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The Sock Hop Kiss and Other Lessons

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I got dumped for my first time at the Grade 6 sock hop.

I paid the 10¢ admission for both Louise C and I, we danced to The Box Tops The Letter and the Bee Gees I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You. She was blond and pretty in a Grade 6 kind of way. It was heavenly

Then she ditched me (was it my purple paisley shirt?) before it was time for me to walk her home. Not a good date. Crap!

The second time was at the Grade 9 dance. She was a dark brunette and had some sexy dimples. We slow-danced to Black Magic Woman and Stairway to Heaven. We kissed for the first time at the exit door to the gym. It was heavenly.

Two hours later she was kissing my (soon-to-be-ex!) best friend Kevin in his basement rec room. Another bad date. More crap!

The third time was in a car riding back from the beach with my “girlfriend” and some high school work friends. She was moving on to a new guy (the driver of the car), but hadn’t quite told me yet. Triple Crap!

To be fair, the love ledger hasn’t always been one-sided, all credits and no debits. I’ve dumped others and seen the pain in their sad eyes and broken hearts. I think that is the crappiest.

Ultimately, I asked myself… What have I learned from the hurt, both mine and the others?

Today, I give you…

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8 Lessons I Learned at the Sock Hop and Beyond:

  1. My heart is fragile – love and desire – the chemistry and the butterflies – are gut-level emotions that don’t respond to logic. A love connection with someone else is a freak phenomenon that defies any sense of reality, a sci-fi animation where oxygen is no longer necessary to sustain life if someone you desire fiercely loves you back.
  2. My heart is strong – after a hurtful loss, and another, and another, we develop a resilience, the elasticity of experience that assures us that no matter the depth of anguish (whether it’s loss of love, or the loss of a loved one), the overwhelming sensation of pain will dull little-by-little. Pain lives on a bell curve that rises and falls. Time is the one friend that will never desert us.
  3. My life has many facets – love, desire, connection are major parts of our lives, but they are not the only areas that bring deep, genuine meaning. There are so many aspects to a full and rounded life that don’t require a dance partner e.g. pets, learning, exercising, music, books, working, volunteering, hobbies. Diversification on a personal level adds strength to our individuality.
  4. Lips are the gateway drug to romantic love – there’s good reason why some hookers won’t kiss a John (I’m told!)… a kiss is a powerful weapon, the key that unlocks the heart more than 1,000 words or “forever” diamonds ever will. That Grade 9 kiss I mentioned took me to the top of the mountain and then pushed me off the cliff.
  5. There are different dances in life – not all dance revolves around romance or courtship. Dance can be sexy and erotic. Dance can be friendly and cordial. Dance can be joyous and freeing. Dance can be technical and challenging. Dancing with your children can be the best dance you’ll ever have.
  6. Dance connects us to music – dance isn’t only a way to connect with another person … just close your eyes and feel the music infiltrate and massage deeply. Dance is a physical manifestation of what we hear and feel.
  7. Joy makes everything worthwhile – Joy is a stronger muscle than pain. Joy brings us back from the precipice when the night is dark and bleak. Joy is ultimately – thankfully – stronger than fear, anger, and grief. Joy should be a key piece of the movement of dance, a pleasure-drenched sway.
  8. A really great dance partner doesn’t laugh at my dance moves – Dance can teach us humility and grace… of course I feel like a dork when I dance. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it though. The average child laughs 300 times a day… the average adult…5 times a day. My dance moves shouldn’t be one of your 5 times. Yup, acceptance of our Elaine Benes dance stylings are the litmus test for when we know we’ve found THE one!

Alright, you may have figured out that I didn’t uncover these thoughts all in one go after the Grade 6 sock hop. The visions and impressions sift and settle over months and years and decades.

That afternoon sock hop in the Glen Brae middle school gym in 1968 was my first tuition payment, the first of many learning and growth experiences in my long life of learning and understanding.

Dance can unveil truths about us we never knew. I’ll stretch the metaphor of “dance” here a bit by recounting a clip from a favourite movie of mine.

In When Harry Met Sally, Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Marie (Carrie Fisher), at their wedding dance, thank friends Harry and Sally publicly for being so utterly unappealing as dates and partners, and as an unintended result, bringing the bride and groom together.

To Harry and Sally. If Marie or I had found either of them remotely attractive we would not be here today.”

A simple dance, a touch of hands, the shuffle of feet, is sometimes all it takes to define a worthwhile connection, or prove a sour attachment.

Dances are like diversifying your stock portfolio… you observe and connect with different partners (stocks)… some are wonderful but burn out too quickly, some totally suck from the first cha-cha, and finally, some burn with just the right intensity to sustain a lasting flame of prosperity.

Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance (Garth Brooks)

School days. It’s funny looking back and thinking about the apparent innocence of a Grade 6 Sock Hop where the greater lessons learned that day didn’t occur inside Miss Taylor’s classroom.

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Disco DOESN’T Suck… and Other Guilty Pleasures

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Night fever, night fever.
We know how to do it.
Gimme that night fever, night fever.
We know how to show it.

……………………

My breath froze to solid icicles in my moustache. Even my eyelashes were crusty white with January frost.

The Northern Lights were a luminous emerald on black velvet, swirling in bright pinwheels overhead – it was night feverishly cold outside Yellowknife’s Mildred Hall School. The hand-sewn and decorated parkas we wore were antibodies against the glacial air.

But once inside the school’s gymnasium doors, the fever was hot hot hot.

It was 1978 and disco fever and glitter balls were at their zenith.

Maybe you were there and boogied to the throbbing beat.

Or maybe you were a wallflower egg still waiting to get down with a jivin’ sperm.

The Bee Gees, Donna Summer and Hot Chocolate (I believe in miracles… where you from, you sexy thing, sexy thing you) ruled the radio dial.

In the near-total darkness-shrouded Arctic town hugging the icy shores of Great Slave Lake, I, along with my friends Jim (we were Uncle Larry and Uncle Jimmy in those days, don’t ask me why) and Laurie, signed on for disco dance lessons.

Every Monday night for 6 weeks, we fsh-fsh’ed our mukluks down streetlit Franklin Avenue to the elementary school gym, where, for an hour or two, we danced the Saturday Night Fever roles of John Travolta and his dream girlfriend-dance partner Karen Lynn Gorney.

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk,
I’m a woman’s man: no time to talk.
Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around
since I was born. 

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I don’t remember the name of our young dance instructor, or even the ethnicity of her soft accented-voice, but I can easily recollect that she was a young cutey in ballet flats and a pale pink dress that flowed like wispy feathers in the breeze when she twirled.

She dressed for the job.

She was a Dancing Queen.

More accurately, she was a disco dancing queen.

And when she took my hands to demonstrate the Butterfly dance move, I couldn’t help but notice that she had the softest hands I’d ever held. Playing John Travolta was a pretty fine gig.

Jim, Laurie and I had a blast those chilly Monday evenings, dancing, twisting our hips, firing our cool boogie finger high into the air… learning intricate disco moves that fuelled our drop-ins to northern alcohol-doused parties for months (maybe years) afterwards.

It was great fun and despite the vapid reputation and the musical Civil War that has battered disco music for years and years, I’ve always…. shhhhh… this is a secret…. clandestinely loved the driving bass beat, the unique funk and soul of disco music.

The Bee Gees’ falsettos and ABBA’s beautiful harmonies and chorus hooks simply infuse a divine song into my normally banal rhythmic blood flow.

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It’s a beautiful guilty pleasure like so many others.

And there’s simply no rationality to guilty pleasures. I have mine and you have yours. I know you do.

As a consummate goal-setting personality type, I feel the sly guilt associated with the temporary shedding of my in-bred Protestant work ethic, or the shameful sin of consuming something that goes against the “health” guidebook that sits propped open like a priest’s confessional door in my head.

Humanness means coming to a… grudging acceptance of our mortal frailties.

Guilty pleasures are no exception.

So, here’s my (partial!) guilty pleasure confessional.

Feel free to write me back a list of yours, maybe I’ve been missing out on some great stuff:

  1. Smooth delicious milk chocolate consumed (like, in moderation!) daily as if it is an essential part of the Food Guide
  2. Skipping a boot camp, long run, or spin class … just because…
  3. Afternoon naps
  4. The sweet, delicate lilt of a Scottish or Irish accent
  5. A McDonalds Big Mac with only half the “Mac” sauce
  6. Chick Flicks like When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail and Serendipity… always consumed with salty buttered popcorn
  7. One Cuban Cigar smoked each week during spring and summer
  8. Reading those old erotically-charged Penthouse Magazine Forum “letters”… especially the lesbian ones
  9. Luxuriantly reading a whole fiction book in less than a week
  10. Watching The Great British Baking Show and HGTV “Flipping” shows
  11. Picking the strings of my guitar late in the dark night, channelling Sting or Keith Urban… believing that I’m playing/singing better than them
  12. An inability to turn off the newest Reality TV… the ubiquitous, moment-to-moment CNN (what I now call the TRUMP channel) BREAKING NEWS stories of Trump/Conway/Spicer trainwrecks

doggy guilty pleasure