By George Brown
While watching Dancing with the Stars last week Yvonne succinctly described my (lack of) dancing skills. “Sweetie (she always calls me sweetie when the words that follow aren’t exactly sweet), when it comes to dancing you will never know the thrill of victory because you have the agony of de-feet.”
Don’t think unkindly of Yvonne for saying such a thing. You would only have to see me dance one time to understand the humor – and truth – of her comment. Let’s just say there is a reason why I turned down the invitation to compete in Clermont County DD’s “Dancing with the Stars” event.
Yvonne and I are wonderfully compatible in many ways but dancing is not one of them. She spent the late 50s and early 60s dancing at the sock hop on Saturday nights while I was being chased by critters around the old oak tree in Half Acre Woods. It does make you wonder how in the world the two of us ever got together.
I have a confession to make. It is a childhood secret that I’ve never told to another soul, not even Yvonne, until now. I did dance with a girl once. Okay, I realize this may not seem like much of a secret, but if you’d been there you would understand.
The year was 1959. I was 13, and Becky, the younger sister of my older brother’s girlfriend, was also 13. Becky was a bit gangly, as girls sometimes are at that age, but her pretty brown hair and beautiful smile more than compensated for this trait. I, on the other hand, was the poster child for the Teenage Geeks Society – with greasy hair, pimples a plenty, and horn-rimmed glasses with coke-bottle bottoms for lenses. If ever there was an attempt to match a lady with a tramp it was Becky and me, but this was exactly what my brother and his girlfriend had in mind.
They, my brother and his girlfriend, were not part of the Archie and Betty sock hop crowd. Their Saturday night gathering place was a teen honky-tonk hangout simply known as “Slim’s”. It took a bit of coaxing for my brother to pull me away from my Superman comic books to spend an evening with him at Slim’s, although I must admit my hormones did like the idea of sitting at a candlelit table sipping Coca Cola with Becky.
Slim’s was a seedy place. Smoke hung in the air somewhat obscuring the pool table that sat in the rear of the room, surrounded by a band of teenage boys who were generating most of the smoke. I was barely through the door when the smoke began to irritate my eyes. I took my glasses off to rub my eyes, which, because I’m half blind, made it almost impossible to see the people seated at the tables scattered about the room, let alone pick out the table where Becky and her sister were waiting for us.
Fortunately, my brother spotted them and we made our way to their table. The jukebox was blaring Elvis’ latest hit, “A Big Hunk O’ Love”, so loudly we could barely hear, but I did manage to hear Becky’s older sister say to my brother, “I played that tune for you, big boy.” She had already ordered a round of cokes for all of us.
Sitting down, I put my glasses back on, then looked at Becky and blurted out (sounding somewhat like Forest Gump), “Hi, my name’s George.”
Becky didn’t answer but gave me a pursed smile, then glanced over at her sister with an expression that said, “Oh great, you’ve fixed me up with a blind date that actually is blind.”
My brother and his girlfriend did all of the talking, which was great because I was too nervous to say anything else, and Becky clearly was not in a talkative mood. I couldn’t help but notice that she kept staring at my big thick glasses and I imagined her saying, “My George, what big eyes you have”, to which I would probably, foolishly, have replied, “All the better to see you with, my dear.”
Suddenly my brother jumped up from the table and headed for the jukebox. “I know the perfect song for you, George”, he said as he scanned the list of tunes. Inserting a dime in the slot, he punched a button, then turned and walked back to our table as Paul Anka began crooning, “I’m just a lonely boy, lonely and blue…”
“C’mon, let’s dance”, my brother said, reaching for his girlfriend’s hand. “You too”, he said, motioning to Becky and me. To my surprise (more like unbelievable shock) Becky stood to her feet, smiled, and gently tilted her head in the direction of the dance floor. Apparently she had decided to make the most of a bad situation, or maybe she was still in girl scouts and realized this was the absolute perfect opportunity to earn her “Be kind to a geek” merit badge.
Standing up, I slipped my glasses off and laid them on the table as though doing so was some sort of romantic gesture, then I slowly began to feel my way toward the dance floor. I could feel my hands, feet, head, and backbone all trembling, but not in synchronized harmony. Finally reaching Becky, I awkwardly took her in my arms, closed my eyes, and began to dance, or I should say shuffle and rock from side to side in slow motion. There was no danger of stepping on her feet because throughout the entire dance the soles of my feet never left the floor. Standing on that dance floor with Becky for two whole minutes was the scariest experience of my life, even scarier than being chased by critters at the old oak tree in Half Acre Woods.
Mercifully, Paul Anka finally ended his song and Becky led me back to our table. I was still trembling with fear and swore right then and there I would never dance again so long as I live; and except for learning to do the Twist, which is about like spinning a hula-hoop without the hoop, I’ve been true to my word.
But I do have one more confession to make. Occasionally, when Yvonne and I are in the kitchen and a romantic 1950s tune comes on the radio, I spontaneously pull her gently into my arms, close my eyes, and begin to shuffle and rock from side to side in slow motion – and best of all, she never complains about the agony of de-feet.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.