You don’t have to wear heels to go dancing. You don’t have to dress in sparkles or tight skirts if that’s not your thing. The t-shirt you’ve got with the faded band logo from the concert you went to five years ago? That’ll do. Those comfy trainers can help you throw shapes without twisting your ankle or starting to ache, and you just don’t need to wear heels to go dancing.
If I could have words with my sixteen-year-old self I’d give her advice on love and life. Maybe warn her of who to avoid, and tease her with hints about who to look out for. I’d offer her comfort and tell her that life really really does get better once school’s behind her. I’d pass on wisdom I’ve learned from other people and make up some unqualified shit of my own, probably too specific and half-remembered from mistakes I’ve made before. But above all I’d tell her: you don’t have to wear heels to go dancing.
The first time I went to a nightclub, I dressed up. My friend and I slapped on make-up like we were trying to draw on entirely new faces. We wore short skirts and fishnet tights and tight, tight, tight tops and heels.
We wobbled. We preened. We hoped we wouldn’t get ID’d, and then nervously snuck in past bouncers who probably couldn’t care less.
Inside the club everyone frightened me. I was sixteen, and wearing heels, and standing in the corner, desperate to be cool and have fun. I didn’t realise that the ‘cool’ part was getting in the way of the ‘fun’ one. I was brimming with excitement and spectacularly bad ideas. I thought you couldn’t go dancing in trainers. That the point of clubbing was to snog strange men. That the worst thing I could be was ‘fatter than that girl next to me.’
We danced a little, drank a lot, and I stared longingly at the guys who inched round the edges of the dance floor, choosing their targets the same way they’d choose kebab toppings when they staggered home later.
I desperately wanted to be kissed, in that place where everyone was well-dressed and better at dancing. I thought the fun would come once I’d managed to measure up. So I topped up my lipstick, sucked in my stomach, and danced by awkwardly copying the moves of the women who looked like they knew what was right. And at the end of the night I went home and kicked off my blood-and-sweat-soaked shoes and cried because I’d hated every minute.
You don’t have to wear heels to go dancing.
You don’t have to dance well to go dancing.
Recently I spent three hours flailing my arms and rocking my hips and brushing up against a hot guy and occasionally snogging or touching or shouting ‘WOOOOOO!’ as a band we loved played the music we loved.
We looked like dicks. We loved it. We had FUN.
My partner dances with me like this a lot. Exuberantly. Wildly. Happily. And if I start to get anxious he buys me a drink, and dances at me even harder. He doesn’t dance ‘like no one’s watching’, he dances ‘like everyone is watching and he’s selling them on the concept of how fun it is to dance.’
Of all the things he has taught me, this is the lesson I make use of the most. When we’re down and we want a pick-me-up, he presses ‘play’ on the playlist we’ve made for just these occasions. We dim the lights, grab a drink, and dance like we’re shaking off every single one of our troubles. Or we go out, watch a band we love, and dance in public like that too.
I’m thirty-three now, and I never wear heels when I dance. I wear trainers and t-shirts and hoodies. I flail my arms like I’m trying to swat mosquitos. I drink pints instead of cocktails because have you SEEN the fucking PRICE of them? I’m here for a good time, dressed in trainers and t-shirts and jeans and a massive grin.
You don’t have to wear heels to go dancing.
This is a sex blog, so perhaps somewhere in here there’s a metaphor for sex: don’t feel like you need to dress up or down. Shave or not shave. Have a body that looks exactly how they tell you it should, from every conceivable angle. Don’t worry about the weird faces you pull or the noises you make or the ridiculous dirty talk that slips out in the heat of the moment. Worry only about the fun you’re both having in exactly that moment.
But it’s more than sex, I think. It’s life in general. When I was in my late twenties a good friend of mine told me to look forward to my thirties. “They’re a bit like your twenties,” he explained “except you know what you like now, and you aren’t still pretending to like things you never did in order to impress strangers.”
So that’s what I’d tell my sixteen-year-old self. I’d compliment her on her fishnets and tell her to stop panicking about being cool. Let her know that there’s nothing wrong with being fatter than the girl next to her. That it’s OK to dance like you’re swatting mosquitos and drink the drinks you like and be with the people who make you feel good. Enjoy your body for what it can do, not how it looks next to other people.
That heels are fine if you like them, and hell if you don’t. The important thing is not the clothes or the shoes or the quality of the dancing: it’s the fun we have together, when the music starts to play.
Happy New Year everyone. Whatever you’re doing, I hope you have fun.