Many months ago, I was out dancing with a friend at a club I frequent when a stranger approached me and informed me that people were laughing at us while we were dancing. There was a gleeful malice to the way she passed this information on that astonished me. This wasn't friendly. She meant it to hurt. And it did, for two reasons.
Reason the first: I knew this girl to see her; we have many mutual friends, and although we had never met, I had seen her name and picture pop up on other people's facebook pages. She seemed fun and I admired her style. She was one of the cool kids.
Reason the second: To quote Madonna, only when I'm dancing can I feel this free. I love the communal aspect of the dance floor, dancing with friends and strangers to songs we all love, sharing the groove, singing along. And while I am ashamed to admit that I have been guilty of judging others in the past, particularly those who cannot seem to find the beat (the beat for me is like breathing), I have come to the realization that those who dance, however badly or off beat, are having way more fun than those standing on the edges of the dance floor watching and judging. And so I have a few drinks and I dance, and I don't care what people think because this song makes me wanna feel, makes me wanna try, makes me wanna blow the stars from the sky...
I would never ever tell someone that they look stupid, that they are being laughed at and ridiculed, for doing something that brings such joy. It was like this girl, this stranger, took something away from me in that instant, and for what reason I couldn't fathom.
I didn't let it interfere with my weekly dance therapy, but it was undeniably there, this doubt, this insecurity. Her message and her malice stuck with me the way the words of that boy in high school have stuck with me (even now, being as comfortable in my body as I am, the phrase "thunder thighs" carries a sting).
So last night at the club, she was there. I had seen her around often enough, but last night I had had enough vodka and enough of feeling bitter whenever I did see her to confront her about it and ask her why she chose to deliberately hurt someone she didn't know.
She didn't remember saying anything. She blamed whiskey for making her mean, and she said it didn't sound like something she would say. She said she was a terrible dancer herself, so why would she throw stones? I assured her that she did and she apologized, but her not remembering made her motivation unknowable, assuming she was telling the truth. She seemed legitimately contrite, so I'm choosing to believe her. Maybe she'd just had a bad day and too many shots of whiskey that night.
Amusingly, the bouncer kept his eye on us. I wasn't going to start a fight, and she was actually quite lovely and gracious when confronted with a drunk weirdo coming up to her out of nowhere telling her about a mean thing she did months ago that she didn't even remember. I just wanted to know why, and maybe I also wanted her to know that what she said hurt, that she had hurt someone and that that wasn't cool. Things ended amicably between us, and I'm glad I finally said something. Letting negative feelings rot and fester is not my conflict resolution style, as a general rule.
The old adage about not saying anything if you can't say something nice is a wise one. I don't think it's possible to eliminate that part of human nature that criticizes others, but it is certainly possible to not verbalize these criticisms, especially if they don't affect you personally in any way. There are enough shitty things in the world already without us consciously adding to them.
Being kind can be hard as hell. There's a lot of pettiness and competition and judgment in the world. I'm no angel in this department myself. But I try every day to be better and to make people feel good about themselves if I can. I try to stick up for the little guy, because we are all the little guy at some point.
Thanks for reading, and be kind to each other, okay? Because kindness counts for a lot.