I’m trying hard to put things in more or less the proper order. A few times I tried keeping a diary, but after a few days of mundane observations, I would become bored with myself and would abandon it without so much as a second’s regret. So, I’m relying almost entirely on my memory, tying to date things by remembering what other things might have been happening. Sitting next to J in French class must have occurred before I ever kissed a boy, and so on.
For a long time, I thought the first record album I ever bought was Some Girls by the Rolling Stones. However, my copy of Saturday Night Fever testifies to the fact that that memory is inaccurate, since the movie came out about six months earlier.
Like most non-Christian families, dinner on Easter Sunday for us was usually a big blow out feast at the nicest Chinese restaurant we could find. This was often paired with a movie. This particular Easter Sunday, however, my mother opened the paper to see what movies were playing. She chose for our holiday fare, Saturday Night Fever. Since this was not near a Chinese restaurant, Easter dinner would instead be fish and chips at a nearby fast food outlet.
The disco craze had been raging for a while. On television, there was a music and dance show called The Soap Factory which took place in a discotheque of the same name, located, as luck would have it, not far from where we lived. Like most discos, they didn’t permit minors inside most of the time. On Sunday afternoons however, they didn’t serve liquor and at some point they started having a “teenager’s afternoon.” I barely qualified as a teenager, but I looked old for my age, especially when I was in the company of my older sister and her friends. The Soap Factory was located, as the name would indicate, in a former factory building. The tall smoke stack was still visible from the highway the last time I went that way. The interior was a cavernous multi-level space. I can’t remember what I wore the first time I went. I believe I dressed down, because that was the social norm in the town where we lived. I would soon learn that different rules applied at the discotheque and my sister and I would eventually acquire a modest array of satin and sequined clothes for our Sunday afternoon dance marathons.
Once, I remember sitting in a room that had tiered, carpeted seating around the perimeter. There was an older boy of about sixteen whose black t-shirt wrapped tightly around his well-defined biceps. He walked up to me and asked me how much I weighed. I said a hundred and ten pounds. He said, “Would you do me a favor. I bet my friends that I could bench press you.” He lay* down on his back and I lay down on his upturned palms. He pushed me up in the air a few times until I started giggling.
“No way you weigh a hundred and ten. You weigh a hundred. A hundred and five tops.”
I was barely old enough to like boys, but I already knew to feel flattered when someone thought that I weighed less than I really did. I never saw this boy outside of the disco, but on Sundays I would seek him out.
About a year earlier, we moved into a different house, the one that was across the street. It’s a move that always raises eyebrows, but my mother always liked that house better and when the elderly couple who lived there put it up for sale, she bought it. Much to our surprise, they had installed disco lights in the basement. That’s how widespread the disco craze was. My sister and I put our crummy little stereo down there. We’d turn on the colored lights and dance around.
My sister was a dancer, of the serious sort. At that point, like most girls her age, she concentrated on ballet, but she was beginning to branch out and learn jazz and modern. She was one of those naturally coordinated people. Show her a move and she can imitate it. Of course, our family went into New York one afternoon to see A Chorus Line. We got into the city early, because my parents were always early wherever we went. We wandered around Times Square killing time. A group of boys, ranging from perhaps my sister’s age to a couple of years older, were doing break dancing, still something of a novelty to us suburbanites. At the end of their performance, or at least the end of a segment, my sister asked the boy closest to us how to do one of the more illusionist moves. He gave her a skeptical look and did the move slowly, once. Then he did it at a dance speed. She copied it. He showed her another move and she copied that. When we were little, one of my sister’s favorite games was to do a dance move and the other person had to imitate it. Then I would do a move and she would imitate it. Then she would do two moves. I would do two moves, and so on, until one of us couldn’t copy. She always won. Finally, the boy did the sort of move where he threw himself on the ground and broke his fall with his forearms, doing a sort of snaky push up. My sister laughed and shook her head. She had pretty good upper body strength for a girl, but she still wasn’t going to throw herself onto the pavement.
It might have been my sister’s interest in everything dance related that made my mother think that Saturday Night Fever was a good choice of movie on Easter. Growing up with my sister, I would learn more about dance than would otherwise have been likely. Every Easter, I feel like I should go into the city and. . . strut.
* WordPress tells me that I have the incorrect verb tense here, but I’m pretty sure that I’m right. Any thoughts?