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Illustration: Chris Silas Neal

Illustration: Chris Silas Neal


我和男友麥可交往才一個月,他就問了一個令我裹足不前的問題。
他並非想套出我離婚的悲慘細節,也不是想旁敲側擊我到底賺多少錢。他提的問題更糟,確切用語如下:「要不要找一天和我一塊去跳舞?」
多數人肯定會毫不猶豫地答應。誰不想到城裏的夜店,沉醉在音樂中,消磨一個晚上呢?
就是我,我就不想。因為我從沒學過跳舞 。
我帶着堆滿歉意的笑臉,向他招認:「我跳得不怎麼樣。」
他不為所動。「不過,你喜不喜歡?」
我一時語塞,沒料到他會有此一問。
有那麼幾次,我在摩肩接踵的夜總會裏恣意擺動,或跟朋友賈姬玩Wii「舞力全開」的遊戲殺時間時,內心深處還真喜歡那種無拘無束的感覺。但其他多數時候,我都覺得自己像是趕鴨子上架,既緊張又笨拙,深恐每個人都盯着我,看出我哪裏「跳錯」了。
畢竟,從來沒有人教我腳往哪兒踩,手又該怎麼擺。在重播的電視影集《妙家庭》中,我看到劇中的大女兒即將參加重要舞會前,她的父親對她面授機宜。少女時代的我,一直等待父親像《妙家庭》裏那樣幫我上一課,但他從沒這麼做,而我也沒要求過。
在學校舞會上,我可以和男生保持禮貌的距離,隨着搖滾情歌搖擺。可是只要一放快歌,我就衝向最近的椅子。我既害羞又扭怩,不想在同儕面前顯露一副蠢樣。我知道他們一定會品頭論足,這種事以前也曾發生過。
那是在高中的時候,我因放不開而學不會YMCA的舞步,教我們的小老師當眾就訓了我一頓。我高中和大學時代參加的每一場家族婚禮,父親都愛拿我開玩笑,說我遺傳了他(有缺陷)的舞蹈基因。就連到了三十多歲的年紀,前夫還嘲笑我的舞姿。
但我真的很喜歡麥可,喜歡到願意為他跨出自己的舒適區。我暗暗發誓,要讓自己能夠輕鬆自在地和他一塊兒去跳舞。
我明白我得搬救兵。
首先,我致電跟我一起玩Wii的賈姬。在我認識的人當中,她最常跳舞。她認為,如果我可以多跟能夠真正自在相處的人跳舞,就能學會如何樂在其中。我在兒女身旁總能徹底放鬆,就算出醜的時候也一樣,所以我辦了一場即興舞會,和孩子們在家跳起舞來。
有了信心之後,我向麥肯錫.穆舍爾請益。她是美國健康與體育教育者協會選出的二○一四年全美最佳舞蹈教師。
「許多人都視當眾跳舞為一項極大的冒險,」穆舍爾告訴我,「其實最困難的部分是克服『我跳舞時是啥模樣』的焦慮。如果能找到一些讓你跳起來很自在的舞步,就可以成為你的支柱。」
孩子們和我開始經常跳舞,我對自己的舞技也卸下心防。練習讓我能夠融入音樂,不再想着現在該怎麼做。才幾週,我就覺得已準備妥當,可以在公開場合跳舞了。但基於害羞的過往,我又聯絡了一位專家。
因為我總是放不下別人對我舞姿的批評,印地安那大學東南校區害羞研究中心主任伯納多.卡杜齊要我正面思考。
「人在高度自覺時,會把焦點放在自己的缺點上,只記得別人一句負面的評語,而不是自己做對了的五十件事情,」他說,「但其實,別人並不在乎你跳得如何;他們在乎的是自己跳得如何。」
卡杜齊也勸我跳舞時不要喝酒,因為藉喝酒克服羞怯的人,會把成功的經驗歸因於酒精,而非自己。
那一週,我邀愛跳騷莎的朋友寶拉到附近的夜總會去。我坐着喝汽水,直到DJ播了一首我喜愛的歌,我們才下到舞池。
只有十個人在跳舞,因此沒有可供掩護的人羣。話雖如此,我還是按照在家練習的方式舞動。我感到活力四射,甚至還將雙手高舉過頭,這可是我從未在眾人面前有過的舉動。
「你跳得不錯啊!」寶拉的喊叫越過音樂傳來,納悶我們為何要來此地練習。那種感覺很棒。
之後不久,麥可和我行經某間酒吧,我提議進去坐坐。(我沒提的是,多年來我一直想進去,卻因裏面的舞池而卻步。)
酒吧裏音樂震天價響,舞池中雙雙對對婆娑起舞。麥可和我坐着聊天,一個小時過去了,兩人仍未離開吧台的高腳椅,於是我壯起膽子,邀他共舞。
我拉起麥可的手,領他朝正旋轉舞動的人羣走去,雖然腦海裏有個聲音告訴自己:音樂不對──我該怎麼跟着現場演奏的樂隊起舞?
就在那一刻,我幡然了悟無論當晚發生什麼事,都無關緊要了。
也就是說,在我和寶拉去夜總會的時候,就已經跳過我的勝利之舞了。我沒必要向麥可證明我有勇氣在舞池裏迴旋;我需要的是向自己證明,而我已經辦到。如果我可以在滿屋子的陌生人面前跳舞,當然也可以在愛我的男人面前跳。
樂隊奏起音樂,我和麥可緩緩擺動肢體舞動着。對於我花了多大力氣才迎來這一刻,他毫不知情。而能夠不帶歉意、不覺彆扭,舞起來更是帶勁兒。我覺得輕鬆自在。
後來我才想起,我記不得我們跳舞時麥可跳得怎麼樣,這教我不禁莞爾。卡杜齊說得對:我只顧着自己,根本無暇注意我愛的這個男人。我猜我很快就得再邀他去跳舞了。


The Music in Me

My partner Michael and I had been dating for only a month when he asked me a question that made me cringe inside. He wasn’t fishing for sordid details about my divorce.
He wasn’t prying about how much money I made. What he asked was much worse. His exact words were: “Would you like to go dancing with me some time?”
Most people would have said yes without hesitation. Who wouldn’t want to hit a club in the city and surrender to the music for an evening?
I wouldn’t, that’s who. Because I never learned how to dance.
With my most apologetic smile, I confessed, “I’m not very good.”
He wasn’t deterred. “Well, do you enjoy it?”
I paused, thrown by his question.
Deep down, I’ve always loved how free I felt on the few occasions when I allowed myself to move with complete abandon at a packed nightclub. Goofing around with my friend Jacki and her Wii Just Dance. Most other times that I felt compelled to dance, I was tense and awkward, worried that everyone was watching and would see that I was doing it “wrong.”
After all, nobody ever taught me which way to step or what to do with my hands. On reruns of the TV ­series The Brady Bunch, I watched as the eldest daughter received a lesson from her dad before she went to an important dance. As a teen, I waited endlessly for my dad to provide my Brady-style lesson, but he never ­offered and I never asked.
At school dances, I’d sway to power ballads with boys at arm’s length, but whenever a fast song began, I’d dash for the closest chair. I was shy and self-conscious and didn’t want to look foolish around my peers. I was certain that they’d be critiquing me. It had happened before.
In high school, when I felt too awkward to learn the “YMCA” dance moves, the teen teaching us rebuked me in front of everyone. At every family wedding that I attended during high school and college, my father joked that I’d inherited his (flawed) dancing genes. Even throughout my 30s, my now ­ex-husband belittled my moves.
But I really liked Michael – so much so, I was willing to step outside my comfort zone. I secretly vowed to ­become at ease enough with myself to go dancing with him.
I realised that I needed help.
First, I called my Wii pal Jacki, who dances more than anyone I know. She thought that I could learn to enjoy myself if I danced often with someone I was truly comfortable with. I’m completely relaxed around my son and daughter, even at my most ­awkward. So I threw an impromptu dance party and pranced around the house with my kids.
Feeling confident, I sought advice from MacKenzie Mushel, SHAPE America’s 2014 National Dance Teacher of the Year.
“Many people see dancing in public as a really big risk,” Mushel told me. “The hardest part is getting past the anxiety of ‘What do I look like when I dance?’ If you can find a few dance moves that you’re comfortable with, that can be your pillar.”
My kids and I started dancing regularly, and I relaxed about my technique. Practising helped me ease into the music without wondering what to do. Within weeks, I felt ready to dance in public, but because of my history of shyness, I contacted an expert.
Bernardo Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, told me to think positively, because I’ve always clung to people’s criticisms about my dancing.
“When you’re highly self-conscious, you focus on your negative characteristics, and you select to remember one negative comment you receive instead of the 50 things you did right,” he said. “The truth is, people don’t care how you dance; they care how they dance.”
Carducci also urged me to dance ­sober, because people who drink to overcome shyness attribute their success to alcohol, not themselves.
That week, I invited my salsa-dancing friend Paula to our local nightclub. I sipped soda water until the DJ played a song that I liked, and we headed to the dance floor.
Only ten people were dancing, so there was no crowd for camouflage. Nonetheless, I danced how I’d practised at home. It felt invigorating! I even lifted my hands above my head, which I’d never done in public before.
“You’re not a bad dancer!” Paula shouted over the music, wondering why we were there. That felt good.
Not long afterwards, ­Michael and I walked past a particular bar and I suggested that we stop in. (I didn’t mention that I’d wanted to go for years but had shied away because of the dance floor.)
Inside, the music blasted. Couples grooved on the dance floor. Michael and I sat and got caught up in conversation. An hour later, we still hadn’t left our bar stools, so I boldly asked him to dance.
I grabbed Michael’s hand and steered him toward the gyrating masses, even though a little voice inside my head was stage-whispering, The music isn’t right – how am I ­going to dance to a live band?
That’s when I realised that whatever happened that night didn’t really matter.
My real victory dance, so to speak, had taken place when I went out with Paula. I didn’t need to prove to ­Michael that I was brave enough to move on a dance floor; I needed to prove it to myself, and I’d already done that. If I could dance in a room full of strangers, surely I could do it again with the man who loved me.
The band played and I half-swayed, half-danced with Michael, who had no idea what lengths I’d gone to reach that moment. It was empowering to move without apologising or feeling awkward. I felt free.
Later, I realised that I couldn’t ­recall how Michael had looked when we were dancing, which made me chuckle. Carducci was right: I’d been so obsessed with myself, I hadn’t even paid attention to the man I love. I guess that I’ll have to ask him to go dancing again soon.
 

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