Opinion » Commentaries

Club Sixty

I used to skip around like the Mad Hatter�



One musician used a cane, and the horn player sucked oxygen after his solo, but no one came onstage in a wheelchair—unlike the Johnny Winter performance a few months back (what a buzz kill that was). And though they could’ve sold Rogaine with the T-shirts, Taj Mahal rocked.

Which is more than I can say for myself.

They called me “Disco Debbie” in the ’70s, but now I can’t even dance unless I take my glasses off.  It’s such a conundrum: eyeglasses make me feel like a schoolmarm—and not in a wild, Mary Kay Letourneau kind of way—but if I take them off, I can barely see the band.

And my husband’s not drinking right now—it aggravates his gout—so I went to the concert “straight,” to be supportive.



There’re two words you never saw together back in the day. How are you supposed to let your freak flag fly without something to lower your inhibitions, which only get more pronounced with age?

I used to skip around like the Mad Hatter—I even did the full “hair shake” thing—but I could not get out of my chair. I don’t mean literally: I can still move, and my doctor said I can stall the hip replacement for at least a year. So why am I so self-conscious?

And then I realize: it’s because there are so many reasons to be self-conscious now. We’re members of a community, not anonymous hipsters at the Fillmore. There may be someone two seats over who knows the most intimate details of my life, like my FICO score. And what if I run into someone I sold a house to that’s worth half what they paid for it?

And then there are the bodily changes, which make me über conscious of how I look. In the old days I didn’t care … because, well, I looked freaking fabulous.

So despite being hip enough to employ words like über, I remained seated and performed discreet upper-body moves in time to the music. I promised Fred if we stood up it would count as one of the mandatory three times per year he has to dance with me, but he couldn’t understand why “chair dancing” didn’t count. Plus, his back hurt.

But finally—it was after nine o’clock!—I was so stiff from sitting I had to stand just to get my circulation going. That, and the fact that Taj was playing songs that I have loved for 30 years. Or is that 40? Christ.

Holding the back of the chair, I swayed to the beat, hoping no one behind me noticed the size of my butt. I stared wistfully at some gray-haired grannies near the stage, boogying like there was no tomorrow. At our age, sometimes there isn’t.

Gingerly, I released my death grip on the chair. But now my arms hung awkwardly at my sides. I crossed them over my chest (giving the girls a subtle lift), while scanning to see if there was anyone around who might have given me a Pap smear, or, God forbid, a colonoscopy.

We didn’t see any members of our medical support team, but we ran into Kevin the Painter, one of my husband’s subcontractors, and his friend R.J. Both are in their 50s, and R.J, a librarian, had a fair-sized potbelly under his aloha shirt. They noticed a sweet young thing dancing alone nearby, and Kevin bet R.J. a dollar she’d turn him down if he asked her to dance.

We were surprised that she agreed, and doubly surprised that R.J.—a poster boy for Metabolic Syndrome—was so smooth on the dance floor. But Kevin couldn’t resist punking R.J., so right in the middle of the song he cut in and handed him a dollar.

Fred and Kevin, who’d been sober 57 days, left to find bottled water, and I had a moment of panic thinking R.J. might ask me to dance. I’d look like Frankenstein’s monster compared to that nymph from Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I pretended to follow, stopping in a thicket of anonymous dancers where I could move my hips from side to side, kind of like, I’m not really dancing out here by myself—I’m just grooving to the music.

Fred found me on his way back from the non-alcoholic beer garden, and Taj played a suite of hypnotic instrumentals. Usually when we dance I’m on one planet and he’s in another galaxy far, far away. But tonight he wrapped his arms around me, and we swayed together in perfect rhythm. Stifling a yawn, I realized he was going to count this as one of his three mandatory dances, but I didn’t care. It had only taken 25 years, but we were finally moving in synch.

Taj finished his set and came back for an encore: a full-out, irresistible boogie—and I found myself actually, finally, DANCING; arms flailing, inhibition-free. I hadn’t had a thing to drink and I still had my glasses on. It had only taken about four hours to “let go” and find my long-lost groove thing.

I was so wired I had to wash an Advil PM down with a cup of double-strength Sleepytime. How could I have forgotten how much fun it was to dance? My hip didn’t even hurt till the next day.

Former humor columnist and Associate Editor of New Times, Debra Ryll lives on Kauai, where she sells real estate to support her writing habit. See her blog at clubsixty.wordpress.com. Send comments to the editor at econnolly

Add a comment