So, why doesn’t anybody slow dance anymore?
I have heard tales of a time when gay men came together to do just that, at a celebration called a ‘Tea Dance’. These were held, typically, on Sunday afternoons as a sort of antidote to the debauchery of the previous night. There was usually some free food available and a Bloody Mary bar complete with big pickle spears, stalks of celery and anything else you could stick into a tall, cold glass of instant sunshine. Drinking a Bloody Mary on a Sunday afternoon always makes me feel like I’m doing something healthy for my body - all the while I get my slight buzz on and, yes, I know in the back of my head that there ain’t nothing healthy about it. But sometimes clinging to an illusion allows us to enjoy the moment.
At these ‘Tea Parties’, you would: still be attached to your previous night’s trick (meaning all went well in the boudoir), come with your partner, be joining a group of friends, or simply go to see who else showed up. The crowd probably included a lot of older types – the ones for whom last night’s disco failed to compel them to the dance floor or the ones who had to get up early for church or to make the doughnuts. In any case, they couldn’t stay up late enough to catch the sidewalk sale. They’re here to dance today, though. Slow dance.
All it takes is the right song. A lyric, a melody… something that envelopes you and makes you yearn for the embrace of another. Your arms ache, too. They want to hold somebody.
I’ve never been one of those who like to hang on my dance partner. Part of this is due to my height. Being tall doesn’t make hanging a comfortable option. And part of this is due to the fact that I am uncomfortable being held aloft by anybody else (I like to hold up my end of the bargain). So, while my head or chin may rest on a guy’s shoulder, there is never much weight placed upon it.
If I had the chance to slow dance today, I’d just sway. Gently. When I was younger I was always concerned about being boring. I would constantly change up the direction I rotated and try different patterns - all to the consternation of my dancing partner. It may have been awkward at times, but I didn’t want it to get stale.
Today, that would not be a concern. I would just enjoy the intimacy. Ahh, the intimacy - which I suspect is the real reason no one slow dances anymore. So many fear it. Me? I would just drink in all that beautiful warmth.
I doubt I’ll ever get to attend a ‘Tea Dance’. I don’t see them making a comeback any time soon. And lacking an outlet, opportunity and location to do so, I also doubt I will get to slow dance in public any time soon.
Which brings me to the thing I would most like to do in the solitude of my living room. Unfortunately, the partner’s with whom I have shared living room’s in the past have always pushed me away when I suggested it or grabbed them un-expectantly in order to mold them into such an embrace. It could be me. Maybe the thought of lingering that close to me without the potential of an orgasm was distasteful to them. Or it could be about them… for the same reason.
In the late eighties, I remember slow dancing at the end of a Saturday night during last call with my best friend. Neither of us had found anybody to hook up with that night. Me: not for lack of trying. Him: because he was always a bit of an ice princess and maybe too picky for his own good. It was last call and the DJ played a chilled out cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” with a sweet female vocal. It was a nice moment. We just sort of fell into it. We'd been dancing together for the previous song, and was caught unaware. It wasn’t sexual, but it was romantic. We were dancing in appreciation of each other. It was sweet and brief and everything I longed for in that moment.
We remained best friends for over 20 years. Now we’re not friends. And, in fact, I don’t really have a best friend like that in my life. But there was that moment. And that is how I like to remember us.
I mourn our friendship.
I mourn for the loss of slow dancing, too.
It always brings to mind that wonderful Johnny Rivers song… “Slow dancing, swaying to the music, just me and my girl…”
Well… maybe some day.