So I’m sitting on the couch, rubbing my outer knee and calf because after about 15 minutes of dancing, I’d discovered that although my new knee “bones” were ready to get low, the old muscles definitely weren’t (I recently had Total Knee Replacement surgery). I had just finished dancing with my son’s friend Claire as the rest of my family joined in support in our living room.
I was sharing my new favorite music genre called Makossa. Makossa is a highly-popular genre of Cameroonian music, driven by electronic bass rhythms in conjunction with strong brass instruments (a casual listener might interpret it as a hybrid of Salsa and Afro-Caribbean music). If you listen to it, you’ll learn that Makossa has a life and groove of its own. Michael Jackson even referenced it during the chant in “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” (YouTube “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango and check it out. But later).
After we finished, she told me that it was fun, but hard to do. It had taken some serious persuasion to get her to join us because she was afraid of being laughed at, not knowing how to dance. Claire is an adorably sweet and happy-go-lucky high school student that wasn’t raised in a dancing environment (please note that race is not a factor and I’m not stereotyping, but she is white and from a home that doesn’t listen to R&B/Hip Hop – just painting a more comprehensible picture).
She said she could never be able to dance like me and asked how it came so easily for me, to which I quickly answered that it didn’t always. At least not when I needed it most. But I also told her to not worry about how it looked and to enjoy herself, no matter what, which she did, tremendously. I concluded, “to hell with what people think.”
I feel a story coming on…
(Hey, if I told Claire, I’m gonna tell YOU.)
1980: I was at a school dance at Block Jr. High, but I honestly hadn’t gone to dance. We had so many good-looking girls at our school and this was one of the few times you could stare at them on the dance floor without being noticed (if you did it in class, you would quickly and most assuredly get called out).
At this point of the night, my gaze was fixed on Nicole Starling, who had just given me a huge hug after spotting me. Nicole was a good friend from band and other classes and one of the prettiest honey-brown skinned girls in the school, like her older sister Victoria. Those darling Starling girls. Even their names were beautiful. Dayum.
I was longing for more of that brief, yet “brief-stretching” embrace (hey, I was young). Just for a few more seconds so I could feel her hair caressing my ear again. So I could breathe the same air that contained her sweet perfume. So I could feel the softness of her baby-butt-smooth skin. I was already enjoying a what-could-be fantasy as the slow jam played throughout the gym. I couldn’t ask for another hug until the night ended and there was no guarantee I’d find her. I needed a slow dance.
The angel on my shoulder encouraged, “Be ye not hesitant and paused with doubt. Go forth and ask her to slow dance when the moment is appropriate and without sense of lust.”
The devil on the other shoulder yelled, “Quit bein’ a BITCH! Ask her NOW and get yo’ grind on!”
The devil knew I had a blood rush going under the belt buckle. A show under the big top. An inflation of the tubular party balloon. Yeah, the mini-Lucifer was hell-bent on enjoying a good laugh. Not today, Satan. But I will put in a reservation and get her after the “sun had gone down”. Thank you, angel.
Knowing that my physical state wasn’t easily recognizable in my dark slacks and dimly lit environment, I walked up and softly tapped her on the shoulder as she laughed with her friends. I wasn’t nervous, so I didn’t worry about sounding like a nerd.
I was ready.
Just as she turned, the slow music changed to the popular funk tune, “Theme From The Black Hole” by Parliament.
“Would you like to dance when the next-“
I didn’t get to finish asking for the next SLOW dance because she grabbed my hand and ran for the floor. This was the jam.
Like comedian Kevin Hart says, “Nooooo. He wasn’t reaaaadyyyyyy”.
Simply put, I didn’t know the latest dances and hadn’t bothered to learn them with my sister at home. Cardinal sin…
I’m not going to try to describe how bad it looked, but it got worse, learning on the fly. It didn’t help when I tried to force it, as opposed to letting it come naturally.
“Look y’all! Kenny Davis can’t DANCE!”
Why did they always use my first and last name? Every single time.
Half the gym looked around to see where “Kenny Davis” was after I had been put on blast by Dwayne Henderson, who stood on the side, laughing hysterically with his crew. I stopped dancing and was about to make a quick exit before the proverbial spotlight landed on me. Before I could move, Nicole quickly grabbed my hands and put them around her waist. She then put her hands around my neck, bringing me in close and changing our style to a hip-rocking two-step. God bless you, Nicole. I’m going shopping for engagement rings tomorrow.
Not only had she not laughed or abandoned me when she saw I couldn’t get the new dance, but she saved me. Her sympathetic and quick actions rescued me from a ton of embarrassment and instantly made me the envy of all… She even hugged me after the song ended and told me “You’ll get it” as I thanked her and prayed she hadn’t felt me poking her before we separated.
The night was saved and I kept my obsolete dancin’ ass on the sidelines until the end of the night, when I could hug her and every other beautiful girl “goodnight”.
The next day, I asked my sister Denise if she could teach me the newest dances. My father overheard and wanted to know why I was asking AFTER the dance. I’m sure he’d already figured out why, but I shared the sad and sorry details.
Denise did teach me the latest dances and yes, they came easily for me when I did as I always say: “Let it go and feel the flow”. And I looked pretty smooth doing them, per Denise. Trust me, she is the authority.
So what was my lesson for Claire? Maybe you already figured it out:
After explaining what happened, my father asked me to repeat part of the story. Specifically, who said what. I said it was Dwayne Henderson, laughing with his buddies, standing on the wall.
“Where was he when all of this was going on?” my father asked.
“By the wall, laughing with his buddies.”
“Where was he?”
“By the WALL. Lau-“
I got it.
Claire got it.
I hope you got it, too.
Back to my Makossa grooves. Click here if you wanna be happily sore like me.
And let if flow, baby. Don’t fight it…
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