I hate dancing. My friends hate that I hate dancing.
April 22, 2010 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I hate dancing at bars and nightclubs. How do I help my friends understand this without being a party pooper?

I hate dancing in nightclubs. It's not that I don't know how to or that I'm a bad dancer (I've been told I'm pretty good) - but I feel nothing but extreme discomfort and anxiety when I dance. So I have made the decision not to dance anymore. And sorry dance-lovers, but this question isn't about getting me to appreciate the spirit of dance. I really, really just don't want to dance anymore.

The problem is that no one else seems to tolerate this decision. Every time I go out bar-hopping with a big group of friends, at some point in the night someone suggests "WE SHOULD GO SOMEWHERE AND DANCE!" and everyone else agrees while a wave of nausea and panic comes over me. We'll finally arrive and people are VERY INSISTENT that I dance and try to drag me onto the dance floor: "Comme onnn...just danceee!!!"

I know that they are doing it because they genuinely want me to have fun with them but I don't think they realize how much stress it causes me. So when I politely decline and explain that I'd rather not dance, it's like I'm playing hard to get and they want me to dance even MORE. "Dude just do it! Just make a fool of yourself, no one's watching!" This does not help.

I don't know how to explain to them that I just feel really stressed and uncomfortable dancing and I really, really, really don't like it... but it seems so hard to do without coming off like a party pooper who takes himself too seriously, especially when everyone's just trying to have a good time. I've thought about simply splitting from the group when they decide to hit the dance club, but again, this would leave them very confused because we're all close friends and the action would be taken as buzzkill-ish (and it's usually too early to go home anyway).

Non-dancers, how do you deal with people who belong to the evangelical church of dance and are constantly trying to convert you?
posted by windbox to Human Relations (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Poetry slams, poetry readings, gallery openings, jazz bars with live jazz, wine/beer/bourbon/tapas tastings, catching a play with a quiet drink at a quiet bar after... loud and bouncy is the bottom of the barrel, not the cream of the crop. If they want you to dance to their tune, they have to take a turn to dance to yours. You may find that they're fine friends by day, but you have other friends by night. Invite them to a reading by your favorite local author, and they'll soon get the hint... cool to hang with, just not off hours.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:08 PM on April 22, 2010

This should get the point along

In all seriously I really feel you. I feel the same way. I just don't "get" dancing, never have. People don't seem to understand it and even say the same things. I say just go out, sort of...writhe a little, and just shrug it off. They're never gonna stop.
posted by wooh at 9:23 PM on April 22, 2010

Oh god yes, I get it. I had a group of friends all through my twenties who would pull this crap. Looking back on it, I see how selfish it all was. They didn't want me to dance because of the love of wiggling to music and how good it feels. Well, they did, but for how good it feels for them, and they didn't want to do it alone because of whatever insecurity or mental image they have of all the girls out dancing.

If your friends can't find ways to spend social time together that meets everybody's needs, then you need to hang out with new friends that do things that are fun for everybody involved. If they can't understand that, then their own selfish stubbornness is an obstacle you'll never be able to get around. I mean, seriously, if it wasn't about them and their insecurity, they'd be fine with their dancing and your watching. Their insistence you join them is less about you and more about them. As is their making you feel bad for not wanting to stay on the rails they've built.

At some point, for whatever reasons, you'll get to a point where you won't feel stigma about not wanting to dance. Your friends aren't helping with this (and it doesn't sound like they have any incentive to change their behavior, because, hey, they want to dance!) But trust me, it's totally fine to not want to dance...there's lots of downsides to it. Especially at noisy, sweaty, clubs. You're ahead of them on this. Either they'll catch up or you'll move on.

But have fun doing other things...and there's so many of them!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:25 PM on April 22, 2010

"How do I help my friends understand this without being a party pooper?"

