Only well fortified by brandy could I confront the Saturday night festivities at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, an unsightly spectacle of several thousand medievalists engaged in a frenzied and arrhythmic St. Vitus, a spastic explosion of flailing limbs and jerking heads (and this was a slow dance).
I had no choice but to fling myself into their midst and show them how it was done.
At the edge of the floor I shoved aside several trollish Anglo-Saxonists, species homunculus academicus, and bumped and strolled my way to the center of the crowd, to that position which belonged to me by right of dancing talent.
For the next forty-seven minutes I held the floor without challenge. Partners came and partners went, and when none were available, I danced alone, ecstatically, beautifully.
The music was mostly old school disco, which meant that I Hustled, New York Hustled, Four Cornered, and Bumped, and as I did so the crowd receded from around me, clearing a space in which I could move freely, spinning and leaping to dances choreographed spontaneously by my inner child.
At the end of this period, when the DJ stopped the music to take a break, I reluctantly left the floor and made may way to the bar for refreshments, the envious eyes of my fellows upon me.
Around me swirled the clumsy social interactions which pass for normal among medievalists, individuals who typically and vastly overvalue their own attractiveness. Indeed, every dowdy and dumpy 13-stone woman there believed she was the second coming of Audrey Hepburn, just as every short and garrulous fool in tweed believed he was Gregory Peck.
This led to innumerable hilarities as women who couldn’t have got a date in a men’s prison rejected the advances of ugly men who felt they were slumming.
And all of it was accompanied by a buzz of tedious feminist hand-wringing about gender inequity, a topic which spawned spirited debates among female professors and graduate students about why one should not dance with men who are more powerful, even as one realizes one isn’t attracted to those who are less powerful, which leaves as dance partners only those of exactly the same status, but they’re all gay.
Did I mention that I ordered two big plastic cups of Budweiser? One for each hand.
“My God, Boethius, you can really dance,” piped a low feminine voice from behind me, causing me to jump several inches from the floor and pirouette in mid-air. I landed on the balls of my feet, nose-to-nose with Dr. Sally of North Dakota.
“You just tore up that floor out there, Bo.”
Her admiration was genuine, as it naturally would be, but there was a slight quaver in her voice and a predatory shininess in her eyes, signs familiar to any lifelong bachelor, especially one who was as adept as I was at reading the tokens of creeping disaster.
But, as so often happens, dear readers, I am a victim of my own vanity, and I am never so vain as when my dancing is being praised. Thus I lowered my defenses at exactly the moment when I should have been sprinting for the exit.
“Thank you,” I replied, bowing slightly at the waist.
“Come on, Bo, let’s boogie.” The dreadful woman grabbed me by the hand and dragged me to the floor, pushing aside a passel of minor Pearl Poet scholars, onto whom I “accidently” dumped the remaining cup of beer.
“Hey,” they shouted in unison, waxing wroth as such simple-minded dolts are wont to do. But, before I could properly reply, the music started again, and I was swept up in dance.
Oh, Honey Honey.
You are my candy girl,
and you got me wanting you.
Oh, Sugar, Sugar.
You are my candy girl
and you got me wanting you.
Say what you will about the mid-west and the comparative drabness of the middle-aged lady scholars produced there, but this one could dance.
To say I was impressed would be an understatement. I was flabbergasted. As boney-assed as she was, Sally could still throughly shake that booty, and even more impressively, shake it to that most insipid of genres, bubblegum pop!
At this point you are probably asking yourself, “Is von Korncrake above a romantic tryst?”
To which I can only reply, “of course not.”
Tomorrow, dear readers, I shall conclude this story.