Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This is My dance space; this is YOUR dance space.

Growing up, my friends and I would browse through the downtown music stores and add to our cd collections.  We'd drive with the windows down and the music blaring.  We had those really huge black cd cases to show off our plentiful collections.

Learning opportunity.
Kids, C.D. stands for Compact Disc.

These were shiny metal discs that stored digital data sometimes in the audio form. When you put them in a certain type of machine, you could hear music.  

(Let's not even begin to discuss tapes.  Lord...)

Suffice it to say, music was a huge part of our lives. So, attending concerts and smaller shows was just part of it.  Now these weren't the seated in your special numbered chair type of events. These were the smoky, sweaty, throw some bows and get-your-ass-to-the-front-now! variety.

Typically it was dark and you'd be pressed up against some sweaty overweight giant who also felt it necessary to be in the very front even though he was like, forty.  Oh, and he'd have long, curly, black hair that would get in your face.  His girlfriend would also be large and accidentally spill her beer in your hair and cigarette ash on your arm.

We loved this shit. 

Nearly every weekend we scour the local paper for our favorite bands and then make our plan.  Since we were still young and lived under the roofs of our parents, we therefore had to follow rules.  Fortunately, being the oldest in my family and without any priors, I had no set curfew.  Consequently, my house became very popular.

Amy had pretty conservative parents, and since we'd come home reeking of cigarette smoke (since in those days, kids, you could still smoke inside), we had to come with some explanation that didn't involve seeing shows at places called The Abyss.  So, we had to come up with a safe place that also permitted smoking.

The answer was a bowling alley.

It was the perfect excuse. But I was always anxious that Amy's parents would call our bluff and attend some time or actually challenge us to a game. I can't even think back on a time we ever bowled,  but once with my family I barely broke a 100.  We'd be screwed.

But the shows continued.  There was even a time when "moshing in the pit" was something we looked forward to. Basically it involves throwing yourself around and banging into other people.  We also enjoyed "riding the crowd" where strangers would pick you up and you would be shuffled along the heads and shoulders of the crowd with your ass (or worse) being grabbed and ending up in the far back of the crowd entirely alone, or as was the case with me, dropped on my head somewhere in the middle.

Having a headache from the dehydration and sheer physical trauma and ringing ears from the temporary damage to our ear drums was just the nightly result of all that fun.

But oh, how things have changed...

Now I'm at a place where I don't want anyone touching me.  I get fussy in airport security lines or the grocery store check out when the people behind me get antsy and start inching forward.  Back the fuck off already. 

I'm reminded of one of the most important lessons Johnny teaches Baby in Dirty Dancing.

"This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don't go into yours. You don't go into mine."

Thank you so much, Johnny. Thank you.

(P.S. Now I've got "Hungry Eyes" going through my head. Don't you? You're welcome.)

When teaching high school students, ahem--high school boys--personal space becomes an issue.  (At this point I should allude to the infrequent though not unheard of lesbian advances.  I had one!  She asked if she could braid my hair after school.  Whaaat?)  Not often, but some bold fellas try and go for the super-friendly-front-hug, and this is when you have to politely but firmly establish your level of comfort with the touching.  Some go for the no-hug policy which just nips it all in the bud, or you could do what I do and go for the side hug where there's no front parts touching.

Even though these two people will never have sex, this photo still makes me uncomfortable. 

The side hug works about 90 percent of the time.  The other ten, however, is just awkward as hell.  The student will go in with both arms and you're trying to maneuver so you can just get a half hug in there, and the kid feels embarrassed so you try and make a joke, which won't be funny enough.  And the potentially sweet moment has become another memory of why high school sucks for most teens.

Now, the personal space issue is not exclusively s student problem.  One year, early in my career, I found myself in the precarious situation of having a "close talker" mom.

The first encounter with this mother was during an open house so there were a gazillion other parents there.  I thought maybe she was nervous, or had some sort of hearing problem.  But then, as she had no real job, she became a volunteer.  Oh, how this makes teachers nervous.

What you're thinking:
     Really, you're going to harass me about Brian's 89 on that ONE assignment while I'm teaching a class?  Really?
What you're saying:
     "You're going to be here everyday?  Greeeeeaaaaaat!"

So Close Talker then became a frequent flyer to my room asking questions, commenting on random shit, and every single time, I would have to put one foot way out in front of me to keep her from invading my personal space from the waist down, but then she would get her lean on and literally begin bending her head toward me.  In response, (with foot still out) I would cross my arms and begin leaning my body back.

It was the most uncomfortable six to eight minutes of my life.

P.S. I fantasized about the moment I'd offer her a Tic-Tac.

Why doesn't everyone know about respecting one's personal space?  Maybe if the world watched Dirty Dancing it really would become a better place.  It taught us so much.

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