Like No One’s Watching


I’m surprised she’s still dancing. After three hours without rest, after the band started eyeballing their watches, after everyone else had left the dance floor, she was there. A whirlwind of beige.

That’s what mothers are expected to wear to these things. They’re also supposed to sink into the background when their daughter takes her first step on the carpeted aisle — a fleshy reminder that the spotlight is on rollers. Mary Beth’s mom, however, refuses to cede a single tile of the dance floor.

Watching from back here at the bar, she stands out like a clown nose on a bridesmaid, yet she’s made the Jerry Crandall Memorial Pavilion look grander than it has any right to be. She’s bopping and shimmying and twisting, and for the past half hour, it’s been without a partner. She looks possessed by the spirit of James Brown.

Mary Beth, starving and sweating through white silk, is smiling with a seventh set of uncles and aunts. Her new husband is rubbing sore shaking wrists. Scores of friends and relatives have been scattered by the natural flow of white zinfandel. Some have gone home, others have kept the embers glowing, and the mother of the bride is still dancing.

Poppy hymns, slow jams or Disneyfied gangster rap — it doesn’t matter. She’s as impervious to momentum and genre shifts as she is the small flurry of comments she’s creating.

She’s drunk. She’s overjoyed. She’s lost it.

“You hadn’t heard?” Jonathan says, sidling up to a nearby pecking table where a gaggle of young hens cluck with speculation over watery chocotinis. They gasp and shake as if to signal simultaneously that, of course, they’d heard but, of course, he should tell them what he’d heard to see if it lines up.

“Cancer. Diagnosed a month ago. Liver or bones or breast or something.”

Their silence makes the spectacle more grotesque. Mary Beth’s mother is no longer a saucy loon in the clutches of The Village People, she’s a fool. They hate her for delegitimizing their smirking mockery, or because they think she should be crouched in a dark corner somewhere instead of flailing joyously in public, or because they take dying of embarrassment to be a genuine medical condition.

“I thought she was taking her Dance Like No One’s Watching poster a little too seriously,” a hen with two large front teeth says before lapping up her own joke and cracking the silence.

They descend back into laughter, back into the dirt, and I walk across the room hoping to dance with a beautiful woman dressed in beige.

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