She said, “I will not teach you how to Dougie, thank you very much.” Darcy didn’t know what to do. He had never been turned down in the club before.
--'Pride and Prejudice' in the Club, Colin Stokes for The New Yorker
To begin, a disclaimer:
I am not a college student.
Therefore, I do not feel the need to "go out."
You know, that whole college routine, draped in solemn ritual:
going to a bar (I guess this is the game??)
going to another bar (for arbitrary reasons known to no one!)
going to bed at 5am.
It is a pointless ritual we engage in to distract ourselves from the fact that our lives have no meaning.
Every now and then, however, a girl's gotta dance.
And when a girl's gotta dance, girl's gonna dance.
No empty dance floor, lack of good music, or creepy men hemming the edges of said dance floor is going to stop me.
Usually, I have not the energy to do this, because lo, I am an instructor at an institution of secondary education, and I have not the stamina to live a life of meaning, sleep, be cheerful and kind, read all the books on my ever-growing list of books to read, and also engage in the energy-draining "going out" ritual.
But again, sometimes, a girl's gotta dance.
Particularly when you are with people who know you very well, and will not make fun of you for your wedding-reception-ready dance moves.
However: one thing came to my attention this past two weekends:
There are creepers in bars.
And there seems to exist this false idea that only beautiful people attract creepers. I am sure they attract more creepers than the rest of us, but most creepers are equal opportunity creepers: they creep on whoever is within the closest creeping distance.
Being a straight woman frequenting bars that do not identify as gay, I have only encountered creepers of the male variety, but no sex has a monopoly on creepiness. Accordingly, I am more than one million percent sure that there are creepers of the female variety, but again, as you can see from circumstances cited above, I am statistically unlikely to encounter those.
Thus, my comments are couched in the language of a female person, encountering creepers of the male variety, but, you, dear reader, may find yourself in different circumstances, and I believe these comments can still help you turn a situation born of nightmares into a pleasant night dancing with your companions.
Instance the First:
Pro-Tip #1: the Truth Shall Set You Free.
I was at a place which had been one of the hallowed spaces of dancing during our undergraduate careers, known for it's ridiculously muddy floors and impeccable musical playlist.
And this person, this human, this man, who was clearly--poor dear--intoxicated beyond description, continually forced himself upon our group of friends dancing. To provide you with an accurate mental image: obviously, all of my friends and I dance like we are at a wedding reception. None of us make any pretense at having impressive dance moves, nor or our dance moves in any way sexual. We have not the art.
After several subtle attempts at shouldering our ways to the other end of the group, and watching our backs, the girls among the group of friends were frustrated to no end with this man's repeated attempts to do what the middle-school kids call "grinding", (an apt term for a form of 'dancing' which is about as pleasant as it sounds,) with us.
Kinder remonstrations, such as: "Could you give us a little more space to dance, please?" or "Oh, excuse me, you seem to be trying to touch my posterior, and could you move your hands now, please?" landed on deaf ears, so I was forced to resort to the honest, brutal truth:
"Excuse me: where are your friends? You need to go find them, because none of us want to dance with you."
Did this feel harsh? Yes. Did I think to myself: you are the worst person in the world? Oh, absolutely. But loving people does not always make you feel like a nice person or give you warm fuzzies.
And if someone is trying to "grind" with you, and you do not want to "grind" them back, then, really, you are well within your rights to bruise a few egos.
I would rather be thought a shrew than be ground upon like so many coffee beans.
Instance the Second:
Pro-Tip #2: Enlist Bystanders.
This past weekend (Galentine's Day/Valentine's Day), I was visiting a friend in rural Michigan, which you wouldn't think would be a hot-bed of culture, but you would be surprised.
We found ourselves at an excellent establishment for dancing, which had a dance floor with mirrors and disco balls and colorful lights shining on the floor, which reminded me of my hometown roller-skating rink.
It was, as the poets say, perfection.
Except, one thing you might not know about rural Michigan is that there is a preponderance of single men on the hunt. Desperation, thy name is rural Michigan.
Accordingly, we were surrounded by a veritable army of dancing men.
There was one particularly enthusiastic young man who we told repeatedly variations of the phrase:
"Go away, please."
He was, to his credit, a persevering young man and would not, in fact, "go away."
Finally, putting on my best teacher face (firm, yet neutrally kind), and in a voice made shriller and higher by scream-singing to Whitney Houston and what my dear friends call the "Snow White Effect," I told this young man: "No means no. I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. But Go. Away. Please. No. Means. No."
Two other young Michigan woodsmen were hanging out by the speakers, and overheard my conversation. Their faces registered surprise as they listened to the exchange.
Feeling unalterably cruel, I explained myself to them: I'm not out to hurt anyone feelings, but no means no, you know? Then--a thought:
Could you do me a favor please? Next time he comes around, could you just pre-empt him, maybe? We're just trying to have a good time dancing together, ya know?
This technique worked to excellent effect. The two woodsmen stymied this young man's next attempt, and thus the evening was saved.
This probably sounds mean, but it is also very mean to try to "grind" with someone who doesn't want to "grind" with you. It is very impolite and not-nice, particularly when there are many ways to enjoy dancing in others' company, including, but not limited to: wedding-reception dance moves, and swing dancing.
As someone who works with high school students, I have learned that setting boundaries is the key to fostering respect. And when someone steps over those boundaries, you do not encourage them or indulge them, and you do not grow angry or upset. You put on your best teacher face and say, in a calm, clear voice:
I have asked you not to do that, and you have done that, and here are the consequences.
I guess what I'm saying is that dealing with intoxicated humans is generally the same thing as dealing with high school humans. And, that your night at the bar, dancing with your friends, will be a lot more pleasant if you just employ a few tried-and-true classroom management techniques.
An unorthodox application of classroom management techniques, to be sure, but nevertheless, I believe I have proven, an effective one.