I had to have a talk with them each, individually. It went something like this:

"Mike, look, I really like going out with you, and the group, but I wanted to talk to you one-on-one about something you should know. I don't like to dance. It's not a matter of not having a good time - because I enjoy going out to these clubs - I just don't enjoy the dancing part. Can you cut me some slack? There's nothing I enjoy more than going along, people-watching, and having a great time with you all. But can you help me out by not giving me a hard time when I don't want to actually get on the floor, and will you have my back if someone is being pushy about it?"

This only actually works if it's true, of course. I don't mind going out to clubs, having a drink, and watching people dance. I enjoy it. And I'm happy to be the one who chit-chats with the friend(s) taking a break for a song or two. But I think people assumed I wasn't sufficiently cutting loose, and once I talked to them and told them I just didn't really like dancing, but didn't mind going along, everyone was accepting. Give it a try, and talk to your friends one-on-one.
posted by juniperesque at 9:52 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, I totally feel your pain.

To be honest, if they're really friends, and if they're GOOD friends, they won't insist on trying to make you do something that you're really uncomfortable with. What worked for me was telling them, "Guys, I love hanging out with you, but when you hit the dance floor, it's totally okay by me to just hang back. I really am not into dancing and you guys trying to make me do it kinda just makes it awkward for me. But go have fun! I'll be here."

Personally, I didn't really ever want to be at bars, let alone clubs, but if that's okay with you, so be it. If not, offer up alternate plans! "Hey, there's this really great _____ going on Friday, y'all wanna go?"
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:09 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

and they didn't want to do it alone because of whatever insecurity or mental image they have of all the girls out dancing.

It's also possible that the OP looks really uncomfortable and sad in the club, and the dancers want him to stop having a terrible time because dancing is actually really fun. I used to be more like you, OP, but now I'm a dancer and I look back at my non-dancing self with pity and mourn all the time I wasted at dancing-type functions without dancing.

That being said, I would never pressure a non-dancer to dance. OP, I suggest you find something fun to do at these clubs without dancing. Get a drink and start conversing with other non-dancers, perhaps?

Ultimately, I think you have to do one of the following:
a) Suggest venues where people who want to dance can dance, and non-dancers can sit out without feeling dumb. Live music shows, DJ sets, Jazz nights, etc.
b) Stop going dancing with these friends
c) learn to tolerate dancing
d) be more assertive with your friends
posted by sid at 10:09 PM on April 22, 2010

I just archly remind my companions that I am a WASP, and that we don't dance.

Even if you aren't blessed with WASP-y-ness, you can use it as a funny excuse.
posted by orthogonality at 10:13 PM on April 22, 2010

Can we start a support group for non dancers? I feel the same way. I like music, but in no way does it make me want to stand up and move my body. Sometimes I'll do it to humor people, but it makes me feel like a faker. I don't think it's even a confidence thing because I don't mind public speaking, doing improv or working as a teacher.

I guess it must be kind of like how asexual people just don't care about having sexing. It seems alien to everyone else, but it's just how some people are wired.

I just try to steer my nights out towards bars where you can talk and not clubs where you can only communicate by screaming in your neighbor's ear. Luckily most of my friends are bar-goers and not clubbers. I don't have a good answer, because I'll generally leave after a few minutes of bopping my head and tapping my feet.
posted by Telf at 10:18 PM on April 22, 2010

On one hand: I feel your pain. But let me play devil's advocate: Fudge it. Get out there and dance. Have an extra drink or two. I still feel weird trying to dance to like 90's party jams, but if someone drops a Smiths tune and follows it with 'Party in the USA', I'm in heaven.

