could drive a truck through that opening. Even an amateur would know what to do next. Unfortunately, I just freeze – that is, keep dancing without really saying anything. It’s total and complete failure. A singularity of missed opportunity that will one day tear a hole in the universe if I keep blowing it this badly. I’ve presented my dilemma to friends. Their suggestions: a) Say stupid shit, inane banter. The body language book supports this, saying that words are a far second to body language in courtship. b) Isolate/move the girl, suggest getting drinks at the bar or otherwise head to another part of the venue. This jibes with pickup principles. C) Be very direct and say something ‘bold’[viii]. This is kind of a wild card.
I suppose anything would be better than what I’m doing now, which is hooking the fish, then falling into panicked paralysis and yes, snapping my rod. I realize that in a broader sense, what I’m doing with the dancing is a workaround, a substitute for true grit, technique and growth, which in this case would involve GETTING THE BALLS TO APPROACH PEOPLE I AM ATTRACTED TO IN A CONVERSATIONAL MANNER.
So, I have found a new aspect of myself that I enjoy – a social activity that should be useful and fun for years to come. “That guy can dance!” They’ll say, at weddings and auctions, protest marches and funerals. However, with my discovery has come a quandary. I feel closer than ever to two things that have for the most part eluded me in life – confidence and access to available women. And yet even in my newly confident moments I am restrained by the old shyness and indecision. So close, yet so far.
One thing I’ve noticed, both internally and externally, is that one can force themself to do almost anything if they either plan on a) Recording it and turning it into a Youtube video or film project, or b) writing about it later[ix]. I may push myself to engage in the latter, using this this blog as the outlet. Turning strange or memorable events into written pieces helps me tease out their lessons, humor, larger implications, absurdities, comments on the human condition and the applications of these to life and living. Perhaps with the mentality that – succeed or fail – I am building up stories and material, I can push myself to new heights of boldness and experimentation.
And I welcome advice and encouragement. I like to play the self-reliant iconoclast, but I’m just a guy, and a kind word or a splash of cold water are just what I need sometimes. Help this dancing fool figure out how to say the suave thing and bring home the girl! If it works, or even if it doesn’t, you’ll probably get to read about it.
[i] This sounds creepy in retrospect, but I was a teen at the time.
[ii] I mean, what kind of conclusions would I draw from going down that rabbit-hole? That white people see me dance and feel both a certain jealousy but also paternal smug superiority? That I have to be careful not to get too silly, lest I stumble into the danger zone of buffoonery? Those kinds of thoughts can turn one’s feet to lead.
[iii] Alcohol, ego-overcompensation, unwritten codes of conduct, former football players and off-duty police officers are a terrifying mix.
[iv] By this I mean relatives, visitors from out of town, coworkers, new friends, established couples or any other group in which things have to be kept nice and squeaky clean.
[v] This is a big deal for me, I have confidence issues.
[vi] IN the places I tend to go. I have no illusions about how quickly I would be crushed to dust by actual trained, devoted dancers.
[vii] It’s funny, in the old days I used to engage in that Neolithic practice of asking a girl to dance and immediately grinding on her butt from behind. This was the style at the time, but seems unthinkable now. The attention I refer to is usually a dance facing each other, with eye contact, at a distance of 0 – 3 feet. Sometimes in this situation I find myself playing hard to get, trying to maintain some distance, but in a playfully elusive sort of way.
[viii] Strong sexual statements/questions/suggestions were the cited examples. I don’t think I’m at that level yet, but in theory it makes sense as a boom-bust, all-in gamble. If one can pass that hurdle, the rest should be easy.
[ix] There are quite a few longform journalism articles with titles like “My year as a hobo” or “Life without Batteries” or “Getting Hypothermia with the Polar Bear Club” or “Transvestite Road Trip”. They are usually a vicariously entertaining read.