Last weekend I visited my parents. They live in a suburbia that I have been in the position to know for a few years, leave for many, come back to for a few years, leave for many, and then return to every once in a while for trips where I stick my head out the window a lot and marvel that there are trees right alongside the road like nature just exists wherever it feels like. (New York City: where mold is considered a houseplant.)
One thing that has changed remarkably little from my childhood is the strip mall a few miles away from my house, which still has the same ice cream chain, pizza chain, and grocery chain as it did when I was seven. It also has the dance studio where I spent one memorable year. Only one. You'll see why.
The year? 1988. The class? Miss Somebody's Pretend Jazz Dance For Mildy-Uncoordinated Young Ladies. Your writer? A GIANT. (No joke, in the picture of us in our recital costumes I'm about three inches taller than everyone else, which makes me look like I was held back three times for being an Exceptionally-Uncoordinated Young Lady.)
The recital number: "I Think We're Alone Now," by Tiffany.
Hell yes it was. It was 1988.
The outfits: black camisole leotards with diagonal rows of hot pink sequins and fringe, as if Barbie had become a demented flapper. Plus, one of those hot pink sequin headbands that gave you migraines and left a sparkly residue on your forehead for weeks.
How long it took to put the routine together: one billion years. Stars were born and died before a room full of 7-year-olds had figured out how to get through this dance.
What I remember of the routine: a lot of repeat foot-taps on each side to fill time. A bastardized version of the Running Man, to be used during all relevant lyrics. Turning our backs to the audience and hugging ourselves for the "put your arms around me" lyric. Lying on the floor and lifting our pelvises into the air. (I don't know what to tell you. Apparently this is an okay thing for seven-year-olds to do in a dance recital. They were more innocent times, I guess.) Doing The Lawn Sprinkler
. A big leap near the end.
How I was: PISSED. I was one of three girls who had memorized the whole thing (this is before my memory turned to pudding). They put one of us in the first row, center, and the other two in the back row, on the edges. "To anchor the other girls," they said. I was so far off to the side of the stage that I spent most of the routine behind a trellis.
This is actually, as it turns out, the ideal way for me to perform anything. The next time I got in front of an audience for debate or something in middle school, there was no trellis, and I had an attack of nerves that ended with me turning around and walking offstage and bombing that grade. (Whoops.)
However, at the time I was really proud of being one of three people who could memorize The Entire Thing, and I was not happy about being unable to prove it to anyone. In the VHS recording my dad took of it, you could occasionally catch a glimpse of my face through the trellis, absolutely fuming, looking like I was waiting to be alone with the song's object so I could murder them without witnesses. ("The beating of our hearts is the only sound...soon to be singular.")
That video has vanished into the mists of time, because the internet wasn't popular yet (THANK YOU GOD), but as I drove past that strip mall last weekend, I got a memory rush of the entire thing, and realized I could remember more of that dance routine than I could of almost anything else that has actually happened to me in my life.
This is either a testament to the power of music, or proof that my brain is allocated as follows:
You make the call!