Find a place with music you like and just have fun. Sometimes it's not about "ohhhhhhh i dont liiiiiiiiike to dance" and more about just doing it because you absolutely can.
posted by GilloD at 10:18 PM on April 22, 2010

It doesn't sound like you've tried bringing this up in a non-dance situation. You know how they say you shouldn't talk about your sex life while lying in bed? Try having this conversation when there's no party to poop on.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:29 PM on April 22, 2010

I had to start doing things that convinced my friends that i was having fun while i wasn't dancing. These were:
1) Being insanely blatantly 'happy' when people came over to chat with me at the table/side of the dance floor/bar
2) Doing a happy jokey/smiley dance as i left the dance floor (when friends insisted on dragging me on to begin with - sometimes you just have to dance for a minute or two to convince them that you're trying.)
3) Doing something else that aligns with the 'crazee night out dancing' theme. This usually means chatting with hot guys (since i'm a single girl) or doing shots with a random group of strangers, or just generally being visibly social.

in the end, my friends finally realized that i really don't want to dance. they sort of accept it now. which is nice. Doing that jokey walk-off dance was getting tired.
posted by Kololo at 10:30 PM on April 22, 2010

Have you tried alcohol as a remedy?

In all seriousness: I too hate this sort of dancing, and am horribly self-conscious the second I set foot on a dance floor. But after a sufficient buzz, something magical happens --- I start to really enjoy dancing, and don't give a fuck about how dorky I look. It's marvelous.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:45 PM on April 22, 2010

If it makes you feel any better, I experience the same thing.

I dunno, maybe when they go off to dance you can go out and chill with the people who are outside smoking? I mean, it's not like your friends will be dancing the whole time.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:48 PM on April 22, 2010

because dancing is actually really fun.

For you.  Not me.

(cue remainder of Devo's "Beautiful World")
posted by Aquaman at 11:18 PM on April 22, 2010

I totally hear you. I'm the same although it's more with clubs and less with dancing (I love dancing, in other environments). I put up with it for a while and eventually just sort of decided I was sick of it, and when my friends were like "let's go clubbing!" I actually said "You know, I'm not really into clubs, if you're up for something else that's cool and if not I might just head home. No worries, feel free to go on without me, I just don't think I'd enjoy it."

Turned out in my case it was just a few of us pushing the 'clubbing!' idea and some of the others were really happy to have someone say that. So we were able to go do something else instead.

If you're happy to go to the clubs and stand there with your buds, but don't want to dance, then you can mention it that way - "Well, I'm not really into dancing, but I'm happy to come along and just hang out if that's what you all want to do". The reason I recommend phrasing it this way is that it helps you present yourself as an accomodating (and honest) kind of guy - even though you don't want to dance, wow, you're going to a club with your friends because they do! - instead of as a complainer.

Depending on your relationship with your friends, a little one-on-one "hey, I know we always end up at clubs and that's fine, but I really don't care to dance so don't give me a hard time about standing around ok?" to the folks who've been worst about it can really help too.
posted by Lady Li at 12:18 AM on April 23, 2010

I have a tough time recommending too much alcohol to anyone, but I definitely can relate to qxntpqbbbqxl. It's also easier to enjoy the dance floor while sober once you've experienced it while buzzed, though.
posted by tantivy at 12:29 AM on April 23, 2010

In a somewhat parallel situation, I dread the dessert ordering part of a dinner out with friends. I am allergic to chocolate and I'm lactose intolerant, so that basically eliminates 99% of desserts. No big deal, as I don't really even like sweets all that much. However, time and time again it turns into some big ordeal when I say I don't want any dessert. "But you have to have something!" No really, I'm cool. Besides, I'm allergic to everything. "I know, let's ask the waiter if they can make you a lemon sorbet! You can eat that, right?" No, you guys go ahead, I'm fine really. and on and on. It's like they can't enjoy dessert unless everyone in the group is eating it. I finally found a couple of solutions: 1. I've told most of my friends in private I get really uncomfortable when my food allergies make me the center of attention during a meal, so they'll usually laugh and back me up when it starts happening (no really, she's fine. let's get that chocolate cake) or 2. I either order a glass of port or coffee as my dessert. I'm still participating, and yum, port!

So my advice:
1. Sometime when you're not out at a club, talk to your friends individually about the dancing thing. Just say you honestly don't like dancing and you hate it when everyone makes a big deal about it when you go out.
2. Find some way to make sure they know you're having fun and not bored- get a drink and chat with someone at the bar, etc.
posted by emd3737 at 12:35 AM on April 23, 2010

First off - you are all a bunch of dance haters.

