'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
THIS GUY TRIPS THE LIGHT FAN-SPASTIC
Last Christmas I gave my wife a gift that I knew she would love: ballroom dancing lessons. Moments after she opened the card and saw the gift certificate, she jumped up and gave me a big hug and a kiss. Moments after that—after she employed plural pronouns in the following sentences: “We’re going to have so much fun,” and, “We’ll look so classy on the dance floor”—it dawned on me that I would have to participate in the lessons, too.
I took consolation in the fact that no matter how uncomfortable and embarrassing the dance lessons proved to be, at least I would be able to write about it. I figured I could do a minimum of five different humor columns making fun of the whole ordeal. I even started to think of some images the dance lessons could be compared to: root canal, water boarding, Marine Corps boot camp, those awful nightmares where you dream you’re standing on Main Street in just your underwear, and being forced to listen to a Hillary Clinton speech.
But then a strange thing happened that ruined my literary plans: the dance lessons turned out to be—dare I say it?—fun.
I wish I could tell you we discovered that I possessed a hidden talent for dancing, and that I instantly began to glide across the dance floor with the grace and style of that black-and-white-era star, Fred Astaire. No, my dance floor talent turned out to be more like that other black-and-white-era star, Fred Mertz. But it still was fun.
Admittedly, I was pretty nervous at first. I didn’t know anything about ballroom dancing, since I’m from the generation that knows only two types of dances: the slow dance and the not-slow dance. With the slow dance, as a ballad plays in the background, you hug your partner and sway gently without moving your feet until the song comes to an end. With the not-slow dance, as loud rock n’ roll music plays, you stand a couple of feet away from your partner and lurch back and forth to the beat of the song, looking very much like a life-sized Rock’em Sock’em Robot with a neurological disorder, only not quite as graceful. Making it to the end of the song is not guaranteed as pulled hamstrings often occur.
Our dance instructor was very helpful. When she talked to my wife, she spoke as one adult talking to another. When she spoke to me, she used a slightly different style, employing the same tone and cadence one might use when telling a kindergarten student that he has eaten enough paste for one day. “OK, Bill, that was…um, good,” she would say. “But why don’t we focus on the Fox Trot steps now? Later on you can do the Rock’em Sock’em Robot dance.”
Despite our lack of experience, and especially my short attention span, we had a lot of fun learning the dance steps together—in large measure, I believe, because all the people at the dance studio were total strangers. Unfortunately, a few friends discovered that my wife and I have been taking dance lessons. At the next wedding reception we attend, all eyes will be on us, expecting that we’ll put on a dazzling show. At that time, those painful images of root canal or Hillary Clinton in her underwear finally might be appropriate.
But when that happens, if our friends and relatives are expecting Fred and Ginger, but all we can deliver is Fred and Ethel, so what? We still will be having fun.
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