Memory lane has more bends and double-backs now that I’m almost fifty-five. Today’s meandering walk began unexpectedly, as most of these trips do. While hip pain has put a dent in my dancing routine, I’m still swaying; determined to go with the flow of life rather than drowning in a what amounts to a puddle.

Thinking about these hips, I remembered a seasonal friend named Leonard, who helped me make more money as a waitress. I say “seasonal” only because we lost touch when he stopped working at the restaurant where we met, a natural fate of most coworker friends from my 20’s. Leonard bussed my tables within seconds of customers leaving because 1. I tipped him well, and 2. We were friends. How he helped me most is by advising me to swing my hips when I walked through the restaurant; apparently I had a complete absence of this feminine wile (sorely lacking in this generally, to be honest). I remember laughing hard, likely because we’d smoked a joint, and responding how I’d have gotten in trouble for “switching” if I’d done that as a young person. Such overt manipulation seemed nasty to me, until Leonard told me I was leaving money on the table; men watched me anyway. I love blunt people, as I often miss subtlety.

My mother is very no-nonsense and as far as one can get from a femme-fatale. She taught me faith, resiliency and work ethic, values I hold most dear. Now my aunts, on the other hand, they switched their hips naturally, each of them sexy and feminine in different ways. I saw one as a nurturer in tank tops and short shorts rooting for the Steelers very loudly and being funny, easy to laugh and give out love, while another had a powder poof on her dresser I thought was magical, wore flowing caftans, and had beads in the doorway to her music room. Another had a smile bright as the sun and made me feel special every time she turned it on me, her walk in heels the epitome of womanhood in the 1970’s, and another who asked me if I was hungry every single time I walked through her front door and ushered me to her kitchen for at least some koolaid, maybe a secret cookie, and a probing question or two about girl stuff.

So, I channeled my aunts and practiced switching slightly, Leonard often reminding me during shifts. My tips increased with a few customers, and every cent helped us, my delighter and I. One of my regulars gifted me a black silk tie for my uniform, although I’m unsure if that was because I started switching, but it happened not long after I adopted it. Fortunately, I was paid an hourly rate at my next job, but I never forgot Leonard’s advice because it felt like overhearing guys in a locker room.

Then I meandered further, and remembered dancing as a teenager and how I swung my hips for hours on end, gyrating to Prince, Madonna, Adam Ant and Bobby Brown. Of course, that made me pull up “Every Little Step I Take” on YouTube, the first cords encouraging muscle memory and dancing with Bobby and his crew. Stopped for a second to remind myself not to do those criss-cross moves fast enough to trip over my feet, but had a good laugh wrapped up in good times. Funny thing is-my hip feels better.


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