If you're in a group and the majority of them are dancers then, no, you can't expect them to find an activity that meets the needs of the outlier. In social situations, majority tends to rule. What you might expect from them is for them to be ok with you not dancing...but again, seeing as how you're the ONLY ONE not dancing - you are indeed the buzzkill.

To remedy this, why not bring another friend of yours who also does not like to dance. That way you'll have a wingman when your dancing friends hit the floor and you'll have someone to socialize with and have fun with. Your dancing friends won't feel as though they need to worry about you having a good time either - as you'll have a companion. Once the dancing is over...you all reunite and head off for greasy food to soak up the liquor.

Personally, as a dancer amidst a sea of friends who "just want to go to a bar" or some other such nonsense, I simply bring along another friend who likes to dance as much as I do (if we go to a place with a dancefloor and a loungey area - which is a good compromise in this situation). Otherwise I simply go dancing some weekends with my dance peoples, and visit my non-dancing bretheren at their sullen watering holes every now and then to strengthen the bond.

Do the same.
posted by jnnla at 1:08 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm also a non-dancer. I was born lacking rhythm, so somewhat different from you. As someone who didn't drink for many years (for no particular reason), I found that the same people who couldn't deal with me not dancing, couldn't deal with me not having a drink in my hand if we were in a bar or at a party. The not drinking thing is obviously easier: you can hold a glass of soda and most people are aware of reasons for people not drinking. Also, people who are your friends get used to it.

Not dancing is more difficult as can be seen here by some of the comments from people who don't entirely understand that you really don't want to dance. Yes, you're going to be seen as a buzzkill; finding a friend who also isn't interested in dancing would help - then the two of you would be talking while your friends dance. Your friends, likely, just want you to be having fun because they feel responsible for you enjoying yourself and maybe can't relax and enjoy themselves until they've been reassured that you're fine, just fine.

Maybe explaining it to them as being like a food preference would work. I don't like the taste of coffee and people are constantly telling me that I should have some of this kind or that kind and it would change my outlook. It won't. I don't even like coffee ice cream. Choose a food that your friend/s don't like (anchovies, olives, brussell sprouts, stinky cheese, fruit cake) and tell them that continuing to bully you onto the dance floor is like always making them eat their disliked food.

Good luck.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:21 AM on April 23, 2010

I always tell people that "For me, dancing is a 5 drink minimum. Sadly, I fall asleep after 3." My friends aren't pound 'em back drinkers, though. Those numbers would be really low for any group that drinks a fair bit.

But what works is having a sort of set, humourous line. If you go back to the same argument time and time again, and don't give them anything new to argue with you about, there's less opportunity for 'convincing'.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:47 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am one of those obnoxious people who is constantly trying to get others to dance and becomes even more obnoxious when drunk. However, depending on how the person is delivering the "No, I don't dance" message I can be deterred.

When you say you don't dance, do you look at the floor, blush, kind of half-laugh, try to wave them away, and basically look very hesitant and shy? Or do you look them straight in the eye, hold your place, and confidently say something like "No, go on, I'm not going to dance, I prefer to hang out here"? You can say it with a smile on your face and not be a jerk about it, but the point is that the drunker people get the more important how you deliver a message becomes, because they're not going to be listening to the actual words. Hold your ground and be firm. That's what works on me, anyway.
posted by Anonymous at 5:55 AM on April 23, 2010

> jnnla said: "..you can't expect them to find an activity that meets the needs of the outlier."

But that's not what the OP is asking. OP just wants the dance-obsessed to quit trying to pressure him into dancing. I used to have the same problem with friends pushing drinks on me when I wasnt in the mood to drink. I expect my friends to be polite enough to ask me ONCE..and ONLY ONCE. If I politely answer (something like "I'm sorry jnnla, but I'm not really in the mood to drink/dance/herd cats...").. then my friends should respect that answer and let me enjoy the evening in the way I want to enjoy it.

