I have lived in the shadow of defeat for the past year. Sure, I’ve gone to work, socialized with friends, even made a few new ones. I’ve laughed and joked and gone about my life, but it has all been under the pall of tainted honor. For one year ago, I met a knight who proved my better. I fell to the swift sword of his infectious beat. One year ago, I fell to the notorious Sir Mix-A-Lot.
I won’t soon forget the challenge Mix-A-Lot issued to the assembled revelers at my good friends’ wedding reception. Sure, I had a couple chocolate martinis in me…and some rum from a thermos a friend had spirited into the building, but I felt ready to meet Sir Mix-A-Lot on the level ground of the makeshift dance floor covering the marble of the Minnesota Historical Society. His words said all the wrong things, objectifying women, reducing their worth to the circumference of their backsides; but the beat of the song said something else. The rhythm pounding through the rented sound system said, “I dare you not to dance to this.”
Well, this knight had picked the wrong day to make assumptions about my reluctance to dance due to moral and political reservations about a song’s lyrics. As a woman who sometimes forgets to brush her hair, I was feeling special in my plum-colored bridesmaid dress, neatly curled hair, and professionally applied makeup. And I had an advantage over Mix-A-Lot: he didn’t know of my family’s wedding dancing legacy. He couldn’t know that my father is none other than “The Dancing Machine” of southeastern Wisconsin.
Ah, but as fate would have it, my father’s legacy is a cruelly ironic one. For as I bore the mantle of The Dancing Machine, little did I know that my knees were quaking under the weight of it. I had inherited my father’s weak knees, and they were about to prove my very public undoing.
Just as I was answering Mix-A-Lot’s call to shake it, shake it, shake that healthy butt, there was an ear-splitting POP, and I found myself flat on the very moneymaker I’d been shaking mere moments before. At first, I was at a loss as to what had happened. My mind raced for the answer, quickly weighing the little evidence I had. There was the loud POP and the fact that I was on the floor. “Am I shot?” I wondered. But before I could remember if Sir Mix-A-Lot was from the East or West Coast, I caught sight of a foot to my left. It was wearing my shoe and appeared to be attached to a leg in my skirt, but the angle was all wrong; it couldn’t be attached to me.
As my friends formed a supportive circle of laughter around me, I was horrified to discover that the foot and the awkwardly bent leg were indeed mine. Unable to stand on my own and finding all my friends’ hands occupied in the act of pointing at me, I exited the dance floor by the only means left to me: this baby scooted backwards out of the flashing lights and into the darkness of a shame that has haunted me for a year.
The scooting may have managed to jostle my wayward joint back into place, but I limped through the world for a good two months. And when the swelling in my knee and foot finally went down, I carried the scars of my encounter with Sir Mix-A-Lot on the inside. My confidence was shaken; my ability to continue my family’s proud wedding dancing legacy was in doubt. I thought about Mix-A-Lot often, thought of a rematch. I knew how to find him; he had brazenly shouted his number, 1-900-MIX-ALOT, as I struggled to remove my fancy shoe from my rapidly swelling foot. But I couldn’t bring myself to meet him again…
…That is, not until a wedding I attended last weekend. It was in a small town in Wisconsin, and there were far more people at the bar than on the dance floor. This was my comeback dance, and I had eased back into it with the twist and some flailing to Love Shack. Along with the bride, I was one of about six women on the dance floor when the DJ announced a special request from one local man to another. The bride and her local friends froze as the DJ continued, “I don’t really want to know what this is all about, but here we go.”
“We got to get out of here,” the bride said as she joined the exodus from the dance floor. I was almost back to my table when I heard that unmistakable beat and that whiny woman’s voice urging Becky to look at another woman’s impossibly big butt, and I knew in an instant why everyone had run. This whiny woman is but the herald to the dark knight who commands feet and legs to dance and, yes, knees to bend unnaturally before him. As the local women scattered, I couldn’t blame them for their fear. The last time I’d faced Sir Mix-A-Lot, I’d ended up missing two days of work and riding the electric shopping cart at Target.
“I like big butts, and I cannot lie,” came his voice through the darkened dance hall. I spun on my heels and looked back at the deserted dance floor. Lights flickered on empty parquet flooring. Not a soul, it seemed, was brave enough to face Mix-A-Lot in that arena. I looked to my friend Sarah, who had been witness (pointing, laughing witness) to my fall one year ago. She looked to the dance floor and back at me then nodded slowly; I knew would not face him alone. I persuaded the bride to come back to the dance floor with us, and several women reluctantly followed her.
Our little mass of flailing femininity moved toward the dance floor, and I steeled myself with quiet resolve: I would not kneel before Sir Mix-A-Lot…mostly because I can’t really kneel anymore without shooting pains in my leg. But as I took those first tentative steps back into the flickering lights, that familiar beat pounding through the autumn air, I was surrounded by women shaking their butts in solidarity, and I knew I had already won.