Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's My Birthday and I'll Dance Even if I Really Don't Want To

This is a tale that makes me feel queasy inside, but I feel that humiliation breeds character comedy, and if my humiliation helps me come up with a great post for this week, then it’s all worth it.

Because something this dumb would only happen to me. See, I’m special! A special martyr!

So it was my birthday a week or so ago. AND NO I DIDN’T GET ANYTHING FROM YOU AND I’M CERTAINLY NOT MAD ABOUT IT OR ANYTHING. A CARD WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE BUT WHATEVER.* I took two weeks before I could write about what happened this year on my birthday because just thinking about it caused me full-body-turning-red-sweaty level embarrassment stress memory for days afterward. Luckily the wound has healed a bit so I can deliver it to you, where you can read in safety with the cozy knowledge that this did not happen to you, but rather to me.

*I also enjoy chocolate.

“Good lord”, you’re thinking, “what could have happened to him that was so horrific?” Well, long story short I killed a homeless guy.

No, I’m just kidding. He’s fine. It wasn’t that bad.* BUT IT WAS PRETTY CLOSE. Quickly I’m going to give you some backstory you will need to set-up this tale of woe and body-rolls: I was in a commercial once. It’s not a big deal, but someone I know got me a gig dancing in a casino commercial. It was kind of funny and a nice way to make some quick cash and a story for a later blog. But it was jokey, club-y dancing. The kind of dancing Andre can do quite well. Six months later, right before my birthday, this same someone contacted me with an opportunity to dance as extra in a Bollywood film shooting locally. Yes, I’m aware this is completely ludicrous.

*Keepin’ it in perspective.

I’m assuming because I had casually danced in that commercial they figured I could dance again, and while I wasn’t quite into it, it paid ONE MILLION DOLLARS. I’m sorry, I mean ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. A thousand dollars! For a day’s work! As I am currently unemployed (with rent looming), this was too good of an offer for me to turn down simply because it caused me a little discomfort. And besides, everything causes me discomfort. We’ve been over this

But I'm not stupid. As a method of uncertainty/anxiety reduction, I e-mailed this someone. "Hey, so I really appreciate you letting me know about this opportunity, but I just want to make sure this isn't like real professional dancing or anything. I am not a dancer, I can't even touch my toes, so I certainly can't do a pirouette or anything. If it's just sort of fun dancing I can do that." She e-mailed back saying I could do it, so I figured it would be okay even though I still felt weird about it.*

*If you in the audience are screaming "TRUST YOUR GUT!", congratulations, you are much better at being me than I am. I will happily hand over my life to you - not that you'd want it, good god.

A couple days later - on my birthday - she e-mailed me saying I needed to go to a rehearsal that day in order to be eligible. This rehearsal was in the city, and I was in my suburbs to have dinner with my family. I was starting to get stressed now, firstly because now I had to drive into the city and back, but predominately because birthdays are supposed to feel good and I was now feeling anxious and sad that my birthday wasn't going well. Stress about stress - it's my M.O.

Telling myself over and over I was going to make one thousand dollars, thus making the whole thing worth it, I drove downtown. When I arrived at the address, I noticed it was a dance studio. This was a bad sign. My stomach sank. But I had come all the way downtown, so I followed the sound of Bollywood music upstairs. Inside the studio, people were dressed in leggings and other dance-y clothes and doing stretches, warming up. Oh no oh no oh no I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I KNEW IT. Would you like to know what I was wearing? Jeans and a sweatshirt. "All right, let's get started!" The choreographer shouted. I want to die I want to die I want to die. I went up to the woman collecting paperwork. She seemed not much older than me and therefore I decided she was the closest thing I had to a friend. "Excuse me..." I mumbled, "this isn't for, like, professional dancers is it? Because I can do, like, fun dancing but I can't even touch my toes, and I certainly can't do a pirouette" I laughed nervously, repeating the e-mail near verbatim. "Yeah, the call was for pro-dancers." She said. I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I WANT TO DIE. "Are you ready to go? We're starting!" Shouted the choreographer. I kept rambling to the woman -"because I did not want to waste anyone's time or anything so I specifically asked if this was, like, real dancing." "You asked who?" She said, looking confused. "My agent" I responded immediately. I have no agent, but I chose to say that because it probably sounded better than "some lady". "Well", the woman began, looking at me sympathetically, "How about you just give it a try? If you don't feel comfortable you can stop." "...ok." I said, always the fucking people-pleaser, trying to be nice and polite, don't offend anyone... THAT'S HOW I GOT INTO THIS MESS - I didn't want to seem unappreciative of the opportunity so I accepted it even though I was NOT comfortable.

