When I was a kid growing up in The Land of Shag, romance was my daily bread, also the peanut butter and jelly; I hungered for it more than French fries. The quickest way to get fed was shag dancing. All the coolest girls were dancers, and all the guys who couldn’t dance were relegated to the backwaters of popularity.
On Friday night, shag dancing was quicker than liquor. If you could maintain your cool when the purple jesus tried to send you spinning. We swallowed diet pills and danced all night in joints where the crowd was thick and not many onlookers could do the basic step. The bigger the crowd, the greater the glamor of shag dancing.
Now my hair is turning silver, and the old music is golden. The dance floors remain free trade zones of hope and desire. Shag dancing is a fountain of youth, an elixir that brings on the energy to take another chance on romance. Especially if your dance partner is utterly familiar. The old gold sounds invite dusty memories of new beginnings.
Falling in love again is common in The Land of Shag. Whether you’ve known your partner for fifty years, or coming to the dance alone, you catch the eye of a stranger, and its love at first sight all over again. Continuous exposure to rhythm and prolonged dancing have been avenues for awakening the human heart since before mankind left the cave.
The more you dance, the more entrancing the music becomes. Enduring fatigue awakens the body to reserves of energy you forgot you owned. Sitting down, or getting horizontal, negotiating the terms of romance is delicious.
In the thick of the crowd, in The Land of Shag, you’re among your own kind. Baby Boomers dance in defiance of the gravity age imposes. And you get tired, worn out. Suddenly a face you haven’t seen in thirty years is right there in front of you. It’s a miracle, how the energy of memories revived, friendships rekindled, floods your bones, and for another three minutes, you’re dancing again.
At SOS the crowd is so thick you could almost relax your knees and the upright energy of birds-of-a-feather would keep you flying the way you did in youth, the way you do now, when the music is golden. The pervading atmosphere is acceptance of each other. In The Land of Shag advanced age does not isolate you. Your infirmities are shared. Nobody stares, nobody turns away wishing you would disappear.
Packed shoulder to shoulder, a throng of Boomers, the generation who swore we would never trust anyone over thirty, and now we’re sixty and more. We changed everything, and we inherited shag dancing, the one and only first social dance of The Age of Rock ‘n Roll, a genuine cultural artifact. We preserved it, and we deserve it. The population of dancers is growing.
While years ago, on a given night, there might have been a dozen shaggers in a crowd of hundreds; now thousands come together: silver soldiers and silver foxes committed to the rhythm and the basic step. In the crush of SOS, you feel the sense of community, of shared experience with thousands of our generation, which is rare, even unique. Where else in America but in The Land of Shag, do so many seniors in concert refuse to retire from laughing, dancing, and romance?
We declared that “all you need is love” and love was free when we were young. Youth didn’t last, but the heart of shag dancing grew stronger. The will to romance never died.
In The Land of Shag the beat goes on.