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2002-10-11 | 12:07 a.m.

It is not enough to regret things I regretted at the time, apparently. My mind, the part of my mind that acts without formally consulting me first, has decided that now I must regret things that didn't bother me at all when they happened.

There was a wedding, and we danced. This was years ago; more than a decade. I could never learn dances step by step so I danced however I wanted, freestyle, and because it was the very early nineties (though this affectation had for me begun in the mid-eighties) some of my moves were bad, purposely, which I believe struck me as amusing in some ironic ("ironic") way. By this time, I had already passed through a stage in which I sang off-key on purpose, so well and so thoroughly that one day I realized I could no longer sing in key, and that proved to be a bit of a shock. It took me the better part of two years to relearn how to sing in earnest.

Anyway, as I say, we were dancing. And now I remember the dress I was wearing and a fresh wave of remorse pours over me like sour milk. The dress featured a very loud print. (So loud that I can actually remember trying it on in the store and saying, "Wow, normally I wouldn't ever consider a print this loud but this one just seems to work.") The background color, once located, was egg-yolk yellow--one of the least flattering colors a freckled woman can wear. It also had a peplum, this dress. At the time I was laboring under the delusion that a peplum improved my appearance in some inexpressible way, despite my being shaped like an eggplant.

But, as I was saying, we were dancing. And a little old lady, or rather, an elderly woman, approached us and remarked that we were the best dancers on the floor, and such a pleasure to watch. It was a very nice thing to say and we thanked her very much and that was it.

Somehow this relatively minor moment comes back to me now and then, but instead of feeling a warm glow, it makes me want to cry. I'm convinced that everyone (minus the elderly woman, and maybe even she was in on the joke) must have thought we were idiots. That I was an idiot. Why? Because I think I was an idiot. I can imagine people I don't know backing away from my flailing bulk, mouthing O my God! to each other and rolling their eyes. We rented Shallow Hal and I could barely force myself to watch one of the early scenes, when he is dancing in a club. All I could think is that I dance just like that, except it must be twenty times worse coming from an African elephant. I tell myself that anyone who moves onto the dance floor thinking Please don't let me do anything that smacks of Belinda Carlisle circa 1983 probably shouldn't be dancing in public. I wouldn't say that to you, of course, because I don't think it's true of you. "Who cares what anybody else thinks?" I'd say to you. And I believe that. Except when it comes to me.

So there is this dance coming up and I don't want to go. But Duff wants to go and I am obligated, as his spousal equivalent, to attend so that HE can dance. This is not like in college where, if you ran in the enlightened crowd, you could dance all by yourself until the sun came up. No, this is suburbia, where the unwritten rules are so regimented that they might as well be dancing fucking quadrilles. I don't want to go because if I go I won't be able to hear anything anybody is saying, which will force me into smile-and-nod territory, and I won't want to dance because of the whole Loxodonta africana africana aspect, which will prompt Duff first to imprecations and then to sullen glares. It will not be enough to say "I just don't want to go." My arm will be pulled, I know this.

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