The “New Jersey Turnpike”
The times have changed. The shoe is on the other foot. I am getting old. Hypocrite.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, here is what is pushing my “dad-button”. There are three different views from my sight, father to two young daughters, a former disc jockey, and a school board candidate. A headline in our local newspaper said “Middle School Dance – Fun For The Parents Too” or something to that effect. I did not pay as much attention to the headline as I did the first few paragraphs.
I do not recall things getting too out of hand at school dances as “Super Freak” from Rick James was played. It was one of the more popular songs when I was in school. I started disc-jockeying in the mid-80’s concentrating on live gigs after that. I enjoy music so it was the perfect hobby/job. But school dances changed from the time I was in school, or perhaps it was because I was on the other side of the speakers.
I began to get warnings from school dance organizers and chaperones, “don’t play this” and “don’t play that.” Kids were altering lyrics that could range from mild to obscene. What were once popular hits by boy band New Kids On the Block, “Hangin’ Tough” became “new kids suck” and “Mony Mony” from Billy Idol developed a chant and echo following the end of each line of the verse “Hey you… get laid… get f*&%ed! Then there was the wierd line dance phase which seemed to cool things down a little bit with “The Electric Slide.”
But in the new millenium, some recording artists could no longer record songs without having their songs bleeped for foul language or refer to sexual acts, often violent toward women. One of the first teen parties I did in the new century was a “sweet 16” birthday party. The girl was dressed very nice and her friends all looked like good kids. There were maybe a half dozen parents chaperoning the party. I do not recall the song I was playing at the time, but I am sure it was the last time I played it at a kid’s dance. Almost as soon as the song began