Should've bagged the whole thing when they told me I'd have to waltz. Who waltzes anymore? Prussian diplomats? Is there even a Prussia anymore? No, because while everyone was waltzing, mean dudes with muskets were coming over the parapets.
Anyway, they told me I'd have to waltz, and I thought to myself, "Yeah, I can do a few steps and get off the stage."
Big deal, waltzing.
Then they told me I'd have to rehearse. Like Sinatra, I'm not much for rehearsal. Brando may have liked to practice, but not me. I'm a one-take guy. "Sorry, I'm not rehearsing," I told them firmly.
At the first rehearsal, we learned to count 1-2-3, 1-2-3 and circle the dance floor in big loops. It was all very French, and I don't mean that as a compliment. I went on to waltz in six 90-minute lessons -- which comes to three years when you add it all up. A spunky little waltz coach named Sharon yelled at me and the other dads a lot. We liked that. She reminded us of Lombardi.
Then they told me I'd have to rent a tux. Just the thought of wearing a tux makes all the blood rush to my tongue. "You can dress me in a tux when I'm dead and not before," I told them thickly.
See, I wore a tux at my wedding, and that didn't work out so well (I have scars). I wore a tux to be part of a good friend's wedding -- twice -- and neither of those relationships lasted. Tuxes are black, like ravens, and I associate them with death and Edgar Allan Poe.
"Seriously, I am not wearing a tux," I told them.
At the rental shop, I take the tux into the dressing room to try it on. There is a full-length mirror there. This is good, because I have never seen myself completely naked like this. It's high time for a thorough visual exam:
* Love handles? Check.
* Moobs (male boobs)? Check.
* The makings of a nice gut, just like Dad's? Check.
* A little beard growing on my lower back? Check.
* A butt as white as wedding cake? Check.
In short, it is a magnificent sight, me naked in the mirror. For all the mileage -- the steaks, the cheeseburgers, 12 million dinner rolls -- everything is looking pretty good, though I notice that I slump forward a little. And where there was once just chest hair, there is now what looks to be a small toupee.
"I'm worried about my posture," I tell my wife later.
"You walk as if falling forward," she says.
That's what happens when you work with your hands all day. I sit hunched at my little Remington, sacrificing my dancer's physique while hammering out these middling little notes to you about life, love and lust. It's not hard work, except for the love part.
And over the course of the 175 years that I've been writing these, apparently the shoulders have caved forward a little and the middle back curves like the St. Louis Arch. I don't mean to brag, that's just the way I look.
To me, a tuxedo for a middle-aged man should be bent a little, like a question mark. It should flair out at the hips, then taper off at the knees, which have already begun to decompose.
So it can breathe, the tux should be of a nylon mesh, much like an NFL jersey. On the shoulders, there should be epaulets, and there should be purple hearts on the chest for all the blood we spill for other people every minute of every day -- not just our wives, but also our children, our parents, our accountants, our dogs, our bosses, our assistant coaches, our bartenders, our therapists.
Actually, I'm my own therapist now, did I mention that?
"How are Tuesday afternoons for you?" I ask, looking at my schedule.
"Sorry, can't make that," I say.
Admittedly, people who act like little boys and refuse to wear tuxes probably need more help than I can really offer. But the price is right -- $80 an hour -- and I don't have to travel far to see me.
In fact, next session, we'll talk about this debutante ball they're making me attend. That's right, a deb ball, with waltzing and tuxes and girls in white dresses and satin sashes. It will be held in a grand hotel that looks -- to borrow an old Hollywood line -- like the kind of place where they sign peace treaties.
Honestly, I thought all that debutante stuff ended with the Civil War. I thought that's what we were fighting for -- to preserve the Union and end ritzy evenings filled with stiff shoes and stiffer drinks.
For once, I was wrong.
Next week: the debutante ball