Last night, Spartacus and I attended a Christmas party thrown by the gastroenterology group I work with. Thanks to Atlanta's impossible traffic situation, we arrived an hour and fifteen minutes late to the feast already in progress, both of us starving after our grueling pre-party workouts. Had either of us anticipated that treacherous bottleneck on I-20 eastbound, I would've brought a few snacks for the road. Yeah, I get a little bitchy when I'm hungry. Relieved that we'd finally made it there after our harrowing backroad detour, we loaded up our plates, grabbed a glass of wine, and engaged in pleasant chatter with the folks sitting at our table. I couldn't help but notice that we all clean up very nicely. At work, we spend our days running around in non-descript, formless scrubs, so when I see colleagues dressed in their street clothes, it sometimes takes me a moment to recognize them. It was great seeing everyone so happy and relaxed. Women of all ages were wearing updos and party dresses and sequined sleeveless tops, some on the conservative side, some downright sexy, but they all shared one thing in common: a burning desire to shake their booties on the dance floor. Needless to say, the air of dance-ticipation was pretty thick.
As the dinner plates were cleared away, the DJ eased from mealtime muzak into disco, dance rock and good old country, the urgent question on everyone's minds being "Who's going to get up and boogie first?" Glancing about the room, I could see boyfriends and husbands--including my own--bracing themselves, hoping to ward off their respective dancing queens' attempts to drag them from the security of their chairs into the encroaching disco inferno. I assumed the hot young chicks in stilettos and satin mini dresses, priming themselves with shots of Cuervo over by the bar, would be the ones to get this party started. I'd been hearing legendary tales of their dancing prowess for the past several weeks, so I thought they were a safe bet. Surprisingly, and somewhat endearingly, the first rug-cutter was a young newlywed guy. Obviously obliviated and observedly oblivious, he wielded his Bud Light like a homing beacon, solitarily tripping the light fantastic for a few moments before being joined by his laughing bride. Their spontaneity and uncensored delight in one another set the tone for the evening. It wasn't long before a decent-sized--albeit mostly female--crowd accumulated, expertly kicking out The Electric Slide in unison. Hell, I even got out there and busted out a few of my trademark awkward-white-girl moves to Baby's Got Back, and I didn't even have to twist Spartacus's arm to slow dance with me during "Unchained Melody."
We left shortly before the party ended, our post-prandial sleepiness a welcome promise of sweet, uninterrupted sleep to come. As we made the rounds, saying our goodbyes and thank yous, one of the nurses I work with pointed out an attractive young woman who was clearly enjoying herself on the dance floor. "See that girl? Her mama's one of our co-workers, and she's a real upright holy roller. She's gotta be cringing, watching her daughter dance like that!" The woman looked to be in her mid to late 20s. She was dressed modestly in a long-sleeved white sweater, slim black pants, and open-toed pumps, and although she was swaying energetically to the beat of the music, she certainly didn't appear to be trying to draw attention to herself. She was only having fun. "Good for her for getting out there and dancing!," I replied, supposing aloud that Mama probably believes Jesus didn't dance or drink wine, and then adding, "Morality is what happens when goodness has failed." My friend nodded, "Uh-huh," in agreement, but the perplexity furrowing her brow conveyed an ascending note of misapprehension. "How can goodness fail?"
Perhaps the better question is what's so good about goodness? And, where do our ideas about goodness come from? From the moment we're born, our goodness is vigorously reinforced. Good boys don't cry. Good girls sit with their knees together. Good babies sleep through the night; after all, children are best seen, but not heard. Are babies even capable of being good or bad? The easy answer is "no," but what if babies are true goodness personified? If morality is the by-product of faulty goodness, then what came before goodness, true or otherwise? Goodness, it seems, stems from desire. Newborns aren't desirous of attention when they cry, they're simply reacting to hunger or discomfort. They're just being. Through ongoing behavioral conditioning and reinforcement, babies eventually learn that certain cries will elicit predictable responses from their parents, heralding the genesis of self-awareness from which all goodness emanates. Because goodness seeks approval, it is never fully satisfied. Being somewhat of a micromanager, goodness wants what's right, but doesn't trust others to do the right thing. So, maybe goodness is what happens when we cease to be, when life's mysterious, marvelous flow is ignored in favor of duty, expectation, and control. Goodness, deconstructed, doesn't sound so good after all. Still, we're in love with the idea that true goodness exists, and that goodness is good.
Much like the young woman dancing last night, true goodness doesn't call attention to itself. It just does its own thing. As I stood there watching her, I noticed another one of the nurses I work with, a preacher's wife, dancing alongside her. Aside from being gorgeous and bubbly, Crystal has a wicked sense of humor and a really firm grip on acceptance: she's one of the least judgmental people I've ever met. She's a genuine "live and let live" kind of gal, someone who doesn't pretend to holiness or piety. It was fun seeing the two of them getting their groove on. There's something so primal and spontaneous and human about dancing...even when it's bad, it's still pretty darn good. Goodness like that can't be improved upon. It's as good as it gets.
Fast forward to 2:19 to see me, shakin' my groove thang...