I went to a birthday/holiday party at a Mexican restaurant with my family over the weekend. We walked in and there was fried food, cake, a DJ/smoke/light setup and several bottles of Tequila. The birthday boy switched off with one of his nephews on the DJ setup and for the first time in three weeks I heard music I couldn’t not dance to. Most of it was pop or rock en español.
The thing is, I was the only one dancing for most of the time until I asked Roberto, “Don’t you guys dance salsa? Play some salsa!” “I don’t know how to dance salsa,” he said, “but I’ll put some on.” A few minutes later, a latin beat hit the room. “This is merengue!” I cried, but I kept dancing. Finally his friend, a big man in a plaid shirt from Guadalajara got up and freestyled with me. I laughed, “This is merengue! We have to dance together!” He grabbed my hands and we did the little step. I hate merengue, but it was easy and so in that moment I didn’t care. Another latin song came on. Then when they went back to the pop music, the man from Guadalajara kept dancing. He tried to imitate my moves. It made me laugh. I fluttered my hands out and he did the same. I did a turn. He turned too. I laughed again.
When they put the Bee Gees on, I went nuts. I can’t not dance to the BeeGees. I always had this suspicion about Fleetwood Mac and the BeeGees and once I asked my mom, “When you were pregnant with me, did you listen to the BeeGees a lot?” “Oh yeah.” she said. I call it womb music. Maybe that’s how I got my start.
The Mexican restaurant staff and their family members were seated at the big table, eating and drinking and laughed at me when I did a big move. The man from Guadalajara had a friend with him who looked like a thug. He kept his cap on and slouched in his seat with his baggy pants, but my dancing partner had vaquero jeans, a cowboy belt, a plaid shirt with snaps that was tucked in. His mustache was nicely trimmed. He would be a good catch for the right girl. His thug friend did not want to dance.
I drank four or five shots of tequila, just enough to keep my lips wet while I danced all night. I only sat for a few minutes, once to eat a few bites of cake and once I sat next to one of the waiters. He was pouring himself a pitcher of something reddish. “What is it?” I asked “It is like a beer with hot sauce and tequila. Want to try?” “Sure!” I said. I handed him a glass. He poured and when I sipped it, it was like spicy piss. I made a face and laughed again. The woman across from me laughed too. Roberto hit the button for the fog machine. I went back for my tequila.
Later another guy who came in, he had a ball cap on, a sweater and jeans. He looked like someone who listens to the Beastie Boys. He was thick and seemed confident and looked at me often from his seat. When more people were dancing, I tried to get him in the mix, but said he didn’t dance. Later, I walked to the DJ table to ask them to play song. The sweater man said, “you are a dance machine!” “I know!” I said. “I can’t help it.”
There were three little girls there and a little boy. One girl liked to sit on the speaker. I would shimmy my shoulders to try to get her to dance with me. She looked away. Her mother laughed. The other girl hid behind a chair and stared at me. The little boy would run up to the fog machine and when it went off he’d run away, ignoring me while I tried to get him to dance. I’m the crazy lady, I thought. The crazy lady who dances.
At the Thanksgiving party in San Francisco one of the little girls wanted me to dance with her the whole time. But dancing meant me picking her up by two limbs and swinging her around or throwing her over my shoulder. I think of myself as someone who does not like little kids, but I like dancing with little kids because usually they are unafraid.
I looked at this party through my tequila haze and thought, “If I had kids, they would be dancing kids.” And then I thought, “I’m glad I have friends who dance. More people should dance.” All the older people were in the back room, away from me and the Mexicans who were in the front room. They were sitting together at tables with their friends and spouses, eating and drinking. They were laughing too, but there was no mixing of the Mexicans and the white people except for Roberto. All the old ladies were there for Roberto, who they loved. They said he was the kindest man in the world.
When it was birthday cake time, the white people came out of the back room and everyone was there for the singing in English and Spanish and the blowing out of the candles. Then the old ladies wanted to sing an a-capella song to Roberto. It was so pagan. I joined in with the singing and then one of the ladies told the DJ to cue up Madonna. Suddenly the opening synthesizer chords to “Like a Virgin” assaulted us, and all the women, who must have been well over 50 circled Roberto and sang the words to him, “Like a virgin! Touched for the very first time!” The Mexican people laughed very hard, but did not dance, except for one pretty lady who joined in. She seemed to know all of the music whether it was in English or Spanish.
Then the white people went back in the back room and Roberto played more 80’s pop and I danced until 9pm, which is midnight up here. We’d been going for four hours already.
My dad finally came out and gave me a nod. I hugged Roberto and shook hands with the man from Guadalahara and we walked through the kitchen and out the back door.