Maybe You Dance

3 Jun

I spend a lot of time thinking about intolerance and the various things that I do to combat it. I mean, that’s what a lot of this blog is supposed to be, right? I’m trying, in my own small way, to fight against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other isms and phobias that people, even nice people, even good people, throw at each other. And I think that I do an okay job for the most part, but it’s easy to fight this battle online, isn’t it? I mean, comparatively. Sure, the relative anonymity of the internet tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, and I’ve been told all kinds of awful things, some of which have hurt pretty badly. I’ve been told that I’m a waste of oxygen, that I should kill myself, and there have been a whole litany of comments, tweets and even entire blog posts by other people dedicated to what a terrible mother I am, and yeah, that sucks, but still.

Being a loudmouth who speaks out against hate on the internet very rarely results in physical violence.

Being a loudmouth who speaks out against hate in the real world is much more likely to result in broken bones, a smashed up face or even worse.

And I’m not saying that online threats or mean comments aren’t scary, because they definitely are, but also when it all gets to be too overwhelming I can just shut off my computer and walk away. But raising my voice publicly, in the middle of, say, a crowded bar full of drunken bigots, doesn’t afford me that same luxury.

There was, in fact, a crowded bar full of drunken bigots last night. And maybe this is a fairly normal occurrence – what do I know, I’m in bed by ten most nights, and when I do go out it’s to one of the genteel pubs in my genteel neighbourhood. And probably these guys are really super nice guys in real life, not the kind of guys to yell “faggots!” at a bunch of guys just because their band isn’t playing whatever kind of music it is they want to hear. I mean, unless they’re out late at night and it’s someone’s birthday and they’re all drunk, belligerent and three seconds away from a brawl with any given person that they encounter on the cramped dance floor.

So what do you do? What exactly do you do if you’re in this bar, and you hear people yelling the word faggot, and you’re sure that saying something, anything will result in getting punched in the face? What do you do if that’s your friend, or at the very least the friend of your friend, on stage, playing his bespectacled, skinny jean-clad heart out? Seriously, what the fuck do you do?

If you’re me, apparently you sit there grimacing and whispering to the girl next to you, demanding to know where the fuck all these terrible drunk dudes came from. If you’re me, you hunker down in your seat, and hope they don’t come anywhere near you. If you’re me, you hope that if they do make their way over to you, they somehow manage to keep their hands to themselves.

If you’re me, you die a little inside when you think about how you’re totally not standing up for what you believe in, and you hate yourself for being a coward.

And if you’re my friend Nathan, you get up and dance.

You get up, you stand dead centre in front of the stage, and you fucking dance to the spastic beat of the music.

For reasons that I can’t fully articulate, what happened last night was one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen. There was just something really lovely about seeing my friend standing there, trying to figure out how to move to the pseudo-eighties synthesizer amazingness coming from the stage. And as weird as this sounds, there was something both aggressive and earnestly affectionate about his body language as he danced – aggressive towards all the assholes behind him who were now demanding that the band play Wonderwall, and affectionate towards his friends onstage, who were trying their best to ignore what was going on. And Nathan just stood there, as steady and unmovable as a rock. And it was really, really nice.

And I got up and joined him, and so did a few other people, and the drunk assholes slowly backed off.

Afterwards, Nathan said to me, “I just didn’t want Drew to have to look out and have to see all those douchebags. I wanted there to be at least one friendly face out there.”

I’m glad he had the instinct to get up and dance, because I definitely didn’t. Maybe I only know how to fight with words, and when I feel like I can’t do that, I’m at a total loss. Or maybe I should be more willing to risk my personal safety for the stuff that I believe in. Regardless, I’m glad that he got up, because I think that it was the best thing that anyone could have done in that situation.

And, in the future, I really want to be able to remember that there are other ways of fighting intolerance besides my usual bag of tricks. Sometimes you can do it by standing there alone and, with great purpose and love, just fucking dancing like there’s no tomorrow.


34 Responses to “Maybe You Dance”

  1. Erin Frederic (@erinfrederic) June 3, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    this made me tear up. your friend did such a seemingly small, yet profoundly beautiful thing. bravo to both of you!

    • carmel maher June 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Thank-you for these wonderful, insightful essays. I often share them on facebook. Please keep writing. I’m currently thinking about how I’m going to handle a similar situation. Coming back east from a more laid back west coast is socially daunting. I’m biting my tongue too much. Time for me to stand up and dance!

  2. mieprowan June 3, 2013 at 2:35 am #

    Quite a nice post. Couple of things though: bars are part of real life, and men who call other men “faggots” because they don’t like the music they are playing, are not super nice guys. Period.

  3. lizhawksworth June 3, 2013 at 2:40 am #

    He sounds like a pretty inspirational guy! Awesome way to fight it!

