I had the time of my life.


Recently I had to write a poem for a creative writing paper at uni. I’d never attempted poetry before and really wasn’t keen on writing something dark that I suspected would end up sounding insincere and awkward due to my novice status. So instead I went for a love story. Here it is, along with a little background context afterwards.

Oh the Dirty, Oh the Dance

Saturday matinee.
Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey,
hang in a moment of steamy stillness.
Then he leaps, whirling,
his arms whip the air.

My legs twitch in time
to the musical montage.
Bare skin sticks to waxy leather seating,
like Jennifer’s shorty-shorts
clinging to her perfect bum.
He stares like a hungry tiger:
she sashay’s through the routine.

My hands scrabble in cardboard,
chasing a fistful of popcorn.
Rancid butter coats
the inside of my mouth.
Lips burn
with a salty pulse –
pulse and boom goes my chest,
threatening to rupture.
He dances towards her.

Now they’re in a forest
on a fallen tree. His legs
draping the log
like jungle vines
dressed in tuxedo pants.
I will dream tonight,
of brown, perfect feet.
Toes pointed just so,
primed for pachanga.
Popcorn sits, unforgotten,
as my eyes eat up the screen.

His legs swing forward,
then launch
into a lunge.
The balancing act
making my fingertips tingle,
His arm stretches out
and he points at her, at me.
Dancer’s shoulders ripple and swirl
like boysenberry ice cream.
Please, let it be me.

By Emma Bartlett 

I was 11 when I discovered my first true (unrequited) love. It was 1987 and posters for the movie Dirty Dancing were appearing all over Wellington. A couple of my friends had gone to see it and it was all they could talk about at school as they swooned theatrically over the desks, crying out Patrick Swazye’s name.

It was rated PG 13 and I was fairly certain that my parents would veto my request to go, the ‘dirty’ factor denoting a little too much raunch for my unadvanced age. Luckily, my mate’s mum didn’t seem to have any qualms about us going, there’s a very high chance she was basically salivating at the chance to see it herself.

So on a rainy Saturday, the three of us trotted off to the Embassy theatre to buy tickets for the matinee performance. This was waaaaaay before they’d done the place up and the cavernous room was all dark scratched beams looming overhead and badly hung maroon curtains slumped against the walls like defeated drunks. Aside from us, there was only about a dozen other people in the theatre and none of them had chosen to sit in the front section where we sat (my mate’s mum left us to it and was miles away up the back).

Then, showtime. We were transfixed, transported, ejected into a parallel universe where all that existed was this utterly cheesy, magnificent story, with dancing! As the credit’s rolled, my friend and I jumped out of our seats and danced down the aisle’s that led to the front of the room. Romantic magic had zapped us with its spell, I shit you not.

It’s hard to articulate how much of an effect that 140 minutes has had on my life since. I’m totally convinced that my prepubescent introduction to Baby and Johnny’s love story constructed an unrealistic romantic ideology for me that stuck around for all of my 20’s and most of my 30’s. Hell, if I hadn’t met Rob, fallen in love and gained some sense, I’m pretty sure I’d still be waiting for my Johnny Castle to wriggle his hips into my life.

Suffice to say, since watching Dirty Dancing as an 11-year-old, I reckon I’ve seen it at least 40 times (definitely once a year), and there was a good chunk of years in the late 80s/early 90s when I could recite all the dialogue along with the characters. And I don’t think it’s just the dancing and Patrick. I truly think that I’m just a huge big fat hopeless romantic. I fucking LOVE a love story. With a happy ending. Fuck it, I’m going to chuck the blu-ray on now.

4 thoughts on “I had the time of my life.

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