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The Death of the Slow Dance

Shall we cut a rug? (stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net)

Shall we cut a rug? (stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net)

We text, we Skype.

People text on dates, during dinners. We ignore people sitting next to us and around us and we stare at little boxes, moving our thumbs and swiping fingers to send messages.

We are addicted to our phones and just playing around with them. Sometimes, when I visit my parents I have to just hide my phone from myself because my dad constantly reminds me of how pitiful I and the rest of society are when it comes to our social interactions and lack thereof.

So it doesn’t surprise me that as kids have phones and ipads to keep them busy they forget to acknowledge the grown people when they enter a room. (We got cussed out if we didn’t properly greet everybody and politely answer questions about how we were doing and how school was.) Now, folks tend to let their kids slide for being rude and say it’s the times. Whatevs.

No wonder this younger generation has difficulty paying attention, looking you in the eye and giving firm handshakes. Folks give weak ass handshakes these days, you notice that?

Why?

We aren’t touching each other. It’s a mixture of being politically correct, trying to avoid sexual harassment claims and the fact we don’t connect socially in the ways we used to. We can’t sit still with one another. Regular gaps in real life conversations, get filled quickly as we return texts to people who aren’t in the room. We don’t relax in the natural pause or enjoy each others company.

That being said, I was at a party with a lot of 40 and older people last weekend, and wouldn’t you know it? They played like two slow songs and I thought it was nuts.

I took the time to play with my phone, but noticed, that the couples a decade older took over the floor and grooved slowly. They seemed more comfortable and ready to dance when those songs were on.

People do not slow dance anymore.

People grind, people dry hump each other, but they don’t take each other by the hand, look at each other or rest heads on shoulders and get into the moment. Simulating sex on the dance floor is widely accepted, but the genteel gesture of a slow dance seems to go way over our heads. Whoa, this feels like something more. Back up…

As a society that can brag about one night stands and sex without feelings, I think we are terrified of an act as intimate and vulnerable as a 4-minute slow dance.

You have to acknowledge the other person’s presence. You can feel them breathe. You can look in their eyes. You are close, you are face to face, you have to slow down your movements, you must be deliberate, you must be relaxed.

And in this fast paced world, slowing down often appears to be a sign of weakness.

I’ll never forget my first dance. Sixth grade. Before I left the house, my dad warned me that I “better not slow dance with no boys.” He was real specific.

No slow dancing.

My mother and father fell in love in the early 70s and probably created me and my sister due to “red light” parties in sweat filled basements slow dancing. He knew what time it was.

And the sixth grade dance was in full swing. A slow dance came on. It was Boyz II Men “On Bended Knee.” A sweet boy named Robert who had a crush on me kept pestering me to dance. I told him we could dance to fast songs. He said no.

He knew he annoyed me, and came up with a compromise. He wouldn’t bug me anymore as long as I danced a “slooo dance.”

LOL.

That’s how he said it. “I promise I won’t bother you anymore, forever, but it has to be a slooo dance.” And then he had this cheesy ass grin.

He used to bug the hell out me. So I figured this deal couldn’t have been too bad. So I accepted. Then quoting a line from Nickelodeon’s “Salute Your Shorts,” I told him that my body was a map of the world, and if his hands went below the Equator, he was going to get creamed. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, he agreed to my terms.

Yall, “On Bended Knee” is a long ass song, but that boy was in Heaven. He had large Steve Urkel glasses and I remember his high top fade with a little part in it. God bless his heart.

He stuck to the rules and we danced.

I never forgot that moment. I quickly walked back to the wall where my friends congragated laughing at my misfortune as soon as Wanya sang that last note.

Fast forward through high school where I managed to have maybe a total of two other slow dances, but nothing groundbreaking.

My favorite one won’t come later until the ROTC Ball I attended with my boyfriend in college.

We danced to “So Amazing” by Luther Vandross. I’m sure I’ve heard that song before then, but that night it was like I really heard that song for the first time. He was in his dress uniform and I was wearing a formal dress. “So amazing to be loved, I’d follow you to the moon and the sky above.”

The last time I remember slow dancing, was actually in my ex-fiance’s apartment. We had the r and b music channel going on the t.v. and he disappeared for a while. When he returned, he was dressed up as this character we made up, “dirty old man.”