Group dynamics and peer pressure are terribly manipulative things. If 8 people go out, and 4 of them want to dance and the other 4 want to sit at a table and drink...there's nothing wrong with that. (if everyone is having a good time). Additionally, if 8 people go out and 7 of them want to dance and 1 wants to enjoy him/herself at the table drinking and people watching,.. there's nothing wrong with that either. We, as human beings should be respectful enough of each other to let people freely choose how to enjoy themselves.

It's taken me a long time to convince my friends of this... My typical answer is usually something along the lines of: "You guys seem like you're having a great time doing XYZ.. and I'm also enjoying myself (at a nearby table) doing ABC... so whats the problem?"... I'm not intentionally trying to be a buzzkill - I'm just trying to educate my friends that people enjoy themselves in different ways, and we should all relax a little and allow that enjoyment to happen instead of trying to force our friends to enjoy something in a way they wont.
posted by jmnugent at 7:50 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I learned a couple of ways to break a wrist hold and used them. Seriously, people get pushy - way, way, boundary-crossing, physically-aggressive pushy - and I've found I have to treat it like less-savory no-means-no situations. Fortunately, either I only have to go that far once on any given person, or I stop hanging out with that person.

...Yeah, I'm kinda humorless about this, but I put up with a year of two-a-week bar mitzvahs when I was thirteen and I literally had to fight people off. I am not cool with being forced into anything by social or physical coercion, and I find that being dead, buzz-killing serious about it is the only way to get my point across.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:37 AM on April 23, 2010

I'm a fellow non-dancer, so I feel ya. Back in the days of my misspent youth at clubs and such, I would do my best to find fellow non-dancers (and luckily I knew quite a few) to hang out with. If your friends are being obstinate, just keep saying "No, thank you" which you may need to escalate to, "NO, dammit, NO, and if you ask again I am going to get up and leave." And then do so.

If someone is actually physically grabbing you, then you need to yell, "GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME" at top volume (not easy in a crowded nightclub, I know). Hopefully this will embarrass the grabber. As restless_nomad said, some people can really violate boundaries, grabbing their friends in a way that would result in a date calling the police for assault. If you have a "grabber," you need to tell him or her (during the daytime, when sober) "Last night, when you grabbed my wrist and would not let go, I felt threatened and invaded. This is not acceptable. If you want to continue my friendship, then you do not grab me." (I admit to being a little, erm, touchy on this subject, and really into enforcing physical boundaries.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:16 AM on April 23, 2010

Do you like the places at which they're dancing? I mean, are you enjoying yourself without dancing? When I used to go out to clubs, I had non-dancing friends (and was one, on occasion.) They (we) parked themselves at the bar, people-watched, flirted with the bartender, chatted with whoever was taking a break, whatever. But the key was that it was understood that this is what they came there to do.

Assuming the best of intentions: They want you to dance because they want to be out having fun with you. If there's a non-dancer in the group people will often feel obligated to sit out a dance to keep you company. If you can make it clear that you ARE having fun, and that this is the way in which you wish to have fun with them, you might get it through their dance-crazed skulls to quit dragging you onto the floor.
posted by desuetude at 9:48 AM on April 23, 2010

i am a dancer, but i don't like dancing in clubs (too crowded, gross stranger guys think they can touch you, etc), and i'm in studio/performances so often that club dancing seems kind of unnecessary to me. i usually just go home after dinner or only go to the club for an hour or so when the dance floor is still relatively empty and leave when it gets crowded. granted this is also easier because i'm not a drinker and tend to absent myself when people go off to a bar after whatever we've been doing.

granted i've also been that obnoxious person that's like DANCE WITH MEEEEE at parties because i'm a dancer ._. sorry, we're just silly people who just want to share the fun with you..!! that said, the times i DO go out we always appreciate having someone look after drinks/purses/jackets so maybe you can designate yourself as that person.
posted by raw sugar at 10:26 AM on April 23, 2010

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