Dean's been getting on my case for never announcing (even to him, sometimes) when I've been published in the occasional periodical. It's not that I don't value these things, really; it's just that I whip the pieces out as quickly as I can once the assignments are passed to me, with the result that I've sort of forgotten about them by the time they come out. In fact, I don't always know when they do come out, which is why I'm hugely grateful to people like Oliver, who inform me when my work has actually seen the light of publication. This one was requested by Oliver to publicize the musical Footloose, and came out in last Sunday's Philippine Star.I used to dance alone in my room when I was eleven years old. This was an absolute deadly secret—I would make sure that the seven other people (plus assorted household help) I lived with at the time were either all out of the house, or so preoccupied that they could not be bothered to investigate even the skull-smashing racket which I then considered to be the minimum volume necessary to achieve listening pleasure.
Which of course I didn't get to buy, having been comatose the whole morning from karaoke-ing into the wee hours on Saturday. Ay, me, as Shakespeare would say.
Hey, I told you I was eleven at the time, didn’t I? I was so tall for my age that I towered over most boys in my sixth-grade class; and I went around slouching like a pre-human out of the Jurassic not only because of my height, but also because I had begun to develop breasts, which were a primary source of my acute preadolescent embarrassment. (Particularly since my mother had apparently decided that every sentient being within a 200-mile radius needed to have my burgeoning mammaries pointed out to them. “Look, they’re so beeg!” she would cry out gleefully.)
So there was no way I was going to let anyone witness my surreptitious dancing, especially not with the troublesome boobs jiggling this way and that at the slightest provocation. (Who knew that I would one day smugly torment hapless males with this selfsame phenomenon?) I even chased our family shih tzu out of the room once or twice, when I suspiciously believed I had spotted judgment in poor Socks’s doggy brown eyes.
And then came Footloose.
Even in 1984, it was a really simple story: city boy moves to a small town from the big city, and comes into conflict with parochial small-town values. In this case, the antagonists were the town fathers and the local reverend (played by John Lithgow, pre-Third Rock), who had banned rock music and dancing within the town limits. The city boy (named Ren, and played by Kevin Bacon) observed that teenagers would dance--at a seedy roadhouse just outside town--and, more importantly, should dance, if they were so inclined. He therefore spoke up for his convictions (and got beaten up for it--well, mostly for cozying up to leading lady Lori Singer, actually) and eventually triumphed.
Oh, but it was just so much more extraordinary than that! It was the first movie I ever watched that had some sort of political underpinning (Eleven, remember?), and probably engendered my first conscious insight into human nature--that people need to find someone or something to blame; but that adversity can, on occasion, be overcome with courage, persistence, and passion.
Sounds like a lot to derive from a teenage flick about dancing, doesn’t it? Well, it was probably the music that did it--Footloose was the first album I bought for myself, with my own money, and I played that cassette tape only slightly more often than I watched the Betamax tape of the movie. (Betamax being a video format that has long gone the way of my pre-human slouch.) And I planned to marry Kevin Bacon when I was older... but it was Chris Penn, as Ren’s best friend Willard, who truly inspired me.
Willard could and did dance, although possibly he shouldn’t have. He was not the best dancer, and certainly not the best-looking guy in the film, but he wanted to dance and so he did, regardless of his gawky beanpole frame and flailing elbows and knees. It was never actually stated in the film, but it was somehow clear to me that--although nearly everyone else was a spectacular dancer--what mattered was not how well anybody danced, but that they did dance, for the sheer joy and fun and freedom of it.
And so I danced--if not exactly throwing open the doors of my then-teddy bear-filled room, then leaving them unlocked, at least. And so I still dance, in private or in public, head held high and chest thrust out, Footloose and embarrassment-free.
Also: Jac interviewed me a coupla weeks ago for her ongoing Pinays in Comics series. Check it out if you like here.