Our guest writer today is Sarina Moore. Sarina teaches in the English department at Calvin and contributes to the management of The Post Calvin.
My husband has a thing for Spotify. Let’s call it an obsession, a fixation, an untainted love, an annual and yearlong fling. It will begin sometime on the morning of January 2, after the party mess has been cleaned up, after our middle-aged bodies have recuperated a bit, after the last of the jambalaya has been eaten: the new playlist for the next year’s New Year’s Eve party. NYE 2015.
He’ll finesse the list for 364 days, soliciting input from our friends, playing it on the weekends for family dance parties with our three boys, rearranging tunes in just the right order. The trick, as any DJ knows, is to orchestrate your audience’s emotional experience of the evening—to spin them right round, baby, right round like a record, baby. For our crowd of thirtysomethings, the electric avenue progresses from 80s nostalgia, to hip hop mania, through German house music (Ich will abgehen!), until we land in the happy exhaustion of Four. Ay. Em. Through it all thrums a fierce undercurrent: this is the white-knuckle ride of aging well, of burning with a bright, gem-like flame; this is Macklemore’s militant middle-range horn line with a bright trumpet descant swinging through the upper register—aw nah, can’t hold us.
We lose ourselves to dance, if you will. I want to sweat out the dirt of the previous year, reach for the promise of the next year, release the clenched jaw I maintain through nine months out of every twelve (grading! parenting! teaching! cleaning! more grading!). Let go of shame, let go of failure, let go of discontent: let’s live in the sweet and sparkling now. In abandoning myself to the music, I remember that everything is not under my control; I remember the Dionysian promise—a little bit of excess at just the right moment rejuvenates the creative spirit.
With a few exceptions—the high school drama teacher and the German professor—you can tell what year someone graduated from high school based on the moves he busts. There will be a Michael Jackson impression, or two. Probably a full-on choral edition of Insane in the Brain (non-explicit version), someone will demand more Rush for next year (NO, just no), and at least one person will break off one of her four-inch heels.
We’ve gone through some trends: for a while, French eeep ahhp was in heavy rotation. Then there were the Swedish metal years, the Ting Tings and OutKast addictions, the Avicii imitations. There were a few errors in judgment (it turns out that “Bohemian Rapsody” is not nearly as good as your teenaged self thought), and sometimes there are too many references to Cristal for even Kanye’s taste.
One year we made Chatham Artillery Punch because the recipe was published in the New York Times and it looked delicious. (For the record: it is. Also for the record: don’t do it. You will regret that one, just as George Washington & Friends before you surely regretted it. Except for Hamilton—I bet that guy could drink like a fish.) Every year we make a boatload of seafood—seared scallops, smoked salmon jerky, shrimp cocktail, fish chowder—because that’s my own Pacific Northwest family tradition. This year we’ve invited friends from South Carolina, Chicago, Kansas, and Minnesota to join us, in addition to the hundred or so Michiganders who make their annual appearance.
Our friends host the party in their sweet mid-mod ranch. If the weather is fine, then we’ll end up dancing in the courtyard, white paper lanterns swinging above our heads in the pure, clear, winter bright. In our skinny-cut suits and little black dresses we are Mad Men, plus a modicum of virtue.
When I was sixteen, I went with my youth group to a talk on the evils of dancing. No dancing, he said. Dancing is of the devil, he said. Dancing will make boys sin, and girls? you’re responsible for what goes on in their minds and hearts and souls, those boys. But in my family, my father encouraged questions, challenges, arguments, debates—so I raised my hand to ask, surely you don’t mean all dancing? I mean, what about art? What about the glories of the ballet? Have you heard nothing I’ve said, he sneered. Are you a total fool? Even at that age, I knew he was wrong—a Gnostic in fundamentalist garb. Do I feel God’s pleasure when I dance? Funk yeah.
Some day very soon my husband and I will decide that our boys need a New Year’s tradition with us. When the littlest is old enough—two, three years at the most—then we’ll make the transition to earlier nights at home with board games and popcorn and Monty Python sketches and fish & chips.
But until then, sweet dreams are made of this, friends. I just can’t get enough. In fact, this may be just like heaven.
See you on the dance floor.