It's Christmas Eve. We arrive at my cousin Sue and her husband Tony’s house. Sue and Tony have a daughter named Samantha. Samantha is ten years old. I also have three other little cousins named…I never remember their names so I have to check my phone as we’re walking in. That’s right. Chad 11, Madelyn 10, Garrett 8. And next to Garrett’s name I wrote in my phone, “the blonde one.”
We walk into this suburban home and all the kids are downstairs in the basement. I make my way upstairs. I’m not sure when I became an upstairs person but now I sit at the dining room table, I smile and I pray that I have recently booked some job or done some exciting gig that I can talk about. Cuz I’m the only artist and the only single person left in my family. And when they start talking about the frustrations of owning a home and having to attend PTA meetings…that’s when I sink into the background, casually make my way to the bathroom. I’m not sure if I fit here anymore.
But as I’m heading to the head, pun intended, I can hear that something’s going on downstairs. I make my way to the basement and it appears that the kids now own a Wii. You can use this video game device to play tennis, to box or to…just dance. What? This is awesome. And I sit and watch as my ten year-old cousin Samantha is wiping the floor with her opponents. Chad, Madelyn and the blond kid don’t have a chance. And none of them are sore losers. But Samantha is a sore winner. Oh, she just thinks she’s all that. She raises her arm and says, “Next!” and out of nowhere, I go “mmmhm.” And my brain is like, “Wait, what are you doing?” And I’m like, “I’m about to show this li’l girl what’s up. I’m about to give her the dance battle of her life.”
The kids scream “JOE’S GONNA DO IT!!” They give me that li’l controller and they tighten it around my wrist. Oh, yeah, I’m ready. Before I know it, my character on the screen is what looks like a female police officer in a mini-skirt. And Britney Spears is singing, “With a taste of your lips I’m on a ride.” And tiny little arrows start scrolling up the screen. Okay, just, wait, okay, go, okay, wait, now to the right, shit. I’m all in my head. Samantha is so far ahead of me. She’s getting so many stars. The word “Perfect” keeps coming up on her side of the screen. Perfect Perfect Perfect and she’s barely doing anything. Just small flicks of the wrist. Small little steps. And me? I am drenched in sweat. I’m not listening to the music. I’m trying so hard to get it right that I am a step behind every single time. And before I know it, “wait, it’s over?” The scores get compiled. Samantha’s score Skyrockets! Mine…sucks. Samantha turns to me, makes an "L" with her fingers on her forehead and exclaims “LOSER!”
And now all of the other cousins want to play me. And I get excited and then I realize, “Oh, its cuz they all know they can beat me.” But what they don’t realize is…I’m an adult. I know how this shit works. The more you play, the more you get beat, the more you learn, the better you get. And I’m just getting started. And, sure, they each beat me several more times…but the score gets a li’l closer every time. And now, Samantha steps back up. She runs through the songs, she says, “No, no, no, not that one. No no no.” And then, she says “YES” and presses select. Our character comes up. This time I am a MAN wearing what appears to be a Bill Cosby sweater and Hammer pants. I hear this...
EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!
I know this song. No, I KNOW this song. I’ve done these moves hundreds of times on hundreds of dance floors to impress at least two or three girls. Oh it gets better. Order another round. MY TEN YEAR OLD COUSIN? SHE’S ABOUT TO GO DOWN! EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!
Gold stars start streaking across the screen! My little cousins scream, “Joe just got three Perfects in a row!” I am going to win FINALLY! And I can see out of the corner of my eye, my cousin Samantha keeps hitting her controller and I keep thinking, “You silly little girl, stop blaming the controller! Let the music take control! Let the rhythm move you.” And then, before I know it, Samantha walks up to the console, says, “My wand isn’t working,” and she presses reset.
Now. At this moment, am I going to be the kid or the adult? I say, “Samantha, there are gonna be moments in your life when you’re gonna want to press reset, but that’s not how life works. You fall down, you get back up and no matter what, you keep dancing. You don’t pay attention to how many stars the other person is getting, who cares how many PERFECTS keep coming up on their side of the screen. It’s just a game so keep dancing. When you’re questioning if you've made your parents proud, you keep dancing. When you’re questioning if you’ve made the right college choices, career choices, life choices, you keep dancing. When you’re questioning why you’re taking this dance battle with your ten year-old cousin so seriously, you keep dancing. And I promise you, things get better. And, yes, sometimes, you’re just gonna have to accept…that you’re a LOSER!”
So now when I arrive at my cousin’s house, Samantha is at the door with a capital “L” on her forehead and a really big hug. I go upstairs for a bit and say hello. But there’s only so long I can keep the kids at bay. The battle in the basement awaits. I stretch out, I always bring a change of clothes and for the first time in a while, I feel like I'm home.