Friday, January 3, 2014

A Worm Hole In My Life

I kicked my legs and, get this, nothing happened. Well, something happened, but not what I had hoped.

The leg kick was supposed to be the thrust needed to start the motion, which would lift my thighs off the ground, followed by my midsection, then my chest as my toes simultaneously returned to the floor, and it would finish in a great climax as my head and arms would raise and return to earth last, completing that famous eighties dance move known as the worm.

I ought to know, I’ve been able to do the worm since I was about 12 years old.

Thirty years later, at a particularly-raucous family holiday party, with a crowd gathered around the living room (mostly my kids), and music blaring, and people chanting stuff like, “Do the Worm, Dad!"

I kicked and nothing.

Instead of propelling my thighs skyward with enough momentum to lift my midsection off the ground, my thighs only flew up a few inches and my “midsection” stayed put. I stared ahead, waiting for the wave to reach my fingertips. It never came.  

“C’mon, Dad, you can do it,” encouraged my daughter who’s seen me do the worm countless times. All right, maybe not countless. She’s seen it about four times, but we weren’t counting.  

“Show ‘em dad!” she hollered, smiling ear to ear.

So I kicked again, even harder. Nothing. 

This is a move I’ve been able to do for the past three decades, whenever the right mix of dance and spirits collided. I’ve even busted it out at a few weddings over the years. I'm that guy.

So, I kicked again. And, just like a broke-down car unable to turnover, this time the kick was less hard.

Maybe it was something I ate? Maybe I failed to properly warm-up, not doing the sprinkler enough before daringly laying my body on the ground and attracting the attention of a living room full of awkward dancers? Or maybe I’m just getting too old to do the worm?

Not too old, as in too mature. But too old, like I physically cannot do it. 

I’ve written about getting older before. Here, here, and here.  Jeez. Maybe I have issues with getting older. It beats the alternative, I know. But it’s still hard.

They say, as you get older, time seems to move faster. I’m wondering if gravity doesn’t have an increased effect too.

I first perfected the worm in the mid-eighties, putting me likely in Junior High – back when doing the worm was first cool. (Yes it was). The worm was just part of my repertoire of popping dance moves. I was OK at this new breakdancing thing. Not great, especially at the spinning floor work. But I could pop – sort of.

I don't have a picture of myself in
parachute pants, thankfully.  This
random moonwalker will have to do.
It all crystalized for me when I watched Michael Jackson do the Moonwalk while singing "Billie Jean" on the Motown 25th anniversary show. That was March 25, 1983. I was eleven. My brothers and I watched it in our living room. That's right; I remember where I was when I first saw the moonwalk. How sad is that?
I’m not much of a Michael Jackson fan, which seems cruel to say, being that he’s dead and all. But I never was. I was just captivated by that one dance move. 

My brothers and I then tried to do it all night and for many days to come, running across the room in our socks and then turning around real quick, hoping our speed would carry us across the floor. It didn’t. At least, not with the effect we were hoping to achieve.  

After much practice, and less ill-conceived attempts, I finally figured it out how to moonwalk. I then learned the moonwalk is the gateway drug to full-on popping. Once you can moonwalk, people expect you to do more. So I learned more moves. The Wave. The Smurf. The Worm. I even had a robot move, but it was pretty weak.

In about 8th grade I went to a dance at a rival Junior High with a few friends. The dance organizers held an impromptu popping competition. I finished second. Of course, there were only two kids who had enough gumption and lacked enough sense to enter the contest. So I also finished last. 

The other guy did a really convincing robot, and when it ended, the applause-o-meter pointed his direction. For the record, he also had more friends there. Which, in itself, is a sad commentary on my life.

As I laid there, recently, on the living room floor over the holidays, with my kids hooting and hollering at me, and my body refusing to cooperate, I thought of that lost dance competition thirty some years ago. What a fitting end to my illustrious popping career. Somebody might actually have to help me up.

So, as the rest of the world marks the start of another year by setting new goals; and beginning new chapters in their lives. I’m grappling with the fact that I can no longer do the worm. 

It’s heavy. As my kids say, "Darn you, gravity!"  

And it is yet more evidence that I am getting old – like I needed that.  

Of course, I can still moonwalk.

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