‘Sad Girl’ Tries Dance Church And Shower-Oranges In Quest For Happiness

Welcome to “Sad Girl Tries Things,” a new series in which a very sad girl tries different things to try and feel happy.

People have been unhappy since forever, but never have we had so much technology aimed at quantifying it. The Happiness Industry, headquartered figuratively at the intersection of science and philosophy, has its fingers dipped in many monetizable pies; analyzing joy (or lackthereof) is a money maker. From the Freud Reader to the Fitbit, seclusion retreats to bizarrely flattering snapchat filters, it seems the one thing that won’t ever go out of style is the individual and societal obsession with finding, measuring, and showcasing happiness.

All of which makes it a really *fun* time to be a depressive.

Hi, I’m Ali. A Sad Person. Diagnosed by fleets of doctors and ex-boyfriends as being chronically miserable. In this series, I test a spectrum of non-psychopharmaceutical methods — trendy or otherwise — that claim to alleviate moderate anxiety and depression, and evaluate them subjectively.

Note: I am not a Doctor, expert, influencer, or -ologist of any kind. I am simply trying things in hopes of spinning some happiness and first-person journalistic gold out of it. Come along!

Dance Church

My friend suggested I attend Dance Church — a weekly community event where a diverse population gathers to “dance and connect”— on an optimistically warm February Sunday. Dance Church happens weekly from 11 am to 1 pm in an expansive, sun-drenched studio of the Tapestry Folkdance Center in South Minneapolis. Cost of entrance is $5 or whatever you can afford to tuck in the donation basket.

Lately, my social anxiety and depressive lethargy have made it easy to opt out of social situations, especially if they’re aerobic. But leaving my apartment to dance beneath a bumping sound system in a room full of non-judgmental strangers sounded, quite frankly, rather nice. I put on a close approximation to activewear and left my house before I could concoct an excuse.

The studio is the size of a small gymnasium. Mid-morning light streams through the large windows and the room smells pleasantly like sun baked wood and witch hazel. At 11 am, a soft-smiling DJ is already at the helm, pumping tranquil instrumentals through the noticeably fantastic sound system. People arrive slowly in steady droves; they hug each other hello, lightly stretch, and prepare to dance like no one is watching. I count two white guys with dreads though I’m trying not to.

Dance Church Facebook

This whole morning I’ve tried — fucking fraud that I am — to project whatever the opposite of “uptight” is. The corners of my mouth are propped up to mimic bliss and I’m wearing this threadbare University of Colorado at Boulder T-shirt on purpose. I spend the first 15 minutes of *intentional movement* in “Cat-Cow” pose — averting my eyes from strangers by feigning heavy interest in easing the pain from my lower back. Thing is, my back hurts because I haven’t gotten out of bed in two days and I worry the people spiraling around me can smell my social ineptitude beneath the incense.

I worry the people spiraling around me can smell my social ineptitude beneath the incense.

An old man moves through the space with his arms upstretched like a Rafiki-Mr. Roger’s hybrid. He has the most unprovoked smile I have ever seen and I wager he didn’t waste his youth, adolescence, and young adulthood being self aware to a fault. I take a page from his book. I stop trying so hard.

Though there are mirrors in the studio, no one is consulting their technique in them. The attendance swells to about 60 people and the tempo of the playlist (and the confidence coursing through my flailing limbs) picks up. The music is great — it’s a heady blend of world influenced dance beats and Deee-Lite hits and the crowd mentality is bordering on the euphoric. I’m struck by my fellow dancers’ spatial awareness, the smiles that sprout and stay on their faces, the breadth of their ages and abilities, their giving zero fucks about how their hips are moving (or not moving) through space this Sunday morning.

I get super into it. Like “Flashdance-audition” into it. Later I reflect on why and realize that what it felt like we were doing, when we were dancing together like goofballs, was putting our unapologetic individual and collective bliss on display without consequence. I put bliss on display all the time on the internet — hey, Instagram — but I do it far less often in real life where it can’t be comparatively measured by likes and shares.

Doing something creatively active, community-centric, and self-exploratory without seeking instantaneous, measurable congratulations from peers? Is that putting your bliss on display IRL? Is that the key to happiness?

I hope so, because it sure as hell wasn’t eating an orange in the shower, which I did after reading that the internet was ‘freaking out’ over it…


Dragging my wastebasket to the edge of my tub should have felt like troubling enough indication that, maybe, some facets of home life, like personal grooming and eating, are best kept separate. But alas. I don’t presume to know how or why everyone else bathes, but my showers mean business. Truly a testament to man’s descent from apes, my showers have objectives like mass hair removal. I wasn’t too keen on accidentally garnishing my orange slices with soap residue and quarter-inch smatterings of leg hair (and I’m not even a neat freak).

I stood beneath my shower head and peeled an ALDI orange, waiting for the citrus-infused steam to call me back to Jesus. It didn’t. The shower-orange experience was disappointedly literal. I ate an orange in the shower, and it felt exactly like eating an orange in the shower. Which felt weird.

In conclusion

Groove is in the heart and Dance Church gets all the stars in the night sky.

Dance Church allowed me to name my imposter syndrome and then get out of my head…eventually. Also, being amongst people without having to engage with them in a functional or scripted way was tres nice. Moving my body after sedating it with a marathon coupling of Netflix and self-loathing was also nice. Seeing people hug each other for no reason other than to say hello — super fucking nice. Dance Church not being optimized — like everything else on earth that clamors after me for my email address, feedback, 5-star rating, “like” and “share” — was also super nice.

Dance Church was chill. Dance Church didn’t try to be more than it was. Goal is to be more like Dance Church.

I don’t understand Shower-Orange. I’m going to leave my citrus on the counter.

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