(Almost) Dealbreaker: My Boyfriend Can’t Dance

The recently announced cast of “Dancing with the Stars” includes some unlikely picks—um, Buzz Aldrin?—but I doubt any of them trump my boyfriend Michael when it comes to dance floor incompetence. He is clownish and rhythmically challenged, prone to hip-thrusting, butt-bumping, and the occasional fist-pumping.

It’s a wonder I can even publicly admit this, considering my dancing past. A musical theater junkie and eldest daughter of four spotlight-loving girls, I grew up with a very distinct idea of my dream dance partner/boyfriend: He would be suave, strong, and graceful, and oozing with old-fashion charm.

Forget being swept off my feet by Michael; dancing with him was like trying to tame a wild animal.

In my single days, I even found myself falling for some dubious suitors just because they could spin me across the floor of the frat/bar/club with the requisite dramatic flair. There was the tux-clad prepster with halitosis almost as powerful as his turns and dips; the mustachioed Australian hipster with whom I had nothing in common but a shared sense of rhythm.

Things were different with Michael. I was so immediately smitten with him and his many extraordinary attributes—his quick wit, his goofiness, his opinions, his compassion—that his dance skills were the last thing on my mind. In retrospect, this was probably because I had yet to experience them first hand. I will never forget the night, a few months into our romance, that he introduced me to his unique brand of dance-floor bravado. He jumped up and down like a kid with ants in his pants. He flailed his limbs. He thrust his hips.

Forget being swept off my feet by Michael; dancing with him was like trying to tame a wild animal.

When repeat performances ensued, I decided to address his cringe-worthy choreography like I did every other problem we encountered during our by-all-accounts healthy and happy relationship: by talking about it.

“Babe,” I said, one night as we cleaned up after dinner. “Would you ever agree to taking dance lessons?”

“Sure,” Michael said, smiling. “As long as you learn to cook.”

Snap. I had to admit my man had a point: At the moment, we were clearing plates of a divine roasted chicken I’d had absolutely nothing to do with, despite Michael’s repeated efforts to involve me in his passion for food. So, in the spirit of compromise, I overcame my habitual dependence on microwave meals, and studied up on simple recipes and techniques. To Michael’s delight, I quickly became a capable sous chef.
“So,” I said a few months later, over a plate of jointly-made risotto. “What about our little deal?”

Michael looked at me with zero enthusiasm. “What about it?”

“Dance lessons would be so fun,” I pleaded.

“Maybe for you,” he said.

Fine. If I couldn’t drag him to lessons, I could at least try to coax him into dancing like a normal human being. At a friend’s wedding, I pulled him out on the floor for a slow dance, placed his hands on my waist, and instructed him to follow my lead. Michael looked relatively miserable, but at least he wasn’t making a spectacle—that is, until he insisted I dip him at the end of the song.

As soon as a faster tune came on, he was back to his old antics—namely, jumping up and down and making ridiculous silly faces. I couldn’t even decipher the beat he was moving to.

“What are you doing?” I yelled over the music.

“I’m just having fun,” he yelled back, without pausing from his bouncing. “It’s not hurting anyone, is it?”

I stepped back and watched him, in all his bizarre, spastic glory. No, he wasn’t hurting anyone. In fact, he was entertaining most of the wedding guests and seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

The next thing I knew, he was initiating a butt-bump routine, and I gamely bumped back. Then came the flailing fist-pumping, which I joined in, too. The rest of the night, I laughed so hard that I began to wonder if basic rhythm, coordination and dance-floor savvy were overrated after all.

It’s been a year since my “boogieing breakthrough,” and each time Michael and I hit the dance floor together is more hilariously fun than the last. Still, do I get nervous when photos are posted from the latest wedding at which we’ve danced? Of course—especially since a recent shot from my sister’s reception features Michael in the midst of an aggressive hip-thrust, while family, friends, and religious clergy members stare on.

And yet, there I am next to him, busting my own goofy move and clearly having a blast. The beaming smile on my face says it all: I’ve learned to love my man not just despite of, but because of, his quirks, and wouldn’t change a thing about him. After all, the best partners—on the dance floor, as in life—aren’t always the ones with all the right moves. They’re the ones having the most fun, and taking you along for the ride.