Didn't watch any of "Dancing With the Stars," the ABC series that paired celebrities with professional dancers in a reality-series competition. Why watch something that would only open old psychic wounds and summon the memories of (other people's) chuckling and guffawing?
Mention "dancing" to any man over 50, and most likely you'll be greeted with a Charlie Brown-like "Aargh!" as they flash back to junior high dances and whatever other looming forums forced them to expose their two left feet to public mockery.
Do boys today know how to dance? Has dancing, at long last, been introduced into the elementary school curriculum to spare future generations of boys the humiliation of stepping onto a dance floor, only to then resemble Pinocchio first jerking to life?
Sure, it sounds funny ... unless you're Pinocchio.
Why is it that all the girls knew how to dance? While we boys were going about the humdrum business of growing up, were the girls getting secret instruction?
How else to explain that one day you were a regular kid and the next day you were at your first school dance, without a clue?
\o7I remember it as if it were yesterday: Our forces lined up against one wall, the opposing army against the other wall. Lights dim. Music starts. Some boys actually advance toward the enemy and make contact. The rest of us shrink into our clothing, eyeing the exits manned by teachers. Dancing commences. You flop-sweat as the music plays on.
You successfully avoid engagement, until the fateful words: "Ladies' choice." Too late will you realize that was the verbal signal to make a run for the parking lot.
Instead, a girl approaches in the darkness, like a hawk spotting a prairie dog. You freeze and she swoops in, offering a hand. Because you've never danced, you're not yet certain that you don't know how.
You find out quickly. You like the music, but as you move to it, you feel as if you're wearing ankle braces. You're vaguely aware of other people watching you -- except, that is, the girl, who is looking off into the distance. She alters her dancing style to replicate yours, but no girl has the ability to make such spasmodic movements. A two-minute record stretches into what seems like a long Sunday afternoon in the rain, but the music eventually stops. The girl retreats to her camp, and you turn toward yours, badly needing to throw up.
\f7That's pretty much how it went for lots of guys. Many of us never recovered, carrying our ineptitude through subsequent eras of rock and disco. Therapy sessions that ostensibly were about relationships and family problems ultimately settled on one question: \o7"\f7\o7You weren't a very good dancer, were you\f7\o7?"\f7
I thought I'd put it all behind me. Then, several years ago, I visited relatives in Colorado and arrived in time for a concert at an outdoor bandstand. The music was rock 'n' roll, and my great-niece, then about 7 or 8, was among those dancing onstage. She was dancing with a young girlfriend, and I thought it'd be cute to join them as a loving fortysomething uncle should.
I approached, and she seemed pleased. As I recall (it all began to blur as I began gyrating), we were doing the twist. Instantly, bad muscle memory returned, and I began "dancing." Within moments, I felt either my hand or elbow make contact with something solid. It turned out to be the mouth of my niece's friend, who had moved to a position next to me.
When the music stopped and we went back to our seats, my niece's friend was holding her hand to her mouth and trying not to cry, in that cute way that 8-year-olds do.
I felt bad for her, but words seemed inadequate.
And in an odd way, maybe I helped her. If nothing else, the first time she danced with a boy at school, she probably kept her distance.
Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana
.email@example.com. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.