I was the best man at my cousin Louis’ wedding last summer.
Upon their arrival at the reception, the bride and groom began to spontaneously dance. This was before the dinner. This was tragic.
You see, I fear dancing like a normal person fears swimming with piranha.
I fear dancing because I am not good at dancing. My dancing scares children.
So I had a plan.
When dancing began after dinner, I would disappear. The reception was being held in the backyard of a large mansion and I was going to go inside and hide. Like Richie Rich, I was going to get lost in rooms no one had known existed.
But this spontaneous dance, it ruined everything.
For one thing, all of us in the wedding party were surrounding the bride and groom on the dance floor. Behind us were 400 guests all standing and clapping. Had I known this was going to happen when we assembled on the dance floor for the introduction of the bride and groom, I would have dug a hole in the nearby lawn and crouched down in it.
Worse, the dance was some traditional Persian number. Louis’ bride was Persian. And the woman could dance. Better than I had ever seen anyone dance in my life.
I had just one ace-in-the-hole. His name was Louis.
Louis was lame. Louis would suck. Like me, he was Greek. He didn’t know Persian dancing from Persian rugs. So Louis would suck, and then I’d have to dance, and I’d suck, and everything would be fine.
Louis was phenomenal. Louis was professional.
Louis had been tipped off.
You see, what looked like a spontaneous dance to everyone was nothing of the sort. Everyone else knew it was coming. Everyone else had received training. This wasn’t a wedding. It was “Dancing with the Stars.”
And that was just the beginning. Done with their opening number, the bride and groom pulled the maid of honor onto the dance floor for the next Persian tune. And she was better than both of them. If Louis and his wife had been trained, this was their trainer.
And this was where the tragic turned cataclysmic.
Because this wasn’t just anyone dancing.
This was the woman with whom I had been paired throughout the wedding.
If she was dancing, you-know-who was next.
It was as though the tornado I had been watching destroy the next town just took out my neighbor’s front porch. The natural disaster that is dancing was now at my doorstep and I was trembling in the fetal position at the bottom of my bathroom tub.
And the guests could not have been happier. They were ecstatic. It was as though they were being treated to a Vegas show. And they were. They were being entertained by professionals, and each act was better than the last. Had someone just dangled from a rope above stage, this would have been Persian Cirque du Soleil.
And then there was me. Clapping like an angry monkey with a nervous disorder at the edge of the stage.
And then the inevitable happened.
The maid of honor turned her head to look for me. Her dancing partner. Someone the crowd would surely expect to have been trained like the previous three entertainers. Only better.
And suddenly, it was 1986.
Church hall. Height of the break-dancing craze. Crowd of onlookers encircling two of my cousins doing the “worm” across the center of the dance floor. For those unversed in the phenomena that was break-dancing, the “worm” was a popular break-dancing move where a person lies face down on the dance floor and rolls their body from their toes to the tip of their head, like a smooth wave is passing through their body.
And here I admit something about Stephan circa-1986 that I have never admitted to anyone.
I had been practicing this move in my bedroom. For weeks.
This was my move. I could do the worm.
And so, without given it a further thought, I spontaneously got down onto my stomach from where I stood at the edge of the dance circle. And began to do the worm across the dance floor.
In my memory of this moment, the music stopped. All anyone could hear was the awkward slapping of my stomach against the cold, tile dance floor as I tried desperately to get to the other side.
I don’t know exactly what I looked like at that moment, but from the reaction of the audience, I’m guessing it was as if a trout had fallen from the rafters and was trying to make its way to the front door.
Making it worse, I ran headlong into someone who was doing the worm well. Mortified, I kept worming, as though the collision hadn’t happened. But I knew that it had, because my head started bleeding.
My spontaneous dance had shocked, mortified and drawn blood. And it would be the last spontaneous dance of my life.
Because as the maid of honor reached out her hand, I was not there to grab it.
I was upstairs, locked in a bathroom, peeking my head between the lace curtains of the small bathroom window.
For the well-being of everyone.