Sundays With Mitch: Twerking Was A Thing That Happened Two Weeks Ago

September 08, 2013, 7:40 AM

Every Sunday, Freep sports columnist Mitch Albom steps away from the games to write about The More Important Things.  This week he tackles the no-longer-relevant issue of twerking. Because, sure, why not? As a service to readers, and to the very notions of logic and reason, we deconstructed Mitch's latest short-sentenced hackery.

Detroit Free Press: Like any kid who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, I have an uneasy relationship with dancing.

Unless Mitch was raised in the small town from Footloose (he wasn't) this sentence makes no sense. Between all that half-naked Summer of Love/Woodstock hippie dancing and the coke-fueled dance floor orgy that was Studio 54, the kids of the 60s and 70s had a pretty comfortable relationship with dancing.

I try to explain this to teenagers in my life, but it falls on deaf ears or, more precisely, shaking heads, shimmying shoulders, gyrating hips and deaf ears.

Teenagers don't listen because they have seen those YouTube videos of "shaking heads, shimmying shoulders, gyrating hips" from decades past. They know Mitch is pretty much full of shit here. 

Kids today, even the shy ones, seem to have all kinds of moves. A nerdy looking boy with an overbite will demurely say, “Aww, I can’t dance,” then throw up his hands, close his eyes, wiggle his torso, stop and mumble, “See?”

I'll bet all the cash currently in my wallet that Mitch Albom has never personally witnessed a "nerdy looking boy with an overbite" dancing after claiming he can't dance. Also, did he just write "kids today?" Yes, he did.

See what? In my day, that would have put you on “American Bandstand.”

"In my day!" Is someone angling for a second slice of Bill Knapp's birthday cake?

My generation comes from a lost era, dropped on the dancing time line somewhere between the Mashed Potato and the Electric Slide. I believe you have formative years with dance, and they stay with you forever, kind of like fat cells, and those years come when you are in junior high and high school.

The 60s and 70s were lost era when no one knew how to dance? Even by the standards of Mitch's normal false-nostalgia peddling, this is a remarkable bit of imaginary history. But don't take my word for it, let's ask Mr. John Travolta...

The moves you learn back then, no matter what happens the rest of your life, become your default setting. In the late ’60s, words like “groovy” were in fashion, words like “straight” were an insult, and so formal steps on a dance floor were frowned upon. You were supposed to let the music transport you.

Wait, I thought the fogies had an "uneasy relationship" with dancing. Now he tells us they danced like Walt Whitman wrote poetry? Mitch needs to pick a false narrative and stick with it.

Which is why guys from my generation still can be seen today, balding and fattened up, working two basic moves. The bounce left and right, and the hang-on-for-dear-life. The latter we used to call “slow dancing.” Today it just looks like two people trying to keep warm in the Arctic. You pressed together as close as physically possible, and waited for the song to end. Occasionally you would slide an inch or two, but it wasn’t a formal move. Just shifting the sweat.

That's the worst, most tortured explanation of slow dancing ever.

Clean-cut to barely clothed
Back then, we didn’t “twerk.” I only recently learned what “twerking” was, when I returned from a vacation to find the entire country talking about it.

He only learned of this twerking, which became a thing like two weeks ago, upon his return from vacation? One might to be tempted to ask if Mitch vacations at Walden Pond, but even Thoreau caught up on the latest gossip in town once or twice a week.

Apparently, teen star Miley Cyrus, who came to fame as a clean-cut, apple-cheeked TV character named Hannah Montana, raised everyone’s blood pressure when, during a performance on a music awards show, she “twerked” all over her fellow dancers, her backup singers and her performance partner, Robin Thicke.

Yes, that did happen. Two weeks ago.

Almost immediately, twerking — and whether Cyrus should be doing it on national television — shot to the top of America’s Most Pressing Issue list, slightly above whether we should invade Syria. Analysts broke it down.

Mitch is upset that people were devoting so much time to twerking back in August, so he writes a column about it now.

The word “twerking” was entered into the Oxford online dictionary. It now reads:

Twerk: Dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.

Oxford then used the word in a sentence: Just wait till they catch their daughters twerking to this song.

English is a dynamic language. Professional writer Mitch Albom may be ignorant of the concept, but as a new word enters common usage or a existing word acquires a new definition, it's added to the dictionary. There is nothing remarkable or unique about Oxford formalizing a definition for twerking. It's kind of, you know, their job.

No kidding. In our day, we also had a sentence for kids bending over, shaking their tush in someone’s crotch area and grinning with their eyes closed. It went: “Grounded for a month.”

"In our day!" Compared to Mitch, there are less curmudgeonly 90-year-old World War II vets who viewed D-Day as a welcome respite to Depression-era coal mining. 

Cooler than absolute zero
The details of twerking are now all over the Internet. Instructions. History. Some claim it goes back 20 years. Whatever. Folks from my era just shrug it off as another thing we will never do, like zip-lining or writing our own rap lyrics.

You know what else is on the Internet? Lots of stuff about baby boomers zip-lining. That's apparently as much a thing as 20-somethings twerking. Also, if you're keeping score at home, he's used "kids today," "in my day," "in our day," and "folks from my era" all in the same column. 

To be honest, I feel sorry for kids today. We only had to learn to roll our arms in the air, like we were conjuring up a magic potion, and we could survive on the dance floor. Kids today need to grind, slide and simulate sex moves in order to be considered worthy.

A second "kids today." Mitch is just one "get off my lawn" away from a free side at Sign of the Beefcarver. Offer valid Monday-Friday duirng the 3PM-5PM early bird dinner hour.

Also, "grind, slide and simulate sex moves" reasonably defines pretty much all dancing since the beginning of time. At the very least, it's an accurate definition of the twist. If you think about it, the twist was basically twerking with no one in particular.

It’s disturbing to see 11-year-olds thrusting and gyrating, suggesting they know the seductions of lovemaking when they haven’t gotten their braces off. Wait until they find out that actual sex is nowhere near as coordinated as an MTV performance. How can they feel anything other than uncool?

1. Is anyone else a little grossed out at the thought of Mitch Albom as a sexual being? 2. While it's possible that one day kids will no longer think motorcycles, martial arts weapons, and smoking are cool, billions of years of evolutionary history tell us that there will never be a time when sex isn't cool. 

Which is all this twerking fuss is about. Being cooler than the rest.

Young people are actually trying to be cool in ways that old people find confusing? This has literally never happened, not once, in the entire history of the world.

Cyrus, who, like other former child stars (Britney Spears, Justin Bieber) seems hell-bent on destroying the image she worked years to perfect, told a film crew that, before going out on stage, knowing how twerky she was going to be, she and Thicke said, “You know we’re about to make history right now.”

Wow, child stars trying to forge adult careers that depart from their youthful persona? This is even more shocking than teenagers trying to be cool. It's almost as unbelievable as rumors about musicians occasionally smoking marijuana. 

Then again, if all it took to make history was squatting and twirling your butt, the makers of the bidet would be a lot more famous.

Well, there it is. Mitch Albom returned from vacation to belatedly scold young people about their immaturity with a toilet joke. Bravo.





Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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