Jeff Lagasse

Jeff Lagasse

Someone needs to show me how to dance. That’s a tall order for several reasons, not the least of which is my complete lack of coordination. Somewhere, on a spacecraft near the fringes of the Andromeda galaxy, is a human guinea pig emerging from some alien’s bizarre electroshock experiment, and they’re moving with more grace than I am. Boxers fresh off a 12-round pummeling could dance a waltz with more wherewithal and skill.

Not that this is a huge problem, mind you. It’s not like I’m trying to make a living as a hip-swinging disco geek. I don’t think that job actually exists, and even if it did, I’ve got an abnormally low tolerance for sequin pants. That tolerance is zero.

Being a bad dancer, though, is one of those shortcomings that sneaks up on you at odd moments. The oddest so far: A few weeks ago, my friend “Lucretia” invited me to her home to scope out the new Iron Maiden album. This “listening party,” as she called it, was a twoperson affair involving many cans of skunky beer and a CD crammed to the gills with ear-splitting metal riffs. Heavy metal isn’t typically the kind of music you dance to; instead, the genre inspires movement more akin to the herky-jerky gyrations of a hyperactive mental patient, all flailing limbs and banging heads. But we found a way. After tearing your way through a six-pack of specialty suds, you can dance to pretty much anything, whether it be metal, polka or the sound of dogs licking Tabasco sauce off their teats.

The dancing started in earnest. Lucretia found a beat she could swing to amidst the pounding drums and bass, and launched into an epileptic shuffle that sort of worked, despite her looking like a coke-crazed fitness guru. It was a ludicrous enough display as it was, but would have been doubly embarrassing had I not joined in. Silliness loves company.

Tentatively, I started waggling my hips. About four seconds in, I silently thanked the gods of jackassery that no one was recording me with a cell phone camera. If anyone had filmed my pathetic performance, they would have captured, for posterity, the arrhythmic cluelessness of a deeply disturbed individual. Since everything ends up on YouTube these days, the Internet would have wondered whether I was bebopping to Maiden or trying to conjure rain during a drought. The hazing would have been merciless. Shamed, I’d have no choice but to gather my belongings and move to a corner of planet that has yet to gain Internet access. Basically I’d be living with the chimps in the Congo.

It’s a stereotype that white men can’t dance. Throughout my life, I’ve apparently done my level best to uphold that stereotype. Though I couldn’t actually see myself, I had a clear enough mental picture of what was happening – the stilted movements, the flat feet, the apeish arms awkwardly dangling like frozen beef cuts in a meat locker. Horrendous. An affront to decency.

I need help.

Because it isn’t going to end there. Someday, somewhere, in some situation, I’ll once more be called upon to dust off the ol’ dancin’ sneaks and boogie-oogieoogie. The chances are pretty high that I’ll attend at least one more wedding in my lifetime – you can’t escape it, really – and you’re almost required to dance at a wedding. The non-dancers at these things are pariahs, relegated to darkened tables at the fringes of the reception hall, ties and dress straps becoming more and more disheveled with each whiskey sour. It’s only a matter of time before the DJ throws on “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and I don’t know about you, but I’d feel like a schmuck if I didn’t at least shuffle my feet to that one. This is where the vibe and atmosphere of a reception work in my favor; between the strobe lights and the intoxicated brains of most of the guests, few people will remember that my “moves” consist of staring at my toes and shrugging. If I’m feeling particularly whimsical, I might point an index finger at the ceiling, at which point someone I know will laugh at me, and I’ll start pointing a whole other finger entirely. Luckily for me, dancing opportunities aren’t as common as they once were. There was a time, in my mid-20s, when every friend’s birthday was an excuse to find an establishment with thumping beats rattling the walls and shake our groove thangs, however groovy those thangs may have been. There were at least four occasions in the course of any given year during which I’d steel myself with a gooey blender concoction and leap into the fray, jiggling my buns in a way that suggested deep gastrointestinal distress. As my peers and I have gotten older, dancing gave way to low-key reminiscences in comparatively sedate settings; never did I think I’d embrace old-farthood more lovingly. In this new stage of life, I’m spared the humiliation of having to move with any degree of competence. Acquaintances are likewise spared a blush-worthy spectacle. Now when I trip over my shoelaces it doesn’t interfere with some gauche two-step in halfhearted time to a Beyoncé ditty.

Not to sound a pessimistic note, but I’m beyond all help. The kind of work it would take to smooth out my rough edges would entail way too much time and expense – I’m talking about a month off work, a team of specialists living in my home, and a shock collar with enough voltage to re-heat a slice of day-old pizza. It isn’t worth it. Besides, if I’m dancing, that means I’m having an abnormal amount of fun, with an uncharacteristic lack of self-consciousness, and don’t really care how stupid I look, at least in the moment. What’s important for me to keep in mind are three rules of thumb: Don’t fall and injure myself, don’t injure anyone else, and make sure nobody’s filming.

The third may be the most important. YouTube’s overcrowded with dorks like me to begin with.

Jeff Lagasse is a columnist and Assistant Editor at the Journal Tribune, and would most definitely be voted out in the first round of “Dancing With the Journalists.” He can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 319 or [email protected]