Oh, you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, he’s writing about Whitney.
And maybe I am, a little. After all, that pop hit of Ms. Houston’s was probably the first song a Younger Me ever danced to with a guy (a very sweet one, in fact); the music of her first two albums is all over the soundtrack of my coming out times. I’d only just remembered that and started to explore some of those old tunes again about a week or so before she died in February, so she was fresh in my thoughts, but it still surprised me just how sad I was when the news came. I suppose here was a little piece of the past rediscovered, now gone (but not really). And the loss of our greatest talents to their insecurities and addictions is always a sadness.
I didn’t consciously seek out a dance floor for the specific reason of grieving her that weekend, but found myself on one that Saturday night just the same. It was only when our DJ spun away from the trending hits to explore the old forgotten territories of some Whitney remixes that I saw the wisdom of it. There on the dance floor, under the lights, in the company of my gay brothers, I’d found the perfect place to mourn her loss and celebrate her talent and that long-ago evening on a different dance floor.
I’ve been spending more time on dance floors this past year. Life’s too short not to dance and celebrate whenever possible and what better way to shake off the weight of the world? It’s something I realized on my summer vacation in Provincetown last year.
Sure, I live just up the road and I visit when I can, but it’s just not the same as being able to spend some quality time out there now and then for the whole Ptown experience: morning bike rides, beach walks, gallery crawls, cabaret shows, meals out and other assorted adventures with good friends on golden August afternoons. And whatever the day’s activities, they nearly always concluded with a rendezvous on the deck at the Boatslip for Tea Dance, with at least a couple hundred of our brothers, and sometimes, our sisters, as well.
In the company of our friends, we made new friends. Guys we’d seen around town, in restaurants and galleries and on the beach or the bike trail. We met and/or caught sight of some sort-of famous people. We talked and laughed and drank and basked and flirted and watched the sunset and danced.
It was Wednesday evening of our week, the night before the Carnival Parade and the deck was packed with people, all grooving to the disco thump of Maryalice’s Solid Gold groove. My quest for a bottle of water with which to hydrate between tasty rum punches lead me through the crowd and close enough to the dance floor to recognize Gloria Gaynor’s cover of I Am What I Am, and I knew I was really headed for the dance floor.
The place was far too packed to get on the actual dance floor, but that wasn’t stopping us all from dancing just the same. I’ve always loved the tune and it was just fantastic to enjoy it in such fine company. As I danced and marveled at the size of the crowd, I found myself suddenly imagining how much larger a crowd it might’ve been, my thoughts going to all those friends and loved ones our community has lost over the years – almost an entire generation to AIDS and so many others to bullying, insecurities and addictions. For just a moment, I was a little overwhelmed by the sadness of their absence.
But under all that, always pumping, was the music, now transitioning into Go West, the Pet Shop Boy’s cover of the Village People’s anthem about finding our own place in the world together, of building lives of love and laughter and peace and freedom. It’s another song I love – know every note and beat of – and the comfort of it came just as I imagined – could almost see and feel – all of our lost brothers there around me, encouraging me to revel in the beauty of the moment. They’d not want us to be sad for them, but to celebrate their memories with our dancing together and loving and being kind to one another and making the world the place they and we always wanted it to be, maybe even something better than we imagined.
It’s a tall order, of course, but somehow it starts there on the dance floor, all of us together. And so I danced. We danced. I danced with somebody – hundreds of somebodies. And we danced and danced and danced. At the end of the music that day when I rejoined my friends, I felt just a little changed by the experience in a way I’m still not sure I understand how to express.
But meanwhile, more than a few Saturdays (and some Fridays, too) have found me on one dance floor or another, shaking off the week and exploring my world to the beat of a drum. It’s all good fun, spending time in the company of my tribe, and good for the soul, too. So as the Boatslip opens its doors for another season this weekend, you’ll find me there, rendezvousing with some old friends and hopefully making some new ones, and, of course, dancing.
All in good time, as the song says, I’ll wanna dance with that somebody who loves me, but for now, I’m happy just to dance with everyone.