Hola, velvet tunnelers!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I know, I know.
Questions like that are a cheap way of getting to know someone.
Questions like that come printed in brochures called “Connecting With Your Teen.”
Assuming we all love ourselves unconditionally and we were only just tweaking something – what would be the one thing you changed about yourself?
Because I would change myself into someone who can dance.
I’m not kidding.
I wouldn’t change how much money I make.
I wouldn’t change my tendency to stammer at really key moments, such as when you meet Alison Bechdel one-on-one and have 30 seconds of her undivided attention and you only manage, “I- I- I….I just love you. You have amazing hands.”
I wouldn’t eliminate the almost-unreal cowlick on my head that has plagued me since childhood.
All I want, homos – all I’ve ever wanted – is to be able to dance.
To surrender to the music.
To set my limbs free, like graceful and sophisticated willow branches, allowing them to move, carelessly, to a beat pounding in time with my own heartbeat.
To be it on the floor.
That’s all I want.
Everybody loves dancing.
All my friends are good dancers.
They get genuinely excited about going out to dance clubs on Saturday nights.
They can’t wait to show their moves – all eyes on them.
Dancing is important.
Shay and Lisa, who are now married, began dating when Shay noticed a girl in giant plastic Chanel earrings throwing it down on the floor in San Francisco.
And one time, I was out for coffee at the Mayday Cafe in Minneapolis, and I heard a dyke say to her friend, “If you suck at dancing, you suck at sex.”
Her friend laughed and agreed.
I have been lying awake at night ever since.
I can’t dance.
My friends have worked with me.
I’ve taken professional lessons.
I’ve taken professional private lessons.
Ballet. Jazz. Modern. Hip-hop.
Swing, tango, salsa, merengue.
And the worst part?
My favorite music, for real, is trashy hip-hop.
I’m gay! It’s in the genes!
I am programmed to love dance music and I know every word to every pop song ever and…
I can’t get down.
It’s the arms.
What are you supposed to do with the arms?
The feet, no one really notices.
You can shuffle along to the beat, and if it’s crowded, so much the better.
You can put a drink in one hand and vaguely wave the other.
Not so bad.
But when it’s not crowded?
How do you get low? How do you know when to come back up? Why don’t other people lose their balance? How do you initiate dancing with a woman without being creepy? How do you think of new things you haven’t done yet? How do you know what speed the total stranger grinding behind you wants to grind to?
I’m a mess.
I would give almost anything to be a good dancer, I really would.
It may never happen for me.
But! We’re not here to dwell on the gnawing, horribly aching, raw pain that is my deepest, most unfulfilled wish.
I only bring all this up because I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the last two weeks dancing in bars with lesbians.
Along with attending several queer dance nights in Chicago, I also just got back from doing a reading at Brown.
Fuck, it was fun.
There are shit tons of gayelles at Brown, and they. are. friendly.
Why didn’t I try harder in high school?
Why didn’t I know about universities with extremely hot populations of artsy-type girls?
My career counselor left out the bit about “looking at colleges with awesome queers.”
I applied to one college, got in, and went there.
It could have been Brown.
I could have spent my days talking to brilliant, fun neuroscience and Russian literature students who know what both “synesthesia” and “teach me how to dougie” means.
Lindsay, the girl who organized the reading, emailed me beforehand to warn me:
The gayelles at Brown wished to go out afterwards.
A place called Club X in Providence.
There would be dancing.
Tricks, I panicked.
Me? Dancing with a big group of women I don’t know?
They would discover my flailing arms.
They would see my not-quite-rhythmic feet.
There would be scorn.
But it ended up being fine! It was really crowded! I had rum!
After admiring Sandra, Khia, and Daniela’s effortless moves on the dance floor, I wobbled outside to get some air.
I leaned on the metal railing outside the club, relieved to be away from Ke$ha’s caterwauling.
A boy approached me.
He was good-looking – clearly a college student, and he was drunk.
He gestured that he wanted a hug.
I backed away from him.
Strange Guy: Hey, c’mon, don’t be like that.
Me: Leave me alone.
Strange Guy: What? A nice guy like me (I mean, I’m a little intoxicated) and you’re running? Man, I need a hug. I’m strikin’ out tonight. Girls are mean here.
Me: Um. (pause) That’s because this a dyke bar.
Strange Guy: What? Serious?
Me: (collapsing into giggles)
Strange Guy: This explains a lot. A dyke bar, huh? Man, I knew the girls in there were dancing funny.
Strange Guy: Yeah! Lesbians dance funny. Hey, thanks for the heads up. I’m gonna go find my buddy. Hey, wait, are you a lesbian?
Strange Guy: Man. Ok. Well, have a good night.
The college guy left, an ocean of Acqua di Gio cologne wafting in his wake.
I stood outside in the cool night air, pondering his words.
“Lesbians dance funny.”
He had a point.
It had been years since I’d thought about it, but…lesbians do have a distinctive way of dancing.
I mean, when they’re dancing with each other.
It’s like…stand-up scissoring.
Do y’allfags know what I’m talking about?
The first few times I set foot in a gay dance club, I remember being shocked.
Lesbians didn’t dance like straight people did.
Straight boys and girls dance dirty, but in a different way.
Lesbians slid a thigh in between my legs.
And then danced.
I’m used to it now, but I distinctly remember thinking, “Excuse me???”
It was, at the time, the naughtiest thing that had ever happened to me in public.
The first time this dance-y leg action happened, I was so shocked that I pulled away and stared at the girl.
She had been humping my leg! What the fuck!
She smiled serenely, confident in her superior knowledge of lesbian customs, and pulled me back towards her, pressing her leg between my legs once more and continuing to move.
As we danced, I furtively looked around the room, checking to see if my friends were seeing this shit.
But as I looked around, I saw it:
Everyone else was dancing like that, too!
I continued to go out. I continued to dance with strange women.
I continued to have my crotch rubbed by stray legs.
This must be how lesbians dance, I concluded.
And I guess it makes sense.
In every club I’ve ever been to – gay or straight – all dancers with close partners were intent, in one form or another, on only one thing:
as much clothing-on genital rubbing as possible.
Lesbians, as I’m sure you’ve realized, are fabulously dirty dancers.
They have this crotch-rubbing thing down.
They’ll dance behind a girl, pressing themselves against her ass, while grabbing her belt buckle in front and guiding her hips to the rhythm they want.
They’ll pull a girl in by the small of her back, put their leg between her legs, and grind in slow-motion.
It’s uniquely lesbionic.
Now if only I knew what to do with the rogue leg.
Should I offer it a smoke?
Wait three days, then call it? What?
Have you experienced the special lesbian dance?
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Krista Burton is brand-new to Chicago. An ex-Mormon from Minneapolis, she writes a blog called Effing Dykes (www.effingdykes.blogspot.com), which is about activating your lesbian gaydar. She spends most of her time staring longingly at enormous dogs, riding her shiny orange scooter around town, and trying to bake gluten-free cake that doesn’t taste like gluten-free cake. She’s a staff writer at Groupon, and loves girls, inappropriate footwear, and hip-hop songs with filthy lyrics.