He had on an old Colorado Rockies baseball cap, high water pants, mix-matched socks, a plaid shirt with a pin stripe vest. He grabbed my hand and asked me, the “young tenderoni” to dance with him.

It was the most hysterical thing ever.

I dropped it like it was hot, and began to grind and wind.

Then a slow song came on.

He took my hand and pulled me close. And at first, he was silly, dipping me and twirling me. But then, his eyes met mine, remnants of my laughter still lingering and we danced. It was different. It was more serious, but not intense. More sweet and gentle.

And as silly and ridiculous as he looked, we danced. He whispered funny things in my ear, our bodies pressed against one another.

Hands down, that was one of my most favorite, intimate moments that we shared.

Slow dancing forces us to be human. Even though it can be sensual, it’s not overtly sexual. The mood builds if you let it. It’s the most lovely tease. It allows us to let down our guard and let people physically in our space in a different kind of way. It’s not vulgar. And I think that’s why folks today won’t do it. This is why our society fears closeness and intimacy and we suck so badly at it. This is why you may only hear one slow song ever in a party, and you’ll hear more of them at parties with a majority of people older than 40. That’s the last generation that really appreciates it.

One of my life goals is pretty simple, but not really.

One of the only times I feel super crappy about being single is for the eight minutes every year at my family reunion where the couples take the floor and slow dance to two songs. It’s usually Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” but to me, that’s my symbol of what I want my life to be someday.

At the family reunion with the love of my life, slow dancing while our kids make faces and saw eww, a moment for just us, bodies pressed against one another, swaying and whispering inside jokes in each other’s ears. Seeing eachother’s smiles spread wide across our faces, looking into eyes, looking right back, holding the gaze. There is the ecstasy of the honesty and realness and intimacy of a simple snapshot of a life moment 4 glorious minutes long, feeling like the only two people in the entire world, on a crowded dance floor.

For the sake of humanity and sanity and all that’s good and kind and gentle in us, let’s keep the slow dance alive.

 

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5 thoughts on “The Death of the Slow Dance

  1. Sweetheart…you don’t know how long I’ve been starved of a good slow dance! I thought that the fear of closeness & intimacy was just in people on the Autism Spectrum, like me; and the awkwardness…that’s just a natural expression of people’s lack of experience. Well, I can at least say that I’m trying to be human!

    I’m not giving up on life, and I hope you don’t either. But I can explain it better in my most recent post: http://lessonplanforlife.com/2013/05/10/i-wont-give-up/

    • Anthony, you are totally not alone! I think everyone struggles with being close to people and they just pretend. It’s a scary thing, but it’s beautiful too. I read the blog post you linked and it was awesome!

      • Well Thank You, I’m flattered. People all wear masks, don’t they? Especially when they’re not needed! Again, I thank you for your insight.

  2. I agree with everything said here.

    Back when I was in middle and high school, every dance I attended had at least two slow songs. But when I started college, I was rather surprised that the “dance & casino night” I went to during the first week of my freshman year had no slow songs. At first I thought maybe the DJ had simply forgotten about them; after all, the person in charge of the music wasn’t a DJ by profession. However, it eventually became apparent that most college dances were like this. Out of the approximately 20 dances I attended while in college, no more than half of them had slow songs, and people only actually slow danced at around six of them.

    The “real world” is a similar situation, except there are even fewer opportunities to slow dance. For one thing, there are much less dances to begin with; case in point, I went to one every three months (on average) during my time in college, but only two since I graduated more than five years ago. Both of those “dances” were corporate parties; the DJ did play one slow song at the first one, but nobody actually danced to them, so it’s no surprise that he refused to play any slow songs at all during the second event.

    It’s a sad thing, really. Sure, there are events (such as some dinner cruises) that focus on an intimate experience, and those often have slow songs, but these events are generally not cheap at all. Well, I guess you can always play slow songs and dance with that someone special in your living room. xD

    • Hey Danny! Thanks for your comments. It’s kind of sad that slow dances are being faded out from our culture. It kind of shows how we are getting further and further away from being kind and a little vulnerable and sentimental with one another. And you’re right, there are certain more formal events, usually with an older crowd, where you’ll have more opportunities for a slow dance. I’ve also found with slow dancing, you are either looking someone in the eye, or you are holding them close and I agree with you, that in itself is an intimate experience that a lot of people are uncomfortable with. Slow dancing in the living room can be a really sweet experience too. It makes the mundane magical!

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