"If You're White, Keep It Tight."

Yeah, my husband tried that "pretend yawn arm around the shoulder move" on me.  Obviously it worked!

When it comes to rhythm, "White People" get a bad wrap.  Try doing a "soul clap" with an interracial audience and if it veers offbeat, who gets the blame? The White People.  Lead a song in church with everyone clapping on the 2 and 4,  and if it turns into the 1 and 3 who gets the blame? The White People. Try leading the Electic Slide at a wedding reception, and if part of the group ends up in the wrong direction who gets the blame? The White People.  In fact the title of this piece came from a (white) pastor  attempting to "exhort" a certain population that gets a little too "free" when it comes to physical expression.

My husband and I didn't do much dancing while we dated because 1) we're both homebodies and 2) my husband used to be pretty averse to dancing.  In fact, the first time we danced together in public was just a few months before our own wedding.  We were attending a wedding reception for a family friend and when the song African Queen came on, the next thing I knew my husband was making a beeline to the dance floor, dragging me behind him.  Interestingly enough, we met another interracial couple while we were dancing, who suddenly turned an innocent celebration into a competition.  They were trying to show us up!  Well we couldn't have that; not up in my hometown, no sir. So from there it basically degraded into an outtake from You Got Served: Interracial Couple Dance Battle Royale.

Early in the wedding planning process, I had some concerns about whether my husband would survive all the dancing that a wedding entailed.  And when we started putting together our reception playlist and program these concerns only grew larger:

Me: "Okay, so after our first dance I'll dance with my dad, you'll dance with my mom, we'll dance with each others' parents, and theninvite the rest of our family up to dance."
My Husband: Okay.
Me: And then we have to play The Electric Slide, because you just can't have a wedding without The Electric Slide.  I mean I think technically in the State of Maryland your wedding is invalid if you don't do The Electric Slide at your reception."
Hubs: (Silence. Blank stare.)
Me: "Why are you looking at me like that? It was just a joke!  Well, that last part anyway.  So, then we should do The Cha Cha Slide..."
Hubs: (Silence. Blank stare.)
Me: "Oh! And then we should Step In The Name of Love! Oh wait, maybe we should do that first? Before The Cha Cha Slide?"
Hubs: (Blank stare. Crickets chirping in the background)

Rest assured, we arranged to have a friend stop by teach my husband and his family the basics.  In fact, my favorite wedding photo is of everyone doing The Cha Cha Slide showing how-low-we-can-go-we-can-go-down-low-all-the-way-to-the-floor.

So I don't need to tell you who won the interracial dance battle *wink* *smirk*, but more importantly, that moment confirmed once again that yes, my husband was the man for me.  It made no difference whether he could Pop and Lock, do the Kid n' Play, or clear the floor and bust out The Worm.  What mattered was his willingess to step out of his comfort zone and try something new so that we could have a good time together and make a memory.  And he's become quite the dancing machine! Particularly when we're in cities where no one knows us.  I'm proud to be seen with him on the dancefloor.  Much to my surprise.

And I now realize that "rhythm" has more to do with context and culture than simply race.  I might be able to hold my own at a Go-Go but if I tried to hold my own against either one of these guys, I'd look a hot mess.  And for some reason I just can't get the hang of Conga Lines or any dance that involves a large group of people moving in a circular direction.  Put me in a Lebanese Dance Circle or in the middle of a Texas Two Step at a wedding reception and I'm liable to sneak off and find another piece of wedding cake after struggling for about three minutes.  Even in my own family some of us are first on the dancefloor and some avoid it all costs.  I'm sure there are many musicians who probably can't even dance to their own music, preferring to just lean back, rock with it, do a foot tap or a head nod.

So if nothing else, I've learned the futility of writing off someone's rythmic ability based merely on where they're from, how they look, or how they move in a particular instance.  In fact, I think the best advice is summed up by the great philosopher Henry David Thoreau: 

"If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away. "

Or as stated by the great philospher Young MC: "Just bust a move."


  1. I really like your blog! I'm Yoruba too (one parent "full" Nigerian and the other African American). But my mom later got remarried to a white guy. Very interesting. I've been thinking a lot about interracial relationships lately. A lot of ppl are missing out on a lot, I think, by vowing to only be in relationships with people of their own race. But it was hard, I'm not gonna lie, when my mom got remarried. But you give me a lot to think about! Thanks!

  2. @shatterting
    Welcome! Great to hear.
    Before I got married, I think I underestimated how much marriage would familial connections, so I feel you.

  3. This was so much fun to read.

    I love music & while I'm not the best dancer, it sure helps me speed thru my housework.

  4. @temple
    In my mind I could've been in one of the "You Got Served" dance crews, but in reality...

  5. "You Got Served: Interracial Couple Dance Battle Royale."


  6. @Eddie
    :) Yeah, it was pretty intense. I mean we DID have a reputation to uphold. Couldn't let the family down, lol.