The Wrong Generation

The feria de El Pilar rages on. The flags are out on the streets now, the King’s on TV saluting the army and Villafranca’s dead quiet for a Monday morning. I’m low on supplies so I’m kind of hoping there’s a market open somewhere, national festival or no. But I’ve wound up in the town centre once again in the seemingly endless quest for WiFi (I seem to have to migrate to a new spot every week) so I thought I’d take a moment to tackle my Achilles’ heel, both out here and in life in general, and that’s my shyness.

Last week in class I did a week’s worth of lessons on personality. It was a lot of fun once they realized it was characters I was after and not physical characteristics, and the results rewarding enough; the youngsters loved to rain praise upon their friends, the seniors jokingly applauded themselves and the teenagers stared blankly, as I guessed they might, unwilling to do one nor the other. I had to spill a lot of personal foibles before some of them opened up a tad. I don’t blame them – at their age I was lovestruck and rather lacking in a personality of my own – but it did highlight for me the glaring hypocrisy of my own handicap, and that is my crippling shyness in the face of certain situations.

I’ll give you some curious examples. I won’t go into a café alone, nor a restaurant for that matter. I still hesitate before knocking on a door, even if it’s the house of a friend, and calling anybody but my parents still has me nervous. Yes, it’s phones, dammit. My worst enemy. The sheer facelessness of it. Like admin, really.

I have no bones about discussing this weakness of mine, just it never really bothers me to talk about anything on a personal level. In the same way, getting up on a stage and singing and dancing has nothing to do with it either. Somehow that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. Going it alone, of course, is a lot easier than when I have the safety of other people around me to rely on should I fall short, which I so often do. But I still won’t brave a café alone. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t answer that one well if I tried. It just… won’t do.

For the last three nights I’ve been wandering the feria to take in the sights. Usually that’s a case of walking across Pilar district to the fairground rides and back through the stall-lined streets, ogling the turón and other delicacies on display, but neither summing up the courage to buy one, nor to engage in conversation with anybody beyond a friendly wave to my students, who see me long before I see them. There are almost two hundred of them now, remember, it’s not easy to know them all within a couple of weeks! Last night as I was retreating away home I had a streak of luck when one of my senior classes, led by the Flashman-esque Garci, hailed me over and demanded I go with them to dinner and then on to the feria. I relished the opportunity, being in want of company, and we had a merry couple of hours over a pizza at Andy’s, where I picked sides with the Uruguayan waitress over ordering a ‘coca’ instead of a ‘coca cola’; in Spain, ‘coca’ is cocaine, whereas in Uruguay you can use it for a regular Coke. You learn something new every day. We moved on to the rides and sat on the rails of the dodgems, and there things slowly petered out. The music was insane, faster, harder and generally better than anything you might get in an English club. And yet, there we were; sitting on the rails, drinking, talking and staring into the void. I say we, but I should point out that yours truly was standing sober on the grille and finding it very difficult to control his feet.

The simple fact of the matter is that Spaniards, or at least the younger generation, don’t dance anymore.

‘Bailar es otra cosa,’ says one of my students. ‘In Spain, anything more than this…’ – he pumps his fist in a standard weak club move – ‘…is strange. It’s ok for you. You are the foreigner. You do things your way, and the people here let you get away with it because you’re different. But us? No dancing.’

He’s only half true. At half midnight I slipped away and made for home, but along the way I found a live band playing in a packed square. The performers were your bread-and-butter upbeat modern Spanish trio, complete with Latin beats, wildly gyrating hips and a troupe of six year old choreographers getting the crowd hyped. The crowd, as it happens, were my parents’ generation, give or take a few years. And let me tell you, they had no problems shaking what their parents gave them. I danced away a good half hour before the band packed up for home and I called it a night, and I considered it a half-hour very well spent. To think that a crowd of forty year-olds are better company on a dance floor than my own generation is… Well, it’s more disappointing than surprising.

My question is less to Spain but to young folks in general: what happened? Why does nobody dance anymore? Because it’s exactly the same here as it is in Klute, or Lloyds, or wherever. I may have none of the social airs and graces that allow my companions to chat their way into new friends and lovers with such ease, and I doubt I ever will, but dancing – for me, at least – is such a vital means of expression. It’s an art; there are steps you can follow, but it’s so much more fun to be creative and do your own thing. I’m as timid as a mouse in situations that most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at, but dancing the night away  – especially without the comfort blanket of a bellyful of alcohol – seems to put the fear of God into my generation. Why?

Just a thought. For future reference, I know who to go to if I want a good boogie out here. BB x

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