This year’s Christmas gifts have been unwrapped, ooohed over, tried on, tried out, taken back, and exchanged. At our house, I’d say most of the gifts hit their mark and were appreciated, including the gift of my loving, beautiful, and wonderful wife. Please don’t tell anyone this, but when it comes to buying her gift, she is undoubtably and unofficially, THE MOST DIFFICULT PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD TO SHOP FOR!
Every year, I dread next years present for my darling wife. Did I say she was loving and beautiful? But gosh, it is impossible to find her the perfect gift. Forty-one Christmas gifts have been scrutinized over the years and, in most cases, returned. Granted, some of my selections have just been terrible and the scrutiny has been justified by my lack of forethought.
Last year, I made the biggest guffaw ever with her Christmas gift. Trust me, I will never make that mistake again! Let me tell you about it.
Initially, I thought I hit it out of the park.
“Give her an experience that will last a lifetime,” the sucker written advertisement stated. “Don’t waste your money on something she will just take back and exchange.”
“This year, buy her dance lessons!”
“Well I think that might be just the ticket I’m looking for,” I tell myself, questionably at first, but quickly gaining momentum with my confidence level.
So, I bought her dance lessons.
And boy did this gift ever hit the mark with my wife. She went nuts! I’ve never seen her react so excited over any gift from me. I became so proud of myself. In fact, I had visions of being the national husband of the year!
“Thank you so much! What a great gift. This is the best Christmas gift you have ever given me,” she says, as she hugs my neck, and I know life is gonna be great for me for a while.
“So, when do we start these lessons,” she asks.
“We?” I state, giving her the Mona Lisa look.
“Yes, I’ll need a partner, “my wife explains. “We will have SO much fun dancing together. And it will surprise you at how much exercise you get dancing.”
I guess I did not think this gift through, as the former jock scoffs at the thought of dancing as an exercise experience.
After having a very frank talk with myself, and since I did not want just any mangey monkey dancing with my wife, I decided begrudgingly, I’d be her dance monkey.
My wife has experience dancing. She took dance lessons until she was seventeen years old. She is a smooth operator. She comes from dancing people. In the monkey world, she would be an orangutan. She hears the rhythm of the night.
Me? I have to work at it. I think it goes back to my strict Baptist upbringing. I’m stiff. My people are stiff. In the monkey world, I am a Silverback Gorilla and you’d better stay outta my way or I’ll step on your feet. But wait, I held my own in college on the dance floor. And show me a disco ball, play a Bee Gee song and I’ll show you I’m Stayin Alive with my leisure suit and platform shoes. Or play an Urban Cowboy song, I’ll put on my Wranglers, and scoot boots with the best of them to Lookin for Love in all the Wrong Places.
At our first lesson, they assigned us one male instructor and one female. I later learned this helps keep the peace between the genders. Our dance instructors were wonderful, except I learned quickly they are liars. Yep. That’s right. They lie by saying how good you look dancing, knowing you might look a little less than marvelous.
“Try moving your hips more,” my instructor says to me, trying hard to conceal an eye roll.
“This is as good as it gets, teach,” I proclaim. “I’m a Silverback.”
“You look great,” they lie, knowing I’m close to jumping ship on these so-called dance lessons.
“Y’all really need to go buy some dancing shoes,” instructors instruct.
“Ain’t gonna happen,” I proclaim loudly to them and my wife, exhibiting my dominant leadership ability.
The next week, we are both sporting new dancing shoes. Yes, I said it. Don’t make me say it twice, as I give my wife strict instructions she is to send no pictures to my friends. I’d never hear the end of it!
Without boring you on the details, the key to ballroom dancing is to know the count of the dance. Most counts are three, four and in some rare cases, eight counts. Some are slow counts, some are quick, and some are slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. The unspoken rule in ballroom dancing is to never count out loud. In addition, never look at your feet while dancing. And the Orangutan added one more rule for the Silverback.