  4. Julie Gillis (@JulesAboutTown) June 3, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    This is brilliance.

  5. Jimmy Cave June 3, 2013 at 3:03 am #


  6. Jen June 3, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    I completely empathize with the personal conflict of wanting to speak out – scream, shout, stamp my feet, roll my eyes – and being intimidated/afraid/embarrassed(?) to do so. There is something so beautiful about your friend’s passively aggressive/non-violent/non-verbal display of intolerance towards the bigots at the bar. He was able to turn an ugly situation into something not only beautiful, but a teaching (and hopefully learning) moment for all of those lucky enough to be around him.
    Thank you for the post!

  7. Reticula June 3, 2013 at 5:03 am #

    One of the hardest things about being human is the comeuppance we all get at one time or another when the distance between what we think or say or write we’ll do and what we will really do gapes in front of us daring us to leap across it. Good for Nathan for building you a bridge.

  8. Flo me la June 3, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    That’s awesome! I like Nathan’s way of dealing with ass-holes.

  9. Sarah June 3, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Don’t feel bad. You do a wonderful job. Everybody has to play to their talents, and, as you said yourself, your talent is for words. Words were definitely not appropriate in this situation so you did the right thing by staying quiet. And, lucky you, you have a wonderful friend (with talents of his own) who knew what to do. You don’t have to fight the fight on your own. Not when you have friends like Nathan.

  10. southsidesocialist June 3, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    “Spastic” beat?

  11. myrabeth June 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Reminds me of that wonderful final scene in ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ Thanks for this…,brilliant simplicity!

  12. mfennvt June 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Yay, Nathan!

  13. Beth Patterson June 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Reminds me of that lovely final scene in ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. Yeah to Nathan for his bravery…and you for yours in the form of vulnerability.

  14. pfstare June 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    I love what Nathan did. I would have danced too. 🙂

  15. ashlynsmom99 June 3, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    I love the response. Being confrontational with jerk faces is never really a good idea. How many rational human beings yell “faggot” in public anyway. Nathan’s dance and the joining of others showed these guys that their comments are meaningless and not worthy of notice. Brava!

  16. Ms. Roberts June 3, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    What a wonderful story!

  17. deborahwenzlerfarris June 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Make my day! Someone told me once that If there were more dancing there would be less fighting. I get to witness that everyday. In the words of Martha Graham — “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.” Sending bravos to you both!

  18. Valentine Logar June 3, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Hurray for Nathan. Hurray for you.

    There are indeed days, times, minutes when we are faced with a loss for words. When we don’t know what to do or how to do it.

    This was perfection, your friend cleared the path and you followed along with others.

  19. peacewisdomprosperity June 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    Oh my god, I laughed hysterically although I know…I know…it’s a serious post demanding consciousness and realization! I laughed because I imagined the whole scene, I imagined you sitting angry, I imagine the whole atmosphere changing drastically. Ahh…the unexpected! How I cherish it! Thanks for the laugh, and most importantly, thanks for the realization that , [sometimes] the only way to fight off an uncomfortable situation is to chose a solution that isn’t listed in the list of solutions. 🙂

  20. peacewisdomprosperity June 4, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    Ah damn it, I pressed send too fast. I wanted to add that ZORDS is absolutely awesome! I am in a total trance right now listening to “Hollywood”. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this amazing find!!!! (I mean it! Can you tell? Maybe the abusive use of exclamation marks might give it away)

  21. iRuniBreathe June 4, 2013 at 3:35 am #

    Nice. That Nathan has a wise bag of tricks: honest, open, and willing. I doubt those ignorant and hatred-spewing meatheads could get up and dance too. I doubt they have the same classy moves.

  22. Susan B Raven June 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm #


  23. sarahwbartlett June 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Love this – ‘ other ways of fighting intolerance besides my usual bag of tricks. Sometimes you can do it by standing there alone and, with great purpose and love . . .’ Moving story and I appreciate your sharing it. Your words paint a strong picture that grabbed me in my heart. For Nathan’s compassion, yes; and equally, for your solidarity in that moment.

  24. Honore June 5, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    excellent, excellent story!

  25. evlracer June 5, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    That is beautiful. Such a simple, good, clean act against stupidery.

  26. The Hook June 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    I applaud your decision to use your powers for good.
    Well done!

  27. tushar2608 June 9, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    B Szwvc

  28. Michelle at The Green Study June 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    What is so nice and meaningful about this story, is that your friend was acting out of concern for his friend and it was less about showing up or confronting the wankers who were acting out. Because you’re right – confronting drunk jerks will get you punched in the face.

  29. Moxie in the Making March 23, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    That kind of made my day, not going to lie. That’s such a good point. Bloggers sometimes fall into that trap of becoming all talk, no walk. It sounds like your friend found the perfect solution, though-and you joined in. Awesome post! 🙂


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