Teach Me How to Dougie
By Alexa Kempton
When I was a little girl, I loved to dance. Most nights, my mom would twirl around the kitchen and dance with me and my brothers while she’d make dinner. Be it The Backstreet Boys, Madonna, or maybe even a little Genesis, we’d dance until the stove was clear and the kitchen table was full, ready for our family of six to eat. My love for dancing extended outside of the house, too. If there was a dance floor, any presumed shyness dissolved and I’d dance with anyone.
Eventually, growing pains hit me hard in my teenage years. My jeans fit me too short and my dire need to belong and blend in with my friends and classmates was strong. My goal? Draw in as little attention as possible and keep my distance. School dances were fun, except not really at all. I skipped all the school social events. Even by the time I was a senior, it would’ve taken an army and a five-star dinner menu to get me to go to prom.
The only dance I actually went to was my eighth grade dance. I went to make my mom happy. I hung out in the corner of the sweaty gym with some friends, and refused to get too close to the dance floor. I was way too “cool” to dance. I’d cringe as I witnessed my classmates make fools of themselves dance the ‘dougie’ or whatever pop choreography trend that was all the rage at the time. Our kitchen floor became quiet and I gave my mom weird looks when she’d say “come on Lex!” to cue me onto the dance floor.
This “coolness” I persistently strived for was my way of handling my fear of being seen as awkward, weird, annoying, nerdy, or anything less than enough. I tried beating vulnerability by removing myself completely from it. My self-consciousness pushed away self-expression. Not only did I miss out on fun in my younger years, but I missed out on fully sharing who I was, what I liked, and in this case, how I danced.
Writer Brene Brown says, “Until we teach our children that they need to be concerned with how they look and with what other people think, they dance.” Who we are and what we love as children is quiet authentic and true to ourselves. Choosing not to dance as a teenager fed the societal monster of image, and ultimately prevented me from expressing my true self and living authentically.
As many people first-handedly know, making this “cool” to authentic shift isn’t easy. If I truly dance like no one is watching, I’ll open the floor to any judgements, or even worse, notions of not belonging or fitting in. Since my rough teenage years, I’ve been actively learning and practicing to live my life more authentically. I’m less afraid to dance, speak my mind, and dress how I want to dress. Freedoms that are well worth being called “uncool” by someone.
If Leonardo Di Vinci didn’t paint for the fear that people wouldn’t like his art, or if Elon Musk didn’t execute his ideas for the fear that people would think he’s crazy, they’d be robbing this world of their amazing work. It’s uncomfortable to be vulnerable, but the price of embracing these fears could be worth a remarkable piece of art, a revolutionizing idea, or perhaps a killer eighth grade dance. Follow your fears, put yourself out there, and dance your ass off.