“Don’t make that face when you are dancing,” as she eliminated the joy of me making my “get down, boogie woogie face,” while shaking my tailfeather.
Now, I have always been slightly above average with coordination and following instructions. If you tell me to be at a certain spot on a certain beat, I’m your monkey. I will be there! Never mind swaying to the rhythm of the beat, by golly I’m gonna be on the spot no matter who or what gets in my way.
The only problem is my Orangutan partner. I swear, sometimes she lives in another jungle than me. She likes to dance to the beat she hears and if the music moves her in a different direction, well, I’m on my spot and she is not! In fact, where is she? Drives me bananas!
“She is not following me!” I tattle to the instructor, who has just taught us the role of the MAN Monkey is to lead his partner with physical cues.
“She will follow a strong leader,” my female instructor says, glancing shamingly at me, trying to keep this forty-year marriage intact.
After several weeks of lessons, our instructors invite us to a Friday night party. This is where couples get to actually dance like it’s a real party, but with instructors hanging around to intercede when a fight between Silver Backs and Orangutans break out.
The hardest part of these dance parties is deciding the proper dance that matches the beat of the song. By design, there are no teachers to help you decide.
“This is a Waltz,” I proudly proclaim.
“No, it’s a Samba,” my wife says, looking around to see if she can find a spare mangey monkey for a partner.
“Listen to the beat!” the one who is supposed to be following, boldly states.
“I AM LISTENING TO THE BEAT! CAN’T YOU SEE MY HIPS SWAYING,” I calmly say to my loving wife.
Instructor jumps into middle of discussion and lies by saying it could be a waltz or a samba. By now, the song is over.
“Well tonight was fun,” I lie, trying to break the silence as we drive home.
The next day, my muscles are so sore, I can hardly get out of bed.
“Are you sore from dancing last night? It looks like you are moving slow today, the fake follower states.
“Why, no. I did not dance enough to be sore,” I lie, as those instructors’ examples start rubbing off on me. No way am I about to let her know I am very sore and can hardly move.
Our instructors had me convinced I was dancing so well, I was ready for prime time. That is until my male instructor, who dances so great he makes me sick, suggests I take a thirty-minute class focused on hip movement. He states we will video tape me and promised me I would see amazing results.
So… yes, here I am, all six foot three, two hundred and forty pounds of me, standing on a dance floor, with my dance shoes (yes, I said dance shoes and please don’t make me say it again), with my MALE dance partner, taking hip movement lessons. Picture a Silverback, standing with his back to you, arms in the air, hips swaying to jungle boogie music. My wife, loving every second of this, took the video to record the moment.
I have to admit, after about thirty minutes, I could feel my monkey hips loosen and sway to the music. Now I was no Elvis, but I could see improvement. I had visions of Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.
‘Don’t make that face,” my hip swaying wife says, as I must admit, I struggle to shake my groove thang without making a face, which includes puckered lips.
“You are doing great,” my instructor lies again. “Watch that video and look for areas to improve. I’ll see you on Thursday.”
I could not wait to get home and see those smooth hips swaying to the music. I was becoming a natural smooth operator, or so my instructors were saying.
Watching the video with my wife, she quickly points out I am off beat. She asks why I can’t move my hips just a little more. I remind her I come from stiff people. I notice I’m counting out loud while I am looking at my feet. My wife asks me why I look so serious and am not smiling
“I’m not smiling because I have to be at that spot on the count of three and you aren’t even close to following me! See, I just gave you the inward spin cue and you are out on that limb dancing to your own beat.”
“Dancing was fun when we were young. We laughed and danced the night away,” I remind her. “Why didn’t you critique my dancing back then the way you critique my dancing now?”
“I know I’ve got you now,” she winks and says with a smile. “I’ve known for forty-one years.”
Limping away with muscles so sore I can barely walk, if there was ever any doubt, I am certain now, she didn’t marry me for my dancing skills.
Next year and every year thereafter, she will get perfume for Christmas! I’ve hung up my dancin shoes. No more dance lessons for this Silverback!