I broke one of my general rules last weekend, and went to a nightclub. But it’s different when it’s a Latin nightclub, right?
A friend asked me to go, so there I was, dancing to salsa, bachata and reggaeton.
The club is hot. The women are hot. The men are hot.
And then there’s me, rocking my black rugby shirt and blue jeans.
I love to dance. Putting my body in thrall to rhythm makes me smile. There’s nothing like the fellowship forged in expressing the body together.
Dancing also tends to make me incredibly self-conscious, nervous, dreadful, and sometimes lonely.
Even for a well-adjusted nerd such as myself, there always are sore spots that bring back the old familial feelings of alienation, awkwardness and loneliness. Dancing is one of those for me. Because dancing takes a certain amount of cool, right? And, oh yeah, nerds aren’t cool.
I’m not cool. I don’t even live close to cool. So, for a long time, I felt like I couldn’t dance.
Add to that how much dancing is wrapped up in being attractive and meeting someone. Though cute, I’ve never really been the mainstream pick among the girls/women. And now I’m in a dark, loud club full of hormone-ragers trying to get their swerve on, and there’s supposed to be a piece out there for me? Sure. Sounds great.
I hate the club. HAAAAATE the club.
The men are all slicked up, roaming like wolves, all wearing the same button-down shirts. The women tackily slutted up in unwalkable shoes, and clothes stretched to the limits. I usually am caught in the middle.
The blerd powers leave me undone. The nerd in me feels awkward and out of place. And though I am a black man, I am not street, so I don’t exactly fit in with a lot of majority-black crowds who prefer to roll street-style in hip-hop clubs. But I am not quite prep either, so I don’t fit in with the majority-white crowds in the three-floor dance clubs, slamming down shooters.
So what’s a blerd to do?
I put on my suit and tie, or my wacky T-shirt, and sweat it out anyway. At least until my feelings of isolation increase to the point that I’m tired of trying to stay at something that isn’t my party. When dancing with myself turns into the sickening pressure of dancing in a crowd, totally alone.
That’s when I pack up and leave. I’m not there to hook up, I’m not there to take anyone home. I just want to mingle. I will dance with anyone on the floor, because why else would I be out dancing in public?
But I don’t need to jump around with fratty white guys who slap my back while shouting, “You ‘da man!” in a way that makes me feel like a minstrel. I don’t need the presumptuous looks looks from a pack of women dancing in a circle around their purses and shoes. Sorry I’m not cute enough for you.
Or I am not quite up to declining advances from the demographic that appears most interested in me sexually: over-40 white women with minimal dance skills. I’m not disparaging of their attention, but I’m spoken for and not looking for anything beyond the dance floor.
I’m looking for something else on the floor, something greater: the perfect partner. Someone whose movements fall in sync with yours, as your bodies lock into one. It doesn’t matter what kind of dancing it is, from the chaste to the raunchy. You become one.
But like all things, this must end. You need a break. She’s heading back with her friends. He’s getting a drink.
Every time I hit a dance floor, I’m looking for that moment again. I’m angling for that connection, that for a few minutes I can make a stranger my best friend. But it’s a rare thing, to find this. I can be out a hundred times, and the perfect partner has shown up fewer than 10 times.
If I don’t find that dance moment, I’ve learned not to be disappointed anymore. But when I do get her or him out there on the floor, it’s better than gold.
I didn’t find that partner at the Latin club, but things turned out fine anyway. My friend never lets me lead, but I still try, and we have a good time.
Later in the night, I was weaving through the crowd in my frenetic two-step in a heated room full of reggaeton, alone amid the crowd. And suddenly I notice one woman mirroring my moves. And her friend is doing the same, so I go with it. Soon they cheer as I shake my tail in a circle of them.
Are they loving what I do, or are they laughing at me? At this point, I don’t care. I just go with it. I live in that moment, covered in sweat and churning my sore thighs, calves and feet that I can’t stop moving.