Presumed Familiarity, Feigned Interest

One other point about the wedding we attended on Friday:  weddings are an interesting opportunity to observe basic human social interactions.

Consider wedding reception tables, for example.  If you’re a member of the family you might be seated with other family members, or if you’re an old college chum you might be noshing with dormitory buddies.  If you’re just a random friend, however, you’re likely to be assigned to a table where most of the seats are filled by complete strangers.  That’s what we got on Friday.

It’s interesting how quickly you reach conclusions about people under those circumstances.  The woman seated to my right — whom I’d never met before — swept in, introduced herself as an old friend of the family, and then promptly launched into a long, inane story about her son, whom none of us knew, and his living arrangements in New York City which included some kind of terrible bathroom.  The story was apparently pointless, aside from the fact that it gave this woman something to talk about.  After five minutes or so, when she paused for a breath and then started to move into a story about her son’s roommate from Texas — an unknown person even farther removed from our realities — someone stepped in to end the woman’s tedious monopolization of conversation at the table.

As the interminable apartment bathroom story was underway, the other people at the table feigned polite interest in the meandering tale but exchanged some meaningful glances.  I’d guess that most of us immediately concluded that the woman was hopelessly self-absorbed and unwilling to engage in the normal social niceties — which require that you at least ask strangers some questions about their lives before you bore the pants off of them with a tale as long as Beowulf.

After that gruesome introduction, I shifted my attention to the left and tried to avoid any head turns to the right, lest the woman pull out her cell phone and begin to inflict a show of photos of her family, friends, and pets and tedious anecdotes about the latest family vacation.

The Impenetrable Female Dancing Circle

Yesterday’s wedding reception for Joe and Laura featured a DJ, a disco ball, and a spacious dance floor.  As a result, we were exposed to one of the worst recent wedding reception developments:  the Impenetrable Female Dancing Circle.

If you’ve been to a wedding in the last five years, you’ve probably seen an IFDC.  It forms when high-spirited young women forsake the need for a partner and rush the dance floor, forming a circle.  They bounce up and down and clap and do some secret dance unknown to anyone over age 30 while one circle member after another moves into the center to cut a rug.  The participation in the circle is 99% female; rare, indeed, is the Y-chromosomed human who has the confidence in his dancing ability to break into the circle.  And so the IFDC goes on and on, unbroken, a living thing, throbbing and shrieking as each new favorite song comes on.

So, what’s the problem?  Why should even a cranky and grizzled veteran of countless weddings care if young women want to band together, empower themselves, and proudly display their dancing chops?

The problem is this:  if you are a crappy dancer — and let’s face it, that description applies to the spastic dancing attempts of the vast majority of American males — you don’t want to try to break into an IFDC or, even worse, dance with your partner on the empty side of the floor, where your fitful and pathetic moves will be exposed for all chuckling wedding guests to see.  The great thing about a crowded dance floor is that it is crowded.  You and your partner can move into the center of the floor and meld into the mass of pulsing humanity so that your lame attempts to get down aren’t the subject of mass derision.

If you’re feeling in a celebratory mood at a wedding reception, therefore, the IFDC might just prevent you from fully expressing your joy with your patented shimmy and shake.  So c’mon, ladies — after you’ve formed that IFDC for a dance or two, break up, fill the floor, and let the rest of us find the dancing anonymity that we so desperately need!