I do not dance.
I have never been a dancer. I could tell you stories about middle school dances and high school dances, where I would stand near my friends while they danced, and they would try hard to get me to move, but I knew the truth: I would look like an idiot if I danced.
I don't say this because I think I am any more untalented than the next slightly uncoordinated white girl. I say it because 90 percent of the time when I see people dancing, I think they look like idiots, and I don't want to be one of them.
Granted, there have been times in my life when I've "cut a rug," as the saying goes -- when I've "done a jig." Usually these occasions have involved weddings in foreign countries, excessive quantities of alcohol, a desire to get the attention of a special member of the same sex or some combination thereof.
But in general, I do not dance.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself out and about at the event of the spring last weekend. The event, as you well know, was a dance event called "Shakin' It for LSP," and it was a fundraiser for the Lesbian Services Project of Whitman-Walker Clinic. I sit on the advisory board for the LSP, meaning attendance at this event wasn't exactly optional.
I went. I stood there. I danced around the topic of dancing when people asked why I wasn't out there moving to the music. Conveniently, I had a job to do that required standing on the sidelines and babysitting a cashbox, but a couple of observers noted that I could still dance. During breaks, they said. Just on the side of the dance floor, some suggested, while keeping my eye on the till I was guarding.
No thanks, I told them, trying to smile politely. And I kept standing there.
At some point, after standing around with me and doing nice things like fetching me seltzer waters and snacks, my partner and the friend we'd dragged out decided that they were going to dance. I wished them well. After all, they were paying customers. If they wanted to dance, I reasoned, they should kick up their heels with gusto.
I stood back and watched all the dancing around me -- the many ladies who had turned out in impressive numbers to support LSP, the admirable and enthusiastic gay men who'd showed up to volunteer or to shell out some bucks for a worthy good cause, and the dapper transmen keeping all us non-femmes humble in our butch finery. I thanked Baby Jesus for making me a non-dancer during the Electric Slide and some other line dance whose name I do not know and do not care to know; it looked impossible to master without falling over and getting trampled.
I thought of how there was no way I'd be standing in that room if I hadn't signed over my freedom to abstain from dances to the benefiting organization. How if a friend of mine had asked me, as I asked all of my friends, to attend the event, I would have thought of about ten reasons why I couldn't be there -- the first one to get me out of going, and the next nine as back-up in case the first one fell through. A girl has to cover her bases.
But I also thought about the reasons I was standing there. I became a volunteer for the Lesbian Services Program because I believe in the mission of helping women get access to services they might not otherwise be able to afford, or might not otherwise feel comfortable seeking in another setting. I feel strongly that this city's gay health clinic -- often thought of as an AIDS clinic, but founded and continuing to operate on the mission of providing gay and lesbian health services -- has an obligation to the women who live in its service area.
While I personally haven't had occasion to take advantage of most of the services offered by LSP, I know they're there. For instance, I know there are recurring alternative insemination and lesbian parenting workshops when I'm ready to get indoctrinated on those topics. I know there are sexuality workshops for when I feel frisky. I know there are books and resources about all sorts of topics available for the community's use. Most importantly, I know there is a staff of earnest, attentive women ready to mold the programs into whatever services best suit the women who utilize their offerings.
It's a vitally important program, but it's often overlooked when grants are distributed, and it doesn't always get the priority it deserves when budgets are hashed out. The danger of cutbacks or worse always looms large at a time when the Clinic as a whole is facing financial uncertainty.
I imagine there are others like me, non-dancers, who had a choice on Saturday night and opted not to attend the fundraiser. And others, actual dancers, who didn't show up because they were otherwise occupied or out of town. And still others who didn't attend because they're male and didn't suppose this event would offer anything to them.
I imagine all those folks missed last Saturday's event, meaning they didn't pay their $45 to get in. Maybe they haven't tossed any money in LSP's direction lately, or ever. Maybe they should think about it.
Just as there's always something to get from LSP, there's always something to give. On the Clinic's Web site, it's easy to make a donation and easy to specify that it should be directed to the work of the Lesbian Services Program. If you missed last weekend's party -- the first of what's hoped to be an annual event -- think about making a contribution, regardless of whether you define yourself as a potential client of Lesbian Services. Put the "unity" in community and pitch in for the greater good of the whole team.
The life you enrich could be your own.
Kristina Campbell lives in Takoma Park, Md., and writes Alphabet Soup biweekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Lesbian Services Program online at www.wwc.org under "GLBT Health Services."