When I was 16 . . .
It was a Saturday night, much like any other, and I was in the kitchen - alone - dancing to the music on the radio. I liked being in the kitchen. I could shut the doors on either side and stand in front of the window viewing my reflection while I perfected the bump, the hustle, and the robot.
All of my dance moves came from studying American Bandstand and the studio audience which was full of talented dancing couples. Sometimes I ventured on over to Soul Train and watched Don Cornelius get his groove on with the Funkadelics, but mostly I watched Dick Clark and American Bandstand.
I used the butcher's block in the middle of the kitchen as my bump partner. I swung one of the kitchen chairs around while doing the hustle and I pushed everything out of the way to do the robot, or if it was a good night, a little bit of pop-locking. I was quite the dancing fool. I would spend hours on end in that kitchen dancing until the sweat poured into my eyes and my shirt clung to my back. I had no good reason for doing this. Our one and only annual school dance consisted of a local band who played nothing but Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Yes. Music that requires uncoordinated legs and arms that flail about with no rhythm, or a group of young boys playing air guitar like they are all auditioning for a place in the band.
There was no place on the dance floor for any of the dances I knew. At the dance, I swayed back and forth to the music, sometimes snapping my fingers way off the beat and not knowing which way to move. I anxiously anticipated the moment when one of the band members would break away from the others and play a solo that rivaled any Guinness World Record. It was usually during Stairway to Heaven that this happened. One minute we were all dancing a slow dance, leaving enough room for the Holy Ghost of course, and feeling so mature and cool because we were dancing with a boy. The next minute we were thrust out of our dance partners arms as he reached for his invisible guitar and started playing along with the band and the frenzied guitar solo that went on forever, and all the while I was wondering what to do. Do I keep dancing kind of slow? Do I stop dancing altogether and watch the guitarist? Does it become a mini-concert and I'm not expected to do anything? Do I walk off the floor? This might be my only chance to dance with a boy all night so I would stay on the dance floor and sweat it out.
The boys would stand there playing their own pretend guitars right along with the band guitarist. Then they would play the drums along with the drummer when he took a turn. We girls, who bravely stood our ground on the dance floor would somehow find ourselves banded together like metal to a magnet. The song would eventually end and the boys would cheer and whistle and jerk their heads back and forth as if clearing themselves from some sort of hypnotic trance as they walked off the floor forgetting about us as they sauntered outside to get a breath of fresh air after their performance.
Those of us left on the dance floor would slowly move in a pack toward the bathroom where we would hide out and flip our hair back and forth, making it big and fluffy as we applied Clinique's Black Honey lip gloss to our lips. By the time we got outside most of the boys had left to go to the other girl's school across town and the dance they were having on the same night as ours.
Years later I would have occasion to use what I learned from American Bandstand. It was when I moved on to college, and turned 18, and could go to clubs in Los Angeles, where some guys actually knew how to dance. I even threw in a couple Soul Train steps.
Then I met my future husband when I was 19, and he was a far better dancer than I was, and it made me happy to see him dance. I found myself watching American Bandstand every once in a while - just for fun - as I danced in my tiny apartment kitchen window for the giddy pleasure of life and being in love.