You Can Dance, If You Want To. If Not, They’ll Make You. (#43)


If you asked us how we met, and you’d get two different answers.

I’d say, “We met dancing.”

My Chinese-American fiancé Andy would say, “We met at a bar.” He’d assume a nonchalant air, but you’d see his chest puff out, just a bit, as if to say, “I’m a player. That’s how I roll, scooping up white girls at the bar, every Friday night. I have moves. No woman can resist.”

We were both right (although I was more right than Andy). Technically, the place where we first met was a bar. They served alcohol. No one under 21 allowed. But this particular bar had three dance floors. Open dancing usually followed a salsa, two-step, hustle, or west coast swing dance lesson. The “bar” was filled with dance nerds and their black shoe bags. God help the tipsy tourist who tried to freestyle among the waltzers attempting a Telemark on floor #1. If several heels didn’t deliberately crush his instep, an irate DJ would order him off the floor. So we’re not talking Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” club, no matter what Andy said.

This so-called bar was one of several places Andy and I met during the week to practice for dance competitions. We also practiced at dance studios, took lessons from multiple instructors, and attended dance conventions. If you asked us what our wedding song was, you’d also get two different answers.

I’d shrug.  “No idea. We’ve danced to songs from the forties all the way to the new Katy Perry song.”

Andy would immediately say, “’Superfreak.’” “Superfreak,” circa 1980, has an awesome beat and breaks, perfect for West Coast Swing. (It’s also about a “very kinky girl.”)

People didn’t usually ask Andy about our song a second time.

But after the wedding DJ asked for our request list for the third time, I told Andy we had better pick a song for our first dance.

Me: “What kind of dance do you wanna do? Maybe a waltz?”

Andy shuddered. “No way. Waltz is hard.” Waltz is beautiful when it’s done right. Waltz is also excruciating. You have to hold a perfect, almost rigid upper frame while making smooth heel-toe-toe-heel strides to get the effortless glide.

Me: “West Coast Swing? We could pick any song.” WCS is just about the most versatile dance around – the woman mostly moves in a slot, and the patterns are counted out in beats of eight. Unless the song is a waltz, you can WCS to it.

Andy’s voice grew plaintive: “Can’t we just go up there and sway, like everyone else?”

I knew what he meant. Both of us also worked full-time jobs, plus overtime. We already spent hours dancing and practicing during the week. One of us was also planning a wedding. Did we really want to add one more thing?

We did not. We agreed that we would simply stand and sway. If Andy felt inspired, he’d throw in a showy dip. I sent our slow song selection to the DJ and figured that was that.

That was not that.

Genius Judgmental Doctor Sister went first: “What do you mean you aren’t going to really dance? Why did you spend all that money on dancing if you’re not dancing for your wedding?”

Next up, Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister: “Are you kidding? You’re the only couple I know who can really dance. We expect a show!”

Baby Brother: “I’m coming all the way back from my semester in London where the drinking age is 18 and you’re not even gonna try and make it fun?”

Big Brother: “Not up to the challenge of one more routine? Getting old, huh?”

Little Singing Sister: “But you love dancing. Why won’t you dance?”

Ex-Stepmother #1: “Well, I’ve never really gotten to see you and Andy dance. But that’s okay, you guys need to do what you want. It’s your wedding.”

Ex-Stepfather’s Current Wife: “Such a shame. We were really looking forward to the dance.”

I threw in the towel and told Andy we needed to dance.

He protested. “We are dancing. Swaying is dancing.”

“Yeah, well, my family wants a real dance. They expect a show.”

“Why do we have to do what they want?”

I’m pretty sure my nostrils flared when I hissed, “For the same reason we have to have eight attendants each.”

Andy didn’t miss a beat. “Nightclub two step will work with our song, right?”

And so we danced.


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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

24 thoughts on “You Can Dance, If You Want To. If Not, They’ll Make You. (#43)”

  1. I would have complained just as loudly as your sisters. Everyone must have been looking forward to the first dance. Did they all turn their phones on video?

  2. Personally I would never add more stress to the wedding preparation just to make relatives happier.

    But then again, I don’t like weddings in the first place and I never attended one in my life (!) so maybe I don’t really know what I am talking about 😉

    1. You have a good point. I’m not sure if it’s making them happier, or making myself happier because they quit bugging me. Large family=unending harassment.

  3. It is only fair that filial piety must be followed for both sides of the family, and one showy dance is far easier than rounding up 16 people to avoid unlucky numbers.

      1. I actually do not know the answer to your question. I only have one stepmother, and she was at the wedding. Sounds like you respect your stepparents as best as you can anyway, so you are covered in the ‘properly honoring your elders’ department.

  4. First off, I just realized that I am a little like you [with regards to the nickname sort of thing]. My husband has many friends, some who don’t have English names. I am really bad at remembering Chinese names, so we have code names for some of them – ‘Mafia Man’ [because of his facebook profile pic], The Mechanic, ‘The Dancer Guy’ [he is really into dance like you], etc.

    I think I would protest as well. You both have a talent that can wow the crowd, so you should put it to use. People pay a lot of money for entertainment at their weddings and you can be the stars of the show [and it won’t cost you a dime].

    Is that you and Andy in the pic?

    1. The picture is from an old Diamant dance shoe box, actually. No pictures of us — we’re trying to stay anonymous, although some members of my family have found me. No one from Andy’s family has discovered us yet, at least.

      Oh, but it does cost to prepare a dance. Ballroom instructors can charge upwards of $80 per hour. Luckily, we’re used to learning choreography, so we can pack lot into an hour.

      But you have a point. I heard that weddings cost hundreds of dollars to attend these days. If you factor in flights, gifts, attire, hotel, etc., it costs even more. Better make sure your guests are entertained and appreciated!

  5. I swear weddings are about making everyone BUT the bride and groom happy. . . though I can understand why they want to see you dance. There’s little more enjoyable than watching truly skilled dancers in action (with the exception of, maybe, truly skilled gymnasts). It just amazes me the dedication and the ability of people to train their bodies in such a way. Damn.

  6. The dance was awesome. Even if you didn’t look like you were enjoying it. Best first dance ever.

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