I can’t dance. I’ve never been able to dance. Well, sometimes I thought I could and would try to dance when I was using alcohol or some other substance. I have taken dance lessons with my daughter and others. I am stiff. I can’t dance. That’s just who I am.
My Granddaughter, in all her 4 ¾ year old curiosity heard about the Greek myth Medusa on a cartoon show.
She said, “Grandpa, if you look at Medusa’s head of snakes will you turn to stone?”
I answered, “Matilda, that story is like a fairy tale. It is not literal or really true like it sounds. It’s an ancient Greek myth. Its like Ariel in The Little Mermaid cannot really sing underwater but it makes a good story. Sometimes we can get messages and learning lessons from the stories.”
“Oh”, she said.
“I’ve never seen anyone turned to stone by anyone. We call these “metaphors” sometimes.”
“What’s a mellafor?”, she asked
“A metaphor will sound unrelated to what’s real yet we can apply the story them to our own lives and learn something about ourselves.”
“Will you tell me the story of Medusa sometime GrandPa?”, she asked.
“Yes, Matilda. I will.” I responded.
So I go back to the office and look up the Greek myth of Medusa. I should have something to tell her. What I know about these stories is that they are metaphors. I began remembering how I learned ‘I can’t dance’.
“I am 12 years old. I am living in Ramona California with my family. I have a best friend, Gilbert. He is having a party at his home for about 10 of our classmates. His parents are upstairs to look after us. We are in the downstairs basement of his home. It has been turned into a recreation or play-room. The lights are low. I am dressed in my peg leg levi’s with a white shirt, white socks and penny loafers. There is a great sound system for music, a pool table, a carom board and an old black and white television set. This was before color TV was invented. There is one area that is cleared away for dancing. Of all the people there I am attracted to or smitten by or really like this one particular girl. The music playing right now is “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley. I ask this one beautiful girl to dance. She is dressed in a pink poodle skirt with brown and white oxford shoes on. Her hair is in some form of a bee-hive. Elvis is known for some unique and unusual dance moves while he is singing. So I begin to dance just like Elvis. I bend my legs and begin shaking my knees back and forth into each other. I reach out to hold her while we were dancing. She steps back, points to my legs and laughs,
“What are you doing?”, she says. “That’s not dancing, You look silly.”
“I freeze. I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. I turn red and run upstairs.”
“And I haven’t danced since.’
She was not Medusa but in my eyes she was very powerful and I wanted only to please her. She did not have snakes in her hair. She did, however have the ability to snake bite me with her criticism, ridicule, shaming and making fun of me. That is what those metaphorical snakes are to me.
Turning to stone is a lot like being frozen with fear when Mom or anyone with the power of Mom shames you in whatever form that shaming may take.
I never told anyone about the “All Shook Up” dancing episode. I had already isolated myself from any kind of sharing of feelings with my parents or anyone. I think it was related to my smoking cigarettes and lying about it at that age. I simply never danced again. This is the first time in all my years that I told anyone about this.
Now I’m telling everyone about it.
I cannot wait to dance.
I don’t know what I am going to tell Matilda about the Medusa Story.