Periodically, I make a vow to myself never to go to another church dance. This usually occurs immediately after walking into a church dance and thinking, "what the hell am I doing here?" For several years I was doing pretty good at abstaining, but every once in a while I'll succumb to the peer pressure, "c'mon, it'll be fun!" "Everyone is going." "Just this once." "If it's lame we'll leave." And you know what? It's never a good idea.
Tonight, I went to another church dance. And tonight, I reaffirm my vow to never go to another church dance again. Tonight was actually better than most church dances. Mostly because I have some girlfriends who really love to dance...and boy can they dance. See, it's not the dancing that I don't like. I LOVE to go dancing. It's one of my favorite things to do (which most of my friends can affirm). But, there is something about walking into a gigantic cultural hall (gym in norman talk) which is moderately lit with bad music and a few people swing dancing to some techno song and the rest standing idly by in the corner judging everyone. It makes me throw up in my mouth a little. The thing is, such things were really fun, once upon a time...a time when I was 15. Now I'm 29 and I feel way too old to be going to dances. I'm a grandma for heaven's sake...I might throw out a hip. Mostly they just make me realize the comically hopeless situation of being an older single LDS woman. I mean, seriously, am I expected to meet someone who I will love and marry at one of these things? Which one of the 12 year olds mac-ing on the other 12 year olds should I approach and engage in meaningful conversation? Which one of the guys trying to break dance in a big circle of white folk should I invite over for dinner? If I try this dance move will it entice the hot guy that every girl is after to come over and ask me to dance?
One of the reasons that I sometimes fold to the peer pressure requires a bit of family history. One day circa 1968 Mary Lou Donahue was content to spend a Friday night at home doing...oh, I don't know, whatever Mary Lou was into at the time...maybe typing? Her girlfriends were planning to go to a dance (not a church dance, this one happens to take place in a bar). She really wasn't in the mood to go, and tried her darndest to stay home, but her friends won out and she reluctantly went to the dance. During the course of the night, she's asked to dance by a quirky little guy named Frank. They dance a few dances, she tries to ditch him by going to the bathroom, but he finds her later on and somehow finagles his way into getting a ride home from Mary Lou's friends. Long story short, they get married. Longer story shorter, I am born. Moral of the story: if you go to a dance that you don't want to go to, you just might meet your husband, have a lovely family, and live happily ever after. I know it's a ridiculous thought, but family lore has a way of sticking in your brain and making you do all kinds of ridiculous things against better judgment. So, sometimes when I really really don't want to go to a church dance, somewhere in the back of my head I think, the more I don't want to go, the more likely it is that my husband will be there and if I don't go I'll miss him. This is made more ridiculous by the fact that I don't believe in "soul mates" or the idea that "my hubby" is out there somewhere waiting or searching for me and it's just a matter of finding him. However, the old mantra, "it'll happen when you least expect it" sort of applies here. I mean, where would I be less likely to meet someone than at a church dance???
Now, there are certainly exceptions to the horrific nature of church dances (i.e. LA1st/SM3rd combined Christmas Party of 2006 - a delightfully lovely evening of dinner and dancing or any kind of dance that takes place on a boat). As I've typed them out I've realized they are exceptions because they are not actually church dances. So, it's not the Mormons who make church dances horrible. Is it the cultural hall? Is it the bad DJs? Is it the fact that it reminds me of being an awkward 15 year old?
Tonight I learned a lesson from my friend Jeni: dances are much more fun if there is no expectation. They are fun when you go with the sole purpose of gettin' your grove on and cuttin' a rug on the dance floor. You do not intend to meet a single person (male or female), you do not expect good conversation, you do not expect to catch the eye of your latest crush, you do not expect to be asked to dance to a slow song. You simply expect to dance your heart out and not give a damn about the rest of the world. And you do it with people you enjoy being around. This is exactly why it's fun to go out dancing with your friends (whether it's at a club, or a bar, or a wedding, or in your living room). Dancing is fun and it's good for my soul. And when I go dancing in all of these other places that's all I'm doing is dancing. I'm not trying to attract a potential spouse and see how that night fits into my eternal scheme - reminding me that I'm a 29 year old single LDS woman. What dancing really does is remind me that I'm alive and I'm fun and I'm sexy, even if no one is looking.
So, instead of vowing to never go to another church dance again, I'm going to start treating all dances, including those in a moderately lit and mostly empty cultural hall, as a chance to feed my soul and rock it on the dance floor. No bad attitudes, no expectations, no miss poopy pants. Because really, all I want to do is dance!