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BLARGH: "My First SWOON" by Robin Wasserman

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"My First SWOON" by Robin Wasserman

Many thanks to Lisa Schroeder for swooning in verse—and for giving me a new appreciation for Sammy Hagar...which is kind of perverse….

When people ask, “What’s your book about?” I simply refer them to the killer blurb Robin Wasserman wrote for the back cover of SWOON. As Robin’s fans know, her stuff is incredible—novels like those in the Seven Deadly Sins series, as well as Skinned and Crashed. (Holding your breath till its September release? Here’s a preview of the cover). Visceral, frightening and immensely readable—that’s Robin Wasserman. Thank you, Robin, for swooning…

The summer I turned 14, I fell in love with dancing.

Now, anyone who knows me will tell you this is a lie. They’ll tell you I almost never dance, that the phrase “let’s go dancing” makes me laugh, scream, then run in the opposite direction, that I’m the girl who needs to be dragged onto the dance floor kicking and screaming and that, once there, I spend most of my time complaining that I’m not a very good dancer and probably look like a spastic money, and that in actuality I am a not very good dancer, likely because I spend most of my time obsessing over the possibility that I look like a spastic monkey.

All this is true.

Also true, however, is the fact that the summer I turned 14, I fell in love with dancing (cue the “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” soundtrack) and it’s a love still going strong, even if much of the dancing takes place in the safety of my own home.

Lots of things changed that summer; it was a summer of first swoons, as it were. I went away for the first time, to the kind of un-camp that unathletic, uncoordinated, socially awkward adolescents occasionally get to attend. It was a writing program on a college campus, and while it only lasted three weeks, it seemed to stretch on forever. Long enough for me to meet and befriend a merry band of freaks and geeks – the first real “they actually get me” friends I’d had in a long time. Long enough to discover a passion for writing, something that until then had just been one of those things that you tell people you like to do because you figure you’re the kind of person who should like to do them. Long enough to remember, or maybe figure out for the first time, that not everything sucked and that there might actually be life after junior high. Once I got back home, I would immediately begin counting the days until the next summer, and until college—but for those three weeks, I just let myself get lost in the moment. (And trust me, I am not a get lost in the moment kind of gal.)

The one fly in the ointment, the mote in the eye of this perfect summer, were the weekly dances. Now, at age 14, I’d been to plenty of dances. Elementary school graduation dances, junior high school dances, not to mention an endless stream of bar and bat mitzvahs. Which meant I knew enough about dancing to know that I hated it. Hated it the way I hated things like tuna fish and volleyball—by which I mean, not only did I find dancing personally repugnant, but I literally couldn’t understand why anyone else would disagree. I would watch the poor fools out on the dance floor, jerking their arms and legs in various directions, big sloppy grins on their faces, trying to decipher what was going on like I was the creature from outer space.

So understandably, I spent most of those summer dances hiding in the lobby. (You might suspect this was due to my wardrobe, which included a denim vest with so many dangling beads that I jingled when I walked, but mostly it was the dancing thing.) But in the closing hour of the final dance, for some reason I can’t remember—though I’m guessing it involved an ambush and some serious bodily force—I found myself on the dance floor. And somehow, I was dancing. Dancing almost without hating it. Then the Violent Femmes kicked in, and I was still dancing—not only without hating it, but without even thinking about it. I took my hair out of its tight ponytail and joined my friends in an exceedingly nerdy attempt at headbanging, despite the big blond afro I knew would result.

I don’t know what it was. Some perfect combination of the music, the people, the summer, the knowledge that it was all about to end—something kicked in and I let go. Just like that. And then I danced my little spastic monkey heart out.

These days, on those very occasional times when I can be persuaded to dance in public, and those even more occasional times when I can forget myself enough to enjoy it, that’s where I go in my head. That summer, that place, that moment. My first taste of what it meant to forget everything, even myself—especially myself—and just enjoy.

Now, because as it turns out, pre-college nerderiffic summer programs are just as ritualistic as regular overnight camps, the playlist at each and every one of these dances included the same canon of songs. If a dance ended without each and every one of these songs being played, there would be a mass rebellion. And I speak from experience—we’re talking outraged, sit-in-style, hell no, we won’t go (until you play our songs) rebellion. And it somehow seems wrong to end this post without similar tribute to tradition. So here, for posterity, all I can remember from the playlist of my footloose summer:

“Birdhouse in Your Soul” (They Might Be Giants), “Istanbul” (They Might Be Giants), “Brown-Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison), “I’m Too Sexy” (Right Said Fred), “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” (REM), “Oh L’Amour” (Erasure), “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin), “Bizarre Love Triangle” (New Order), “Blister in the Sun” (Violent Femmes), “American Pie” (Don McLean)

Robin Wasserman is the author of Skinned, Hacking Harvard, the Seven Deadly Sins series and the upcoming Crashed. Obey the call to visit her at


Blogger Anica said...

Love it! Robin, our summer camps had the EXACT SAME SOUNDTRACKS (with the addition one year of Black Sheep's "The Choice Is Yours"). So much for my unique adolescent experience...

June 17, 2009 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Micol Ostow said...

OMG, your sound track takes me back!
Must go "not dancing" together one of these days.

June 22, 2009 at 1:40 PM  

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