Dancing Without the Stars

My husband and I went to another really fun event where people got up and danced and all I had to do was look over at him and he got a guilty look on his face and said, “But I had to go to Home Depot!”  That’s his excuse for not taking salsa dance lessons with me eight years ago. He was so busy shopping for home improvement products every Saturday that he couldn’t take an hour out of a weekend for eight weeks in order to do sexy dances with his wife.

Signing up for dance lessons was my idea. Mine and the editor of the paper I was working for at the time, who wanted me to write a Reporter’s Notebook column on taking a dance lesson. The Reporter’s Notebook was a fun piece that the reporters would take turns writing about experiences they had around town. My editor gave me a choice: Dance lessons, sky diving or gourmet cake decorating.

Before that, my experiences with dancing were:

1. All but ruining my cousin Sandy’s wedding reception by crazy dancing with my cousin Jimmy to the point where my pink chiffon flower girl gown got all torn up and dirty, we both got “overheated” and got yelled at.

2. Dancing barefoot near broken beer bottles in a bar in Kent, where Buckeye Biscuit was playing and I was all caught up in country rock love. I was 20. Give me a break.

3. Polka dancing successfully throughout my ethnic childhood and early adulthood until I tried to teach my husband the polka at a family wedding and we fell and embarrassed ourselves silly.

My sisters and I invented a dance, called The Proud Mary, because it’s the dance that all brides do at all weddings when the band plays those ridiculous wedding reception songs. The Proud Mary is like the international symbol of brides.  A bride of any size and shape can be doing The Twist, The Cha-Cha, moves from Footloose or The Jerk and it doesn’t matter - all you see is The Proud Mary. They can’t help it. Their gowns are covering their legs like a confection-covered fashion doll in a Barbie cake. With no visible leg action, a bride dancing is dancing The Proud Mary, just by virtue of her arm action. My sisters and I request Proud Mary at all the weddings we go to and then we invite the bride up to dance with us. It’s family fun for all. (I had one DJ tell me once, “It’s weird. We normally have people come up and request that we not play Proud Mary.”)

When I signed up my husband and I for dance classes for my Reporter’s Notebook, I secretly hoped to actually learn how to dance the salsa and swing. The teachers were Sy and Mimi, who had just left big city life in Manhattan and “retired” to the Jersey suburbs to share their love of the dance. Sy had been a New York City policeman, a landlord/property owner, and a karate instructor, before landing his fourth career as Mimi’s dance partner. I always got the impression that he was on the lam or in the witness protection program.

When my husband started to refuse to go to dance class, I went by myself a couple of times, but had to pair up with either Sy or Mimi and I hated to break those two lovebirds up.  And I didn’t want to be the subject of their after-class conversation.

As a result of that fail, we spent last Saturday night watching other people dance, my husband started talking about Home Depot, and the next day we ended up with a new patio table umbrella and new outdoor lights. If it weren’t for the dance classes we never took, we’d never get anything done around the house.

For an up-close and personal look at The Proud Mary, send wedding invitations to Diane at diane.laney.fitzpatrick@gmail.com.

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