Why I don’t dance

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There was an incident at a wedding reception in the late ’90s. 

The incident involved me, an ex-girlfriend, copious whiskey sours and The Village People’s 1978 anthem “Y.M.C.A.” 

None of it was pretty. 

While I’m still working through the trauma with a therapist, here is the quick-and-dirty: After consuming far too many whiskey sours at the open bar of a wedding where I was one of the groomsmen, I was loose, feeling the groove, cutting the proverbial rug with my girlfriend on the edge of the dance floor beside a bay window with crimson curtains.

The deejay played “Y.M.C.A.”, and somewhere between making the “C” and the “A” with my arms, I lost my balance and reached for my girlfriend to keep myself upright. My weight toppled her, and she tumbled backward and desperately grabbed the crimson curtain to keep from falling. No luck. We both crashed to the floor with the crimson curtains, the rods and our collective pride coming down with us as 200 people stared at the commotion.

I haven’t spoken to my buddy in 25 years, nor have I danced since the incident. 

These days, when someone asks me to dance, my response is terse and tight-lipped. “I don’t dance,” I’ll say and quickly suggest a new topic. Sure, there have been a few times when I’ve slow-danced with my wife, holding her and swaying from side to side to some Journey song, but anything that requires me to move my body to an up-tempo rhythm is a resolute “no.” 

While the incident at the wedding reception influenced my decision to impose a dancing moratorium, it’s not the whole truth. The more painful reality is that I have absolutely no rhythm, none whatsoever. It’s an affliction I inherited from my father. When either of us tries to dance, we look like mummies having seizures.

My affliction wasn’t a problem as an adolescent. Mired in toxic masculinity, I refrained from dancing altogether, claiming it was effeminate. Women danced. Men punched stuff and perfected the monosyllabic exchange. This was a quaint and convenient veil to hide my rhythm deficiency. 

Then in college, I discovered that I was profoundly mistaken and, in fact, the opposite was true: Women love guys who can dance. The guys who could dance had harems surrounding them at bars and parties while the epileptic mummies, like me, stood alone with their beer and a finger in their ear. 

So I then grew my hair long and started following jam bands. I figured I could spin in circles and make strange tai chi movements with my arms without completely embarrassing myself. 

Again, I was wrong. 

Instead of a loose noodle, I looked more like Boris Karloff playing Frankenstein’s monster. While the hippie girls swarmed to the loose noodles, I, again, stood alone and rotated in circles like the second hand ticking on an analog clock. 

Then came the incident, followed by my self-imposed ban on dancing. These days, if the music hits me, I’ll stand straight and nod my head to the beat. And if someone asks why I’m not dancing, I’ll take them aside and say, “There was an incident at a wedding reception in the late 90s.”  


About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com