This blog sat in my “drafts” folder for months. I’ve mulled it over. I’ve discussed it with Jonathon. Growing up in Las Vegas and the Ann Arbor area, he never square danced. In truth, he chose not to answer on the “grounds that it might incriminate him”. Has Zac square danced? Nope! Something is horribly wrong. Why, oh why, did this get cut from the P.E. curriculum? Take out table tennis, for goodness’ sakes, and put ritualized group humiliation back on the docket!
I had never square danced until we moved to Clackamas. I want to go on record saying that. In NE Portland, it simply wasn’t done. Elementary school physical education consisted of flapping the multicolored parachute, racing 4-wheeled wooden scooters and kicking the Earth ball. Not joining hands with our classmates and shuffling to songs more than 30 years old.
My brother and I moved in with our dad. He lived in Clackamas. We rode the bus to Sunnyside Elementary, down a long, winding country road. Unlike my Portland grade school, Sunnyside went from K-6th grade. So my brother and I were in the same school for one more year.
Once I relaxed and stopped feeling like the nerdy new kid – somewhat – I really liked it. The school. Took me awhile to like square dancing.
I remember being nervous, my palms sweating and I became fully aware all over again of how totally unattractive I was to the opposite sex. Think “androgynous troll” and you have it. I favored brightly-colored overalls and sported thick corrective eyewear. I think at this age, kids chose their partners instead of what happened later, which was lining up by sex, boys and girls joining together in a loop-like fashion, randomly. I suppose that was to minimize the rejection factor.
We tromped in rounded squares on the highly varnished wooden gym floor, stepped right, then left. We spun around, grasping hands. We allemanded left. We do-si-doed. We promenaded. None of this translated to regular life, which appeared to be all about who was “going with” whom and then suddenly…not.
The social stigma factor aside, I really liked square dancing. I discovered I liked dancing, period. My unbridled enthusiasm earned me a few equally nerdy partners. This was junior high. High school, however, had a totally different vibe: square dancing was not cool. And if you liked it, well, gag me with a spoon!
The music, however…
The Andrews Sisters did it better. Okay, to be fair, it’s a different song (below). Aren’t you glad?!
I used to wake up with the first song in my head. Jealous, right?
What exactly were we supposed to learn from this antiquated social ritual? I totally get that I landed in an agrarian society, with a mighty FFA presence and entire Land Lab where high schoolers could study animal husbandry and grow crops during class time.
Possibly, it was the administration’s attempt to “socialize” us, in addition to the many regular dances we had. Those of us late bloomers had the chance to lay our hands – appropriately – on the opposite sex. Maybe that was the real goal: to teach us to look each other in the eye and learn respect and kindness in the midst of raging hormones and klutziness and self-consciousness and growth spurts or lack thereof, while in a controlled environment. Maybe we could learn to overcome our shyness and missteps and laugh together. For those reasons alone, someone should spearhead bringing it back.