A few weeks ago I was watching the evening newscast when they did a story on Carnivale in Rio, Brazil.  The camera panned the Samba dancers shaking their toned bodies in next to nothing; drummers beating their drums with such passion you’d think the rhythm was a life sustaining force; and the massive frenzied crowds weaved and gyrated throughout the story.  Everyone it appeared was shaking off their sin in preparation for the Lenten season.

Watching all this brought back memories of my own partying ways during my twenties.  Not a pious memory among them.  The memories were primarily of the West Indian day celebration that had been successfully imported to the city where I live with all its colour, music and raucous glory.  And as an admitted sinner, I enjoyed all of this as I was under the belief I’d retire and repent sometime around 40 … ish.  Even back then I knew there would come a point when you had to step away from things you did in your younger years.   Simple reality is that if you don’t know when to stop, the result will be embarrassment and/or injury.  I knew this truth back then, I still know it now.

My parade memories have too many images of women and men gyrating down the parade route, hips swaying to calypso music, smiling faces and just too many bellies and bottoms on display.  I still have vivid images of grown men in bejewelled, gold painted speedos that lay in the shadow of their beer bellies, and not too far away were women in the matching bra tops precariously clinging to overflowing cups.

Listen, there comes a point where no matter how good you may think (or others tell you) your body is, it should not be on public display.  Unless you’re on a beach or living in a nudist colony (from what I’ve heard these colonies are populated by the worst bodies undressed or otherwise) cover up!   Be like the French: leave something to the imagination.    The world does not need to know whether your navel is an innie or outie.

If this isn’t enough to deter you, then ask yourself this: do you want people looking at pictures of you grinning like a fool while wearing a costume you had no business squeezing into in the first place and then had the audacity to wear in public???    And speaking of dancing, this brings me to my next no-no …

There comes a time in your life when you must categorize your dancing as follows: outside dancing or inside dancing.  Please read what follows as a cautionary tale.

After attending the West Indian day parade one hot August Saturday not too many years ago, my friend and I were still feeling the rhythm of the steel pan drums hours after getting home.  Logically we self-prescribed more partying as the cure (there is a very good reason why doctors aren’t supposed to prescribe their own medication …).  So, off we went later that night to pick-up where we had left-off at the parade.  We were dressed up, worked-up and ready to celebrate.

You should have seen us in the middle of that overheated, sweaty club obediently following the DJ’s commands (if you’re not familiar with music from the Caribbean and how it works with a DJ, just think of it like square dancing where you have a ‘caller’ telling you what steps to follow, with the exception that when it’s set to calypso it’s a lot more fun and interesting to watch).

“Wave your right hand high in the air!”  Up went our right hands.   While we were waving the DJ shouted the next instruction, “twist up your waist!”   Now we were waving and twisting and having fun.  Then came “roll your bam-bam like you don’t care!!! (Oh, come on people!  I don’t have to explain this one!)”   Well, throwing caution to the wind we waved, twisted, rolled and shook what our mamas gave us.  WE WERE ON FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But, every fire must be put out…  “Bend your knees and go down low…”

Huh? What? Pardon me? Did this DJ suggest that we bend our knees then do what?  Get down low?  Did this man not realize the majority of the crowd was well past 30?  Had he no shame or pride?  Speaking of which …

Pride, people, is a sin.  I know there are books a plenty explaining why, but I’m going to give you the best explanation you’ll ever hear.  My explanation will actually cut any Church sermon on this topic from 30 minutes to 30 seconds: pride is what causes normally sane and intelligent people to do stupid things.  This stupid behaviour then becomes the source of embarrassment and/or injury (just as I outlined above).  Amen.

Pride often plagues you when you’re trying to act like you’re still young.  This is the only explanation I have for how my friend and I finally responded to the DJ’s final command.  Due to pride we didn’t gracefully exit the dance floor, clicking along in our heels to the safety of a waiting wall to perch against.  Instead, we responded with what we thought was a challenge with the attitude of, “Hey!  We’re still in our thirties … we can keep up!!!”  And being the obedient sinners we were we took the challenge.  We twisted.  We waved. We shimmied, shook, and bent our knees twisting until we got down low …

I’m not going to embarrass myself by going into details, but I will say we were saved that night by two good Samaritans who conveyed with sympathetic eyes that they too had once been in our position.  The look said, “It’s time.  It’s time.”

I also had an epiphany that night: at a certain age wild, frenzied and sometimes scandalous dancing is what you do inside your home.  This way should you get hurt the Tiger Balm, Myoflex, telephone and anything else that you might need will be close at hand.  For this reason, when I now dance outside the safety of my home I always remember to keep it to a two-step.

Laters & G’Night,

Mantha

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