Shuffle off to a quiet corner


FOR MANY YEARS now, behavioral scientists have attempted to discover exactly why it is that men are such lousy dancers.

Sadly, we seem no closer to the answer now than we ever were. This was made blindingly clear during a recent wedding reception when, with the band playing a spirited version of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll," I spotted a fellow on the dance floor who appeared to be having some sort of seizure.

As a concerned citizen, my first reaction, naturally enough, wato call for an ambulance and a paramedic with an adequate supply of phenobarbital -- at least 400cc's, judging by how agitated the man seemed.

Then I ran up on the dance floor to see if I could be of somassistance.

But even before I could throw a tablecloth over the fellow anwrestle him to the ground so he wouldn't hurt himself, his wife stopped me.

No, she said, there was nothing wrong with her husband, at leasfrom a medical standpoint. He was only DANCING.

Even when I reminded her that dancing, no matter how looseldefined, is a series of rhythmic and patterned bodily movements, she insisted her husband was attempting just that.

Watching him for a while, two things in particular struck mabout the poor guy, aside from his unfortunate choice of a lime-green sport coat with wide lapels and brown, flared slacks.

1, there was no question that he was absolutely the worst dancer I had ever seen in my life.

And No. 2, apparently this bulletin had been withheld from hifor many years now. Because instead of sitting out each dance, which would be the decent thing to do given his complete lack of grace and coordination, this fellow danced all night.

At the very least, he should have considered wearing some sorof disguise -- or perhaps a paper bag over his head -- thereby lessening the terrible humiliation for his family.

Instead, the man single-handedly set the art of dance back aleast 200 years, in addition to prompting God knows how many unnecessary calls to the 911 number.

The point of all this is not to be mean-spirited (at least nodirectly), or to suggest that I myself could dance any better than our unfortunate friend in the Age of Aquarius get-up.

No, I am the first to admit to an inability to dance. In fact, I havbeen dancing-impaired since roughly the age of 16 when, while attempting some sort of fast dance (the Frug? The Mashed Potato?) with Sandy Mancuso during a "Battle of the Bands" at Monroe-Woodbury High School, I heard my gym teacher, Mr. Schmidt, inquire: "Exactly what the hell are you doing out there?" Old man Schmidt was a pain in the neck , but on this subject he was right on. I had no idea what I was doing on the dance floor. Still don't, as a matter of fact.

But here (finally) is the point: Unlike our oddly dressed friend, know better than to hit the dance floor and gyrate meaninglessly to the discomfort of my partner and all those around me.

Which is why at weddings -- unless I've had a few too manbeers -- you'll find me sitting out the fast dances. Instead, I'll probably be turning to the nice young couple on my right and saying: "Why, no, you didn't show me your baby pictures!"

Unfortunately, despite the tremendous strides of moderscience, little help is available for those of us who are dancing-impaired.

There are no telethons featuring an exhausted Jerry Lewis, slicked-down hair glistening with perspiration and tuxedo bow tie askew, peering at footage of a stumbling man on a nightclub dance floor and sobbing: "Look at him. He . . . he has absolutely NO coordination!'

There are no catchy slogans ("What If YOU Had Two Left Feet?") to raise the national consciousness.

There are no shots of George Bush on the 6 o'clock news sitting at his desk in the Oval Office and signing a bill freeing up millions of federal dollars for the development of a cure for dance impairment.

Faced with this national indifference to their plight, the dancing-impaired tend to lead lives of quiet desperation, hastily excusing themselves and fleeing to the bar or the rest rooms whenever the band strikes up a tune.

At least MOST of us have the decency to leave the room.


But there's always one or two bad apples in every bunch.

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