"OKAY, here we go, it's ONE TWO THREE AND FOUR, FIVE SIX SEVEN AND EIGHT." The choreographer started. They really talk like that. They also really go, "and then it's BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM" for the counts too, just like on So You Think You Can Dance! Also just like So You Think You Can Dance, we were dancing in front of a giant mirror, which was a nice bit of salt in my wound because I was forced to watch myself as I attempted to flail with rhythm. Some of the moves I was okay with - some sliding, some body-rolling, some step-touching - but then there were really fast combinations that I just could not do. At one point we had to spin on one foot in a circle and land without losing our balance (which I, shockingly, could not do), which I BELIEVE IS CALLED A PIROUETTE. Oh, and also, I was sweating like a crazy person because I'd been dancing for, I don't know, FORTY MINUTES in jeans and a big baggy sweatshirt. I knew that I looked as stupid as I felt. I suppose that it's entirely possible - in fact, probably highly likely - that nobody was paying any attention to me. I know that I'm anxiety-ridden and insecure and I tend to assume everyone is laughing at me. But I truly felt like a giant swollen sore thumb that EVERYONE was watching and wondering "What is he doing here? He's terrible!" I felt so deeply humiliated. At one point I'm pretty sure that the choreographer actually was staring at me in shock.

Forty minutes feels like a long-time when you're filled to the brim with embarrassment. I kept waiting and waiting for the rehearsal to stop, even just for a minute or two. Finally we had a five-minute water break, which for me was an opportunity for prison break. I ran up to my paperwork-lady. I apologized for wasting her time but told her I was not capable of doing the dance, and she apologized for the mix-up. I told her it certainly wasn't her fault, I just felt really bad and I was really sorry and I had a gut feeling and I should have trusted myself and I JUST KEPT TALKING. I KEPT TALKING AND SWEATING AND TALKING. What had been a understanding expression on her face had by now shifted to an incredibly wary one. "My leg is shaking" I said, looking down at my trembling leg, "that happens sometimes when I get really nervous". I WAS IN CRAZYPERSON MODE, the stress and embarrassment had pushed me into full-on raving neurotic territory. Wanting this woman to not think I was insane, I sputtered, "When I get really nervous I just keep talking!"*. "Ok!" She said with a tone that said this conversation was over five minutes ago, I was very polite about it, please go now. And so I did. I got out of there as fast as I possibly could.

*I have this instinct that if I point out what's wrong with me before other people do than it isn't as embarrassing. It's like dumping a date before they dump you, sort of. The thought-process is: I see what's happening, so I'm not crazy!

I'm pretty sure the thought process is WRONG because in retrospect I think it makes me look CRAZIER to be pointing out my own insanity.

I drove all the way back to the suburbs, trying to shake the embarrassment that continued to wash over me in waves. It would die down a little, then I'd remember the tiniest moment, like the shock in the choreographer's face and BAM it came flooding back. I tried to push the feelings deep down. I tried to think forward, picturing the delicious dinner I'd have that night for my birthday, since, oh yeah, it was my freaking birthday.

When all else fails in situations like these, I try chanting my mantra - "this will be great for my memoirs, this will be great for my memoirs, this will be great for my memoirs..."

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