Writing Practices

While pulling together some job materials this weekend, I got out ye old Sage Handbook of Qualitative Methods (5th ed)–see below–and stumbled upon this scribbled delight, this marginalia wormhole (could we say wordhole?–that seems weird) to the Summer of Dissertation…

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We go dancing at the Pyramid Club. 80s Dance Party night. We aren’t the oldest there; we aren’t the youngest. Laid by James is the first song I really let go to—arms wide, head back, eyes closed, hair swinging, full-body singing, singing, singing…. “This is my favorite”—or something along those lines—shouts the one in our group who says she never dances (she’s the one we have to drag off the dance floor and into a cab at some early morning hour, and still, today, she insists “she doesn’t dance”). There are oceans of clear space between the huddled pods of dancers. A line of youngish (younger than me at least, and at 35 they all look young to me now, babies playing at loving the 80s. Sweethearts, these songs are my childhood…) white dudes holding up one wall, all of them staring at their phones. A mix of genders on the other wall, crowding ‘round the projected 80s logo for a selfie to prove their kitschy hip. And for a second I wonder why they came—why bother?

But then another memory dressed in the lyrics of another familiar voice hits the air and one or more of us shout “This is my favorite!” before we’re lost to our own moves and time passes one song at a time until those oceans tide over to people, jumping-singing-dancing-laughing bodies all up and down every identity spectrum you could name.

We dance. All in different ways. All for different reasons. I don’t have to name mine—couldn’t put my fingers on them to type out the words perfectly anyway. But I’m my sequined top and leather jacket and boots. Glitter, grit, and mirror ball, light pulsing in the fog-machined dark. All the different permutations, stages of me that have danced, free on the floor like always in the water but rarely on land, all rolled into one. Bass-beating-blood and hard-won-sweat. Full-body singing, singing, singing. Gorgeous as the bouncer said.

Prince shows around midnight—some cos-playing womanizer dressed in the iconic white suit, no shirt, smooth-shaved chest. Sexing up all the youngest ladies while his lumberjack wingman—dude’s well over six-feet, beard, honest-to-god flannel, as un-princely as you can get—watches the hunt like a hyena in the wings (there might be slobber; there’s certainly awe). But everybody loses it, loves it, when cos-play Prince gets up on stage when the DJ plays his song, pulls a purple guitar from the shadows and proceeds to gyrate, drop-split, strip-tease for the crowd. He cheeses me out. Prince-lite, strutting like the man himself, but I’m outvoted—the crowd, my group loves him.

Still, it strikes me, remember-writing-living this again now, that then, with my arms wide, head back, eyes closed, hair swinging, full-body singing, singing, singing…that could have been the real Prince—if I dance-dreamed just right. But now, death’s closed the door on possibility and the remembered flash of sex-and-song through the strobe-and-fog is wrong even in this light.