Many people ask me why I spend my spare time writing. My most common answer is, “Because I can’t dance.” The main reason I say that is because I’m a wise guy who always goes for the easy laugh, but the truth is I really can’t dance.
I have never been able to dance and I doubt seriously that I ever will. I’m not alone. Most guys my age can’t dance without prompting on-lookers to laugh or offer medical assistance. For years I thought it was just me, but now I realize it’s a generational thing. My inability to dance is a direct result of a cultural phenomenon that struck our nation in the ‘70s. It was a disease called by many names; Saturday Night Fever and Boogie Fever were the most common strains of this awful affliction.
That’s right, I blame disco for my inability to dance. To be absolutely clear I should tell you that I also blame disco for the leisure suit, platform shoes, men’s hair spray, the end of the Apollo space program, the designated hitter rule, the Carter administration and the otherwise unexplainable success of the Bee Gees. I even blame disco for the death of Elvis Presley because I firmly believe that after watching “Saturday Night Fever” the King of Rock and Roll simply lost his will to live.
In my high school there were three very distinct cultural groups, each based on their musical preference. There was the traditional rock and roll crowd who listened to everything from the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin as loud as their 8-tracks would play. These guys had long hair they rarely combed and dressed down in T-shirts, faded jeans and worn-out sneakers. A lot of girls hung around this crowd because they were very cool, and it’s hard to compete with cool.
The second traditional choice was the cowboy crowd. The cowboys lived in their own world and listened to country and Western music performed by singers like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. They dressed in long-sleeved shirts with those shiny snap things instead of buttons, pressed jeans held up by belts with enormous buckles and boots. The cowboys had their own group of girls who looked good in jeans and liked guys who could dance backwards without lifting their feet.
Then there was the upstart disco group. The disco guys wore silk shirts unbuttoned to the navel and tucked into tight-fitting polyester pants. They styled their hair and wore pointed shoes that were never cool outside of Rome and certain sections of New York City. They listened to mindlessly repetitive music that was performed by male vocalists who sounded like their polyester underwear had shrunk. There was an alarming number of nicely dressed girls who were willing to hang out with these losers because, well, because they could dance.
I was a male between the age of 13 and death, so I made the cultural choice that gave me the best chance to get girls. I always respected the cowboys and might have become one if I hadn’t looked so stupid in cowboy hats and boots. Disco was out of the question primarily because I have an allergy to polyester and bad music, but also because I couldn’t see any point in learning all of those dance moves when as a rocker all I had to do was turn up the music, hold up a lighter and yell, “Play Freebird.”
While guys like me never outgrew listening to loud music and holding up lighters, the women did. Disco fever finally cured itself. The music was so bad it finally forced the disco dudes out into the light of day, where they saw how badly they were dressed and they gave the whole thing up. That left all of the women of my generation who don’t like country music without anyone to dance with.
So, while my parents could dance like Fred and Ginger and my son has taken up ballroom dancing, I still can’t dance. My wife, like most women of our generation, has come to accept my pathetic shuffling as dancing. Sometimes after a few beers I get carried away and attempt movement below the waist while dancing. That’s usually the point when my wife sits me down, hands me a lighter and asks the band to play “Freebird.”
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.