I don’t dance…don’t ask me

It’s time to come clean. Maybe they’re just excuses, but I like to think I have reasons for not dancing in public. I’ll get to them in a bit….

For most of my adult life I have been a fan of live music. I see as much live music now as I did when I was hitting clubs several nights a month and seeing big name acts often in Portland back in the 80’s.

At home, in the car, on a 737…wherever…I almost always have music playing. I can be OK with silence, but I’ll take music if it’s my choice.

In lots of situations I will sing along…although I’m sure there is a better word for it than “singing.” Most accurate is probably caterwauling. In crowds, I keep it down. There are less than a dozen people on the planet who I subject to my “johnny one note” singing.

But I do NOT dance.

I have danced in public once since 1971. It happened at George’s Majestic in Fayetteville on May 27, 2016. We danced to “Small Circles.” I told Shelly that I would dance to that song the first time we saw the Rainmakers in Kansas City in late 2012, but they didn’t play it that night. Or maybe I begged off that night and promised her “next time.”

Fortunately, they did NOT play that song any of the times since then when she and I made their shows. Until 5/27/16.

On that night in late-May at George’s, before we heard the first lyric, it was immediately obvious to both of us that what we were about to hear was what we were gonna do:

“She reached out and twist my hand
And made me dance to some local band
But the beat was slow so there we stand
As we move in small circles”

First of all The Rainmakers are NOT “some local band.” They are a Kansas City Band, that because of some strange twist of fate never made it to the big time. This is a VERY good band.

Second, she did NOT twist my hand. All Shelly did was smile at me with “that look.”

Third, she did NOT “make me dance.” I like to dance with her. Just not in public. I’m not sure if I “have to” dance to “Small Circles” every time we hear it from The Rainmakers in the future, but I probably will…I enjoyed swaying with my Sugar in Fayetteville.

So what do I say to people when they gesture to me to get up and dance?

Usually I just smile and say, “not me…thanks…i don’t dance.”

Sometimes I use “white men can’t dance, especially tall ones.” But if you’ve ever seen Brad Garrett, of “Everybody loves Raymond,” dance then you know this is a pretty lame excuse.

Sometimes I try “Baptists don’t dance.”

Ok, I was raised a Baptist. Many of my family members go to Baptist churches. I am a lot of things, but I am NOT a Baptist. I don’t think I ever was, and I sure as heck am not one now. Just like Jesus, and unlike most Baptists, I’m a liberal.

From what I can gather, lots of Baptists dance…and drink and gamble too. So that is a pretty lame excuse to keep me off the dance floor.

[I don’t know many jokes, but the two that I tell the most are these:
1. Q. Why don’t Baptists have sex standing up?
A. Because someone might think they were dancing.

2. Q. What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?
A. The Methodist will make eye contact in the liquor store.]

There are two incidents that have kept me off the dance floor since 1971. I’ve shared what happened in 1971 with several people.

I was home on leave from Ft. Bragg. The girl I had been dating when I was drafted liked to dance, so that’s where we headed the second night I was in town. She enjoyed revelry as much as I did. I was only gonna be around for five or six days, so we decided that in addition to lots of liquor and weed that we should “close our eyes and try a few of these.”

I don’t know what song we were dancing to when she collapsed on the dance floor. Her pulse was racing. Jennifer was twitching and convulsing. It scared the hell outta me. And her too.

I can still see her laying there….tight bell bottoms and a white peasant blouse. That image still pops into my head every once in awhile whenever I’m somewhere that lots of people are dancing.
The other incident happened 12 to 15 months earlier, and I’ve never shared it with anyone until now.

It was late 1969 or early 1970. I was free, white, and 21. I had given up my student deferment, expecting to get drafted at some point. (I was inducted 2 days after I turned 22.)

I had a big problem with booze. I drank mass quantities. Every day. For a couple of years.

I had some friends who were in school in Columbia at Mizzou. Several weekends during the 69/70 school-year I headed that way for parties. One weekend I was set up on a blind date with Julie, who was a student at Stephens College. She sorta liked me, even though she was way outta my league by any and every measure….looks, brains, bank account. I guess she liked quirky.

A couple of weeks later I was back in Columbia for another party. Julie was there. We danced. We spent most of the evening together. We danced. I took her home. We sat and talked for awhile. There were good night kisses and a little groping.

The third time that I saw her is the night of the story that has never been told….until now.

The morning of our first real, last and only date, I was playing a pick-up game of basketball and got poked in the face. It was simply incidental contact. (That’s always been my story of how I got that shiner, and I’m sticking to it…)

When I picked Julie up that Saturday I had a pretty ugly eye. I had been self-medicating. We were headed to some fraternity/sorority kegger. We danced. I drank. We danced. I drank. And I drank some more.

Then I did it. I puked. On the dance floor. On Julie. On me.

She left with her friends. I never saw her again. Sometimes when The Rainmakers sing “The one that got away” I can see her in my mind’s eye. But not for long, as the vision of barf on her blouse takes over.

I started this by saying that maybe the incidents that I use as reasons to not dance might just be excuses. Logically, I know that they are closer to excuses than reasons.

Yeah, both incidents were personally traumatic. But they didn’t stop me from drinking and drugging. They just kept me from dancing.

And in fact, after decorating the dance floor (and Julie) I kept being stupid. There weren’t many more times, but that incident was not my last alcohol induced technicolor yawn. My time in the Army slowed me down a bit. I still got totally trashed at times, but not as often. Until my kids were about 5 or 6, I was still a “work hard, play hard” guy…with excuses to keep from dancing.

Maybe I don’t dance because I’m not any good at it. Maybe I’m like lots of guys who don’t dance because “they fear losing their dignity and looking incompetent.” Maybe my legs lock up at the thought of Jennifer convulsing or the vomit on Julie. Or maybe it’s just because I’m lazy.


On September 30, we saw Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats at the 10th annual RNBNBBQ in Columbia, MO. {That’s Roots N Blues N BBQ.}

Shelly and I did NOT dance.

But when I was trying to find our camping chairs (with Shelly sitting in one of them), she joined me on the lawn with the crowd. I had walked right past her, even though we were only 3 rows back….and she was wearing a bright pink hoodie.

We held hands and walked closer to the stage as the band played “Wasting Time.” You wouldn’t call it dancing. We never faced each other.

There was however moving to the music. Our bodies touched. And then they didn’t. We swayed.

You might have said that we took turns leading as Nathaniel transitioned to “Shake.”

If you had only been watching Shelly, it’s probable that you would have called what she did dancing.

But not what I was doing. I don’t dance. Don’t ask me.




2 thoughts on “I don’t dance…don’t ask me

  1. Steve – Isn’t it about time you came right out and admitted, as I have, that you were born with SRD (Severe Rhythm Deficiency)?

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