Dancin’ on a Rusty Wire
This winter I reached a bittersweet milestone.
In September I attended my 10-year high school reunion. In October I was handed my 5-year service award by a CEO who didn’t know my name. Last week my baby brother turned 16. How old was he when I celebrated my 16th birthday, when I got my license and drove him for the first time into town? Three. THREE FOLKS. Still in a carseat. And now he is in the driver’s seat (literally – shout-out to Drew for getting is license this morning).
But thanks to a serendipitous song choice by 100.7 The Wolf’s DJ one afternoon, this particular milestone crept up on me. The familiar vibrating twangs of a guitar galloped furiously from the speakers, and the next 2 minutes and 35 seconds went something like this:
He’s not talkin’ and she’s not speakin’ SWING
And they’re not budgin’ and that’s just that SWING
He’s just fumin’ and she’s just steamin’ SPIN
And they’re not listening to the fact SWING
That hearts are cryin’ and love is dyin’ SPIN SPIN SPIN
And neither wants to understand REVERSE SPIN, LOSE DIZZINESS
Cause he’s not talkin’ and she’s not speakin’ SWING
And they’re not budgin’ YOU READY TO DO THIS?
TURN, GRAB RIGHT ARM
But they used to stroll in the rain FLIP!
Then build a fire and pull the shades LAND ON TWO FEET
They kissed their way all through the dark SPIN OUT OF FLIP
She’s whisper all her deepest dreams SWING
He’d tell her she’s his everything SWING
She’d lay her head down on his heart WHAT SHALL WE TRY NEXT?
They were so in love ARM BEHIND BACK
Yeah they were so in love GRAB OPPOSITE ARM
He’s not talkin’ and she’s not speakin’ PRETZEL!
And they’re not budgin’ and that’s just that PRETZEL!
Hope is crumblin’ and walls are tumblin’ PRETZEL!
It’s all just jumpin right off the tracks PAUSE, RESET
And doors are slammin’ and heels are stompin’ SPIN SPIN
And they’re both walkin’ their separate ways SWING
And he’s not talkin’ and she’s not speakin’ SWING
And they’re not budgin’ SWING
But they used to jump in his Corvair SWITCH HANDS
They’re side by side without a care SWING BACK, SWING UNDER
Drive till the scenery was right TWIST, DIP, PROPEL UPWARDS
Lay on a blanket on the ground PAUSE, RESET – MY HAIR TOUCHED THE GROUND THAT TIME!
And watch the clouds blow around SWING
Just holdin’ each other tight SWING
They were so in love SPIN
Yeah they were so in love SPIN
They were so in love GRAB OPPOSITE HAND
Yeah they were so in love TWIRL BEHIND HIS BACK
If he’d start talkin’ and she’d start speakin’ SPIN SPIN SPIN
And they’d start TRYIN’ they’d start to see PAUSE, REVERSE SPIN
That’s it’s worth keepin’ and they’re worth savin’ SWING
And they’re not far from what they need NOPE, NEED ANOTHER REVERSE SPIN
To start forgivin’ and start relivin’ SWING
All the love they used to have MY LUNGS ARE STARTING TO BURN
So he starts budgin’ and she starts biddin’ SWING
And he stops steepin’ and she starts givin’ SWING
And they start cryin’, and they start hopin’, and they start talkin’. HARMONIZING CRESCENDO, OH LORD IT’S GOING TO GET FAST…ONE LAST TIME, HERE WE GO
Then, they take a stroll in the rain. FLIP!
And build a fire, pull the shades. LAND – OH NO! JUST BARELY THAT TIME
Kiss their way all through the dark. EYES WIDE – WE ALMOST MISSED THAT ONE
She whispers all her deepest dreams. SWING
He tells her she’s his everything. SWING
She lays her head down on his heart. TAKE ONE LAST DEEP BREATH…
They’re so in love. SPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPIN
Yeah, they are so in love. SPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPIN
And that’s just that! STOP. DIP. BREATHE.
It was exhilarating, my heart pounding and my hands clammy from nervousness and excitement. Too bad I was in my car on I-5, on the way to Target, my hands holding the steering wheel, my feet inert on the gas pedal. I was not on a dance floor.
And that’s just that. It was my 10-year linedancing anniversary.
The first quarter of my freshmen year of college should have been a do-over. I met and started dating someone immediately, and when we broke up, I felt robbed – in the isolation of my first relationship, I had failed to socialize with any of my dorm mates. So Winter Quarter, nervous and shy as I was, I began tip-toeing into the particular college scene that I wanted to know: Friday-night pick-up basketball games at the Rec Center, late-night campus dining runs for waffles and fries (hello Freshmen-15), and watching Emperor’s New Groove over and over until our stomachs hurt from laughing. One Thursday night in February, I can’t remember exactly why, I decided that I wanted to go to “Stampede Night.” It’s no surprise that no one I invited wanted to go; it’s impossible to get guys to go dancing, let alone in a line, to artists with names like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Smokin’ Armadillos.
But maybe out of pity, maybe out of curiosity, or both, one brave gentleman stepped forward. I’ll go with you, he offered. To this day one of my closest friends, he perhaps has no idea how much his offer was appreciated.
Between the ages of 6 and 12, I was a pretty lanky kid, with a tangle of curly hair and bumpy knees. In high school those knees became scarred from battles on the basketball court – I wasn’t one to shy away from sacrificing my body for a jump ball or shoving my backside into my opponent’s stomach for a rebound. But it was in high school that I became incredibly self-conscious about my broad shoulders, shoulders that were not dainty and delicate, but felt awkward and masculine. Though I was quick on the court, I wasn’t graceful – my bruised knees were evidence. I plod, not skip. I fall, not flutter. I’m clumsy, likely to jam my shin into the coffee table for the hundredth time, the same way a cartoon character heads straight for the obvious banana peel.
But on the dance floor, something changes. I’m a quick learner, so picking up the steps to the different dances didn’t take long. At first anonymity was doable – with so many people in long, long rows, I could hide in the back and not draw any attention to myself. But the more I went, the more confident I became, until I was a part of the regulars group in the front row. Every Thursday for almost four years, I went to Stampede Night with the same group of friends – male and female – and danced til my face, my arms, my person sparkled with sweat. One night I met a friend-of-a-friend who needed a swing partner, and though I was skeptical (he was barely taller than me), I didn’t want to be rude. Most of the girls in our group were itty-bitty – 120 lbs or less, hardly tall enough to reach my shoulders. They could be thrown around like rag dolls; I didn’t expect to find anyone who could do much with me. But then I was flipping. I was being dipped to within an inch of the shiny wooden floor. I was spinning, spinning, spinning like a top. “Holy cow, I’ve never danced with anyone who could spin like you!” he said during one our first dances, and I was confused on how to respond. Me? Surely not – I am not graceful, quick, light, or fluid.
And yet, I was. I am…sometimes. Isn’t that why we love the things we love? Because sometimes they transform us into who we want to be instead of who we are? The same way that people love skiing, love acting, playing video games, or gardening – I adore linedancing. Sometimes I get the feeling that it’s seen as an odd activity to love, weird even – like doll collecting or mushroom hunting – so I tone down the country talk. But it is the only time I feel graceful. In control of myself. Whole, calm in the midst of an energy I can’t get enough of, confident, strong.
The last time I truly line danced was three years ago at another milestone – my wedding. It’s silly to say, but even before my darling husband (himself a good dancer, though he’ll never own up to it) proposed, I had been creating a country song playlist in my mind. The images I romanticized included not grand churches, gobs of flowers, or the perfect dress, but all of my dearest friends and relatives in long rows on the dance floor. And as it turned out, that’s exactly what happened. Song after song, the dance floor never emptied, and I was in the middle of it all night long. But even then, there was one specific dance that needed to happen.
With my husband and the wedding date’s approval, that brave friend from Freshman year and I danced together for the first time since college. My cowboy boots on, my hair falling out of what was once a tidy bun, a smirk on my face and my partner’s eyes laughing, we danced the hell out of that song, as if we were still at Stampede Night, the slick bottoms of my boots allowing me to spin once again like a top, my brain instantaneously responding to each subtle lead.
Huuuung my cotton dress on rusty wire SWING!
Up there on Pilahatchee Briiidge SPINSPINSPIN!
Just a crazy roughneck’s daughter PRETZEL!
Jumped head-first into the water TWIST!
Baptized away my siiiiiiins SPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPINSPIN
“We are still so bad-ass.” He said it only loud enough for me to hear as we swung back and forth, the wedding crowd watching our raucous dance. I’m not a crazy roughneck’s daughter, and I was wearing a creamy fluttering wedding dress, not a scratchy cotton one. But in that moment, I felt sassy-molassy like Leann, confident and joyful and gorgeous. It was so awesome.
If you have any tinge of curiosity, below are some of my favorite dances and accompanying songs from my college days. An odd talent that line dancing left me with is the ability to hear any song and assign a dance to it. Try me, I dare you.
Two Step (fun, simple partner dance moving in one large circle)
“Fishin’ in the Dark” – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“Jezebel” – Chely Wright (a fast-paced one)
“Real Good Man” – Tim McGraw
“Old Enough” – The Raconteurs
“Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” – Big and Rich
Triple-Step (East-Coast Swing)
“If Her Lovin’ Don’t Kill Me” – Aaron Tippin
“Nothin’ Better to Do” – Leann Rimes
“Black Betty” – Ram Jam (Father-Daughter Wedding Dance, talk about bad-ass)
Fast Swing (sweat-inducer)
“And That’s Just That” – Diamond Rio
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – The Charlie Daniels Band (crazy fast)
Drifter (my favorite partner dance)
“Kerosene” – Miranda Lambert
Ten-Step (link arms with anyone and everyone, spokes of a wheel!)
“Sin Wagon” – Dixie Chicks
“I’m a Cowboy” – Smokin’ Armadillos (line dance)
“Cotton-Eyed Joe” – Rednex (line dance)
“I’m Moving On” – Rascal Flatts (really graceful, soft partner dance)
“Copperhead Road” – Steve Earle (foot-stomping goodness)