“I was traumatized by square dancing.,” I declared in response to a friend who had innocently suggested we “allemande left” to get into a restaurant’s parking lot. I realized the moment she offered to let us “mosey left” instead that I had a story to share.
There are actually a few social activities I absolutely can’t stand. Bowling is among them. Sure, I didn’t always hate it. There was a time I gave it a chance, and then I joined a league with the misguided thought, “this will be fun!” In twelve short weeks I lost all willingness to ever walk into a bowling alley again. I have a ball, a bag and shoes. Heck, I even have a matching bowling shirt declaring my name is “Roxie”, because really who wouldn’t want to be “Roxie”? (Ok, I confess I never wore the shirt to the league, but it did match everything I owned in all its hot pink and black glory and I have bowled in it.)
But this isn’t about bowling, this is about square dancing – the ridiculous social dance that I hate with such a passion you’d swear I was carrying on about bowling. The one that makes me spit just at the phrase “dosey doe”. Just try to “swing” me. I double-dog dare you.
When I was growing up our gym activities consisted of jumping over things, running in circles, climbing ropes and attempting to make it up peg boards using chunky wooden dowel rods. When we acted like reasonably civilized beasts, we were rewarded with a bounce on the trampoline. Good times. All were part of our public school’s physical education program. That same regimen also included learning important folk dances like the “Bunny Hop”, the “Hokey Pokey” and square dancing. Clearly some crazy person in charge of minors was hell-bent on throwing us all back into their 1950’s glory days dream where people had fine names that combined nicely with “Sue” or “Joe”. (Later, they tried to throw in names that went well with “Wayne”. Nothing good can come out of a “Wayne” and thus several notable serial killers came into the world. Cautionary note to new parents: avoid “Wayne,” but I digress.) In 1976, the year of our Bicentennial, our 2nd grade class participated in a school-wide celebration in the gymnasium. We wore our best patriotic outfits and square danced our little hearts out with the rest of the school. Nothing really says 1950’s independence in the 70’s like a good ol’ fashioned Virginia Reel at the elementary school. That was a simpler time, when square dancing was fun and our clothes were flammable.
I still liked square dancing reasonably well when I entered 7th grade, but I didn’t like much else. This was the year we moved back to Dallas and I was plagued by bullies who tempted me with such enticing offers as, “if you ride the bus tomorrow, we will kill you.” I became an accomplished walker and an even more accomplished dodger. In 7th grade, walking down the hall was a challenge; I was constantly assaulted by kids I didn’t know. I’ve been joking today that I have “selective mutism” and if that is actually true, it started in 4th grade, but really got locked-in here. Yes, there was a time when I was outgoing. A time when I was constantly moved around the class for talking and acting out. After the 7th grade, my teachers never had a problem with me. It was a pivotal year.
Every day of the week I’d suit-up in my PE finery and Monday through Thursday we’d do the normal things you’d expect to do in PE. However, Friday was special. Friday was the day we’d square dance and do the Bunny Hop or the Hokey Pokey. On that day I was filled with anxiety and complete dread. It wasn’t the square dancing that was the problem, it was the mandate that you had to find a partner. If you didn’t find a partner, you had to repeatedly write a shame filled paragraph about your failure. Approaching people was a horrifying ordeal since I was never sure who I could trust. (My bullies had an endless supply of friends and every day heads would turn as I made my way through the jeering gauntlets that led to my classes and my locker. Yes, I get it. You’re barking and howling at me. I’m the ugliest thing you’ve seen – like a dog.) Fortunately, I stumbled on a partner in the form of a kid named Robert or Richard or something. He was tall and socially awkward; a male version of me sans the bullies. Every Friday in gym we’d meekly approach each other and quietly agree to be dance partners. At least, that was the case until the new girl came. She was cuter (no one barked at her), gregarious, not a hint of awkwardness and on her first Friday in class that brazen hussy just ran right up to Robert or Richard or something and declared he’d be hers from that moment on. He was smitten. I was aghast. Couldn’t she see that Robert or Richard or something was MY partner? I had dibs. I had shyly called them when I stared at his feet that very first Friday. Heck, I was even growing a little fond of what’s-his-name.
Well, our gym teacher declared that not having a partner, even if there weren’t an even number of kids, was a punishable offense. On that Friday when SHE came into class and I was left without an unremarkable guy whose name started with an “R” to call my own, I was sent to another room away from the more successfully partnered kids. I was then given a few sheets of paper and directed to copy down a paragraph that was written on the chalk board. The paragraph basically declared that I was a loser and that because I was a loser I was having to write a paragraph about it. The paragraph was much wordier than that and definitely more humiliating, but that was the gist of it. I managed to write about 25 of those before the class let out and earned a “C” for the day..
So now, when I think of square dancing, it throws me back to a time where I’m standing completely alone against a wall – all the boys are taken including Robert or Richard or something, thanks to some cute, outgoing newcomer. Then I remember the shame of being escorted out of the gym to write, “ Dear Mrs. Evans, I am an embarrassment to myself and this school. I will endeavor to…”
It’s safe to say I hate square dancing. I may even hate it more than bowling, or Houston.