Saturday, December 13, 2008

They're Dancing in the Streets

It's an easy seque from my stupid dance lessons to my first dance.  Spring, 1965.  The cafeteria is converted into a wonderland and the girls and boys of Gateway go to their first dance.  Hop.  Keep in mind that in truth I had no idea how to really dance to the music that was popular among young people.  In fact, I hardly listened to music that was popular.  Oh sure, I knew about the Beatles and every once in awhile I'd hear music on the radio or watch Shindig or Hullabaloo but my musical world was largely shaped by my parent's listening habits.  Which means I was raised on the Mills Brothers, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Tony infinitum.  And the worst of all the worst: "Sing Along With Mitch".  No, there were actually worse acts but my mind has graciously deleted them.
So now I was going to Gateway to dance to the music of my generation.  At least as it stood at that time.  I was going to gyrate wildly to the Twist and the Mash Potato and the Swim and swig soda and fall in love and kiss a beautiful girl under the moon.  Then ride home with my folks and sleep happy with a smile on my face.
I was going to get dressed in a stupid Madras jacket with a clip on tie and tight cords and walk for the first time into the most uncomfortable experience of my life.  Sure, I talked to girls in school.  You kind of had to.  And yes I wore clothes and I'd taken dance lessons and I knew about music.  But I had no idea how all these things went together and I was about to find out how little I really knew.
I should tell you that, at least in Westville, there were CYO dances that kids had been going to for awhile.  Some kids from Wenonah might even go earlier in the year.  This means that they had a leg up on us chuckleheads.  This means that they were more comfortable, knew how to dance, had cool clothes, a cool haircut and could walk up to any girl they knew and ask for a dance.  I, on the other hand, was expert at standing next to the wall.
So this is the way things were.  A row of a dozen or more skinny boys with their backs pressed against the newly painted cinder block.  Groups of girls with cups of punch huddled together, giggling, looking here and there.  And in the middle girls and boys all with cool clothes and hair dancing and having a great time.  This great divide was to be my world for the next 4 years or so.  Cursed and alone we geeks clustered together like fools.  Out on the floor girls and boys laughed and hugged and kissed and had great fun.  
The saddest part is how all of this is about confidence and courage.  In fact all of us felt the same way.  It's just that some of us said fuck it and walked away from the wall.


Anonymous said...

I remember the Tinsel Twirl at GRHS. I wore a tin foil silver sheath and silver shoes and went with Dennis Nate. I looked like an icicle, but felt cool! There was something magic about the darkened gym, scent of CocaCola and sweat, and all that forbidden music.
Pam Cassidy

carey said...

Oh, god, we had Sing Along with Mitch too. What was THAT all about?