So there I was, in my natural habitat, the dancefloor.
I was in my early twenties, getting my groove on, flirting with the boys, attracting a lot of them, keeping them in line, not paying for drinks.
Not to brag.
Okay, to brag.
Then, this girl taps me on the shoulder. I don’t recognize her. She’s in khaki shorts and a white button-up, identical uniform with the two young ladies next to her. She’s blonde, a little overweight, maybe, but made-up. Big hair. It was 1996 and bangs hadn’t completely flattened yet. I didn’t recognize her or understand what she shouted, so I went back to paying attention to the pretty Indian boy grooving with me. He was glorious, gleaming from exertion, a patterned shirt hanging open to reveal promising shadows of chest and abs.
She does it again, more insistently, so I step away from the hottie and bend my ear to her. “Yes?”
“The fifties are OUT,” she says, smugly. Her uniformed friends laugh uproariously and the three of them return to the far wall with their dixie cups, imparting this message apparently their only reason to have been on the edge of the dance floor.
I blinked. What? The fifties? Well, okay, my dress was sorta mid-century, I guess. It was a red polka-dot mini-dress with lingerie cups and wide shoulder straps. It was at most a year old! I was wearing maryjanes with it, maybe that was her problem?
It didn’t matter what her problem was, however, because now it was my problem. I’d felt like the proverbial Dancing Queen a moment ago, now I was trying to find the quickest path to the exit, tears stinging my eyes because I’d once again been found objectionable.
My night was ruined. I slipped away from boys with confused expressions and left the club. Because some random stranger didn’t approve of my dress.
Why did I let her get to me? Why did the incident stay burned in my memory a decade later?
Why did I feel so ashamed, like I’d exposed myself, been found wanting? Why did I obsessively look for images of women at night clubs so I would know what to wear next time to fit in, when I wouldn’t be caught dead in khaki pants?
It’s likely this girl was lashing out because she wasn’t having a good time. Maybe she even wished she’d had the courage to wear something more attention-getting and felt it wasn’t fair that I’d broken the rules and got all the boys?
How I wish I could go back to 22-year-old me and tell her “Get back on that floor and shake what you got.”
Entering a dance floor is a brave act. Every dance floor, every time. We are herd animals by nature, we humans. We wait for the pack to reach capacity. We seek to show up not too early or not too late. We need the crush of other bodies to be brave.
With the distance of twenty years, I am no longer ashamed of having been brave. Break from the pack, my lovelies, and wear whatever the fuck you want.