Monday, November 6, 2017

How to Get an Introvert to Dance

Dancing and I have never been friends.  In junior high, the smell of teenage boys who hadn't yet discovered deodorant scared me away from the too-tightly-packed gymnasium, so I avoided dancing and its associated social awkwardness altogether by hanging out at the student council canteen.  (I was treasurer.)  By high school, almost everyone had become too cool to go to the school dance, so I would just hang out with my fellow student council members and band geeks (I was both) in the nearly empty gym, awkwardly gyrating without any worry that my lack of dance skills was going to make me less popular than I already was.

It wasn't until I entered university and lived with a roommate who wanted to go out dancing all the time that I started dancing in public.  My city's few queer bars were much more welcoming and pleasant than the straight bars, so despite the fact that I was out to only a select few people at the time, I spent many Saturday nights of undergraduate dancing amongst my kind with my roommate*.

It never really went well.  I was not born with an inner rhythm, and my social anxiety prevented me from ever really relaxing, no matter how many horrible $1 shooters I downed.  While I tried earnestly to not look horribly uncool on the dance floor, it was beyond my reach.  And the worst part?  People told me that I didn't look cool.  My roommate, my friends, friends of my roommate.  It was as if people were trying to do a public service by drawing attention to just how inept I was at dancing.

So I stopped.  Until this past weekend, I hadn't set foot in a queer bar in 17 years.  But one of my good friends has been badgering me for 4 years to go to the bar with her, and for some reason I decided that last weekend was the weekend to do it.  There were conditions, of course.  Under no circumstances could she make fun of me or my dancing.  I was allowed to spend as much time on my phone as I wanted/needed to without being criticized for not being fun.  And she had to periodically come over and talk to me at the table.

I had anticipated sitting at the table babysitting the jackets all night, but the group I was with kept encouraging me to come out and give dancing a try.  Not in a critical or demanding way, but in a "We love you no matter how bad you look on the dance floor" kind of way.  And at one point, a friend came and sat next to me and said "Come out and just stand next to me.  You don't even need to dance."

And she was so supportive, that I did.  And I even moved my arms and legs a bit in a way that kind of approximated dancing.  And it wasn't horrible, and I didn't die.

So that is how you get an introvert to dance.

I may do it again in another decade or so.

*As I was typing this, I started thinking about my high school math teacher, whom everyone had suspected of being gay.  I ran into her at the lesbian bar one night and afterwards proceeded to tell everyone I knew about it.  I initially chuckled at the memory, until I realized OMG I OUTED MY TEACHER.  I feel retroactively terrible, 20 years later.

Don't ever out someone.


  1. Kudos to you for going dancing!!! And kudos to your current friends for being so lovely. Way to not die!

    1. Yes, my current friends are wonderful. I think age might make people more mellow and less judgey.