Single Girl Diaries: The Grind

(Not really) relationship columnist Ellise Verheyen on her take on dancing with strangers

At the ripe age of nine years old, my mother decided it was time for me to be a dancer.

Needless to say, we discovered that I was an atrocious dancer. I couldn’t tap, tumble or pirouette to save my life. I thought practice might help, but my dance studio burned to the ground, abruptly ending my dreams of ever becoming a high-kicking Rockette.

With such a sudden end to my dancing career, I stopped dancing cold turkey. No more leotards for this girl.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college when dancing Ellise made her reappearance. At Déjà Vu Comedy Club, nonetheless.

Déjà Vu, a small club downtown, is a popular hangout for many Columbia residents. I‘ve always avoided clubs, but in January of my freshman year, a friend decided to go there for her birthday. This was all new to me, and I was terrified.

“I can’t dance,” I thought hopelessly.

But of course, I’m a pushover and was easily persuaded.

As we arrived at the club, my heart began to beat uncontrollably. I’d never been this nervous to walk into a building before. As the hefty bouncer checked my ID, the realization of what I was about to do sunk in. Gulp.

I walked in with friends at my side and checked out the dance floor. Fortunately, it wasn’t as grimy as I’d anticipated. We took off our jackets and made our way to the center of the small room. The night had just begun, so there wasn’t a large crowd, and I began to breathe again.

“I can do this,” I lied to myself.

Within a few minutes, I found myself sitting at a table “guarding” the jackets (or so I told everyone). I began to survey the room: intoxicated cougars were pursuing one friend, a grown man was trailing another. A few friends were grooving on tables, while my roommate was discovering that her new boyfriend had mastered dancing in place.

As I watched my friends acting like fools, I realized that I didn’t care if I could dance or not. I was going to have fun. So I got up and began to move. It started with a light jig and sporadic movement of my hands. I was channeling a new Ellise, an Ellise that could boogie. I was dancing in an actual club. I was a big girl.

That’s when it happened.

“Who is touching me?” I thought to myself in a panic. “What is touching me?”

I slowly turned my head to witness my worst nightmare coming to fruition. A stranger was grinding on me. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never been in this kind of situation before. Curse my newfound dancing skills.

I looked to my group of friends for salvation. No one had noticed my predicament. A creepy older guy’s business was in my proximity! No one was helping me, so I did the most rational thing I could think of: I stopped moving. I just stood there like a deer in headlights while this guy continued to grind all up on me.

He didn’t take the hint.

I began to walk forward toward the circle of safety near my friends, but he just kept on coming. I thought about politely asking him to stop, but I didn’t want to face my assailant. Rather than being an adult about it, I began to yell.

“IT’S TOUCHING ME,” I shouted to my nearest friends while making my eyes as wide as possible.

A friend finally understood what “it” was referring to and bravely reached from the circle, transporting me to safety. I heard a scoff from behind me, but the grinding had ceased. I was free. I had survived.

After the dancing fiend sulked back to the bar, I was able to find my groove once again and danced the night away in peace.

I consider my clubbing experience a rite of passage. It wasn’t what I’d expected, but I discovered that I was able to let go of my inhibitions and have fun dancing (poorly), with the added benefit of learning how to not-so-gracefully shut down the creepers.

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