When Jeremy and I decided to adopt, we were standing in the parking lot of an In Vitro Fertilization office. We had just left a lengthy consultation with the doctor. On the walk to the car, Jeremy and I both agreed that we’d rather be parents than pregnant. At last, a huge weight had been lifted from us.
As Jeremy and I stood there and embraced in the parking lot, ready to start our future, I took his face into my hands and looked him in the eyes and said, “At least if we adopt, our children won’t have your revolting feet.” Jeremy gently kissed me on the forehead and replied, “And they won’t inherit your hideous dancing face either.”
After that we got in our car, drove off and ate the most delicious burrito ever. The burrito has no relevance on this story, but it was just THAT GOOD.
I first became aware that I had a “dancing face” in 2000. Jeremy and I were at a big, fancy company party with a live band playing 70s funk. I was so excited. I bought myself the biggest ball gown ever and slipped on my highest pair of strappy Payless heels. (Right now Stiletto Mom is choking on her bagel while reading that I wore Payless shoes. In my defense, I was young and naive and the word Manalos wasn't yet a blip on my radar.)
Anyhoo, I couldn’t wait to shake my groove thang on that dance floor. We walked through the door and I made an immediate bee-line for the middle of the floor dragging Jeremy along with me. I proceeded to get down and jiggy with it. I was throwing down my best moves, The Cookie Jar, The Running Man. Hell, I even moon walked. In heels. No, I moon walked in CHEAP HEELS.
I was just wrapping up my best Bounce and Lean move when Jeremy grabbed me by the arm and pulled me behind two giant tower speakers in the corner. Had my wicked dance moves made me irresistible? Turns out, not so much. Jeremy pulled me aside because he had got his first whiff of my dancing face.
Jeremy: What are you doing with your face?
Me: What do you mean? (still dancing)
Jeremy: Are you doing that on purpose? It’s really freaking me out. Why do you frown and wince when you dance? Do you mean to stick your tongue out the far? Did you know that your eyes go all crossed when you dance?
I ignored him and just kept on hustling out there on the dance floor. Jeremy just backed away and stood, staring at me from the sidelines along with a small crowd of his co-workers gawking in my direction.
The next day, we had my parents over for brunch and I brought up the subject of my dancing face. My mom put her fork down and looked at me nervously. “Honey, I think the time has come that we have a little talk.”
My mom went on to explain that she and my father had discovered my dancing face “condition” at an early age. When I was three years old, my parents enrolled me in a beginners dance class. At the first recital, they noticed my face would contort into an odd expression when I performed on the stage with the other little girls. As I got older, it just got worse. My mom said that by age seven I had developed the most severe case of “white girl overbite” that anyone had ever seen. She even took me to a few specialists, professional choreographers of sorts, to see if they could help me. None could. They all felt my dancing face deformity had just progressed too far.
“Mom, what about the box full of ribbons I have for dance competitions?” I demanded.
“Those are Participant ribbons, honey,” she gently replied.
“Yeah, but they don’t just hand those out willy-nilly do they?” I asked.
Tears formed in my mom’s eyes as she explained to me that every little girl received a Participant ribbon with their registration packet.
“But remember how I won fifth place in the individual dance competition in grade school?” I protested. My mom explained that even though placing fifth was quite an achievement, only four little girls had entered.
My dad suddenly pulled a picture out of his coat pocket. He handed it to me across the table. “Here, sweetie, take a look at this,” he said. I looked down to see he was holding my prom picture from 1990. "Wow, my hair was really bad back then," was my first thought. But then I saw past the high bangs, past the bad perm and focused on my face. There it was, my ugly dancing face.
My dad has yet to offer a reasonable explanation as to why he carries my prom picture around in his pocket. But that's for another day.
From then on, Jeremy ran our house like that mean dad in Footloose. Music was kept to a minimum at our place. If I wanted to dance he asked that I do so in the bedroom behind closed doors. Sometimes, when we was out of town, I would get in the car, turn the radio up really loud and just jam out. When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
In 2004, we were blessed with the arrival of Henry in our lives. And as fate would have it, Henry came to us with superior dancing genes. His birth mother was a breakdancer. I’m. Not. Kidding. A breakdancer with very good-looking feet, I might add. Double jackpot! Jeremy and I were high fiving all over the joint.
At eighteen months, Henry could cut a serious rug. When he heard music, he was out on the dance floor shakin’ his little money maker. People would stop and comment on what a coordinated little boy we had. “He’s definitely got the rhythm!” Jeremy would respond. I, on the other hand, was quick to point out to total strangers how handsome Henry’s feet looked in open-toed sandals. We each had our own priorities.
About six months ago, I began spending a lot more time working on my dancing face in private. I would tell the kids, “Mommy’s going upstairs to rehearse! I’m locking the door.” Jeremy would just smile and nod. I was beginning to think my dancing face was improving with time. My white girl overbite had noticeably receded, my squinty eyes were definitely less prominent. I was ready to show Jeremy my progress.
A few nights ago, after both children were tucked away in bed, I pulled Jeremy and my portable boom box into the kitchen. I qued up Milkshake by Kelis’ (my practice song of choice) and launched into my self-choreographed routine that I had been perfecting over the past two years.
Before Kelis’ had even reached the first chorus about her milkshake bringing all the boys to the yard, Jeremy stopped me. “No, no, no! It’s all wrong, Jen! Your mouth contortions have grown worse. When did you add that wink? Why do you keep sticking your tongue out when you moon walk? And WHY do you think it’s still acceptable to moon walk?” He shouted.
I stood there, looking at him defeated. I thought I was doing so much better. I had been working hard, practicing nightly in front of our full-length mirror.
Just then, we heard a rustle from around the corner. Jeremy and I sneaked down the ahll to investigate. We found Henry huddled in a large box spying on us. He poked his head out from the top of the box and gave us a little grin.
“What are you doing up?” Jeremy quizzed him.
“I heard mommy’s dancing music and I wanted to come dance,” he answered.
Henry then began bouncing and clapping to the rhythm, even throwing in a bootie slap here and there. I was so caught up in the ease and grace of his movements that I totally overlooked his face at first. But eventually my eyes made their way upward and saw Henry making the very same dancing face that I have.
Jeremy and I shrieked at the same time and grabbed on to one another. Jeremy cried, “No, son, no! Not you too!”
Yes, it seems that Jeremy’s greatest fear had come true. The rhythm had gotten Henry. He had inherited my dancing face.
Jeremy turned to me and held my face in his hands. As tears rimmed his eyes he croaked, “Well, at least he still has good-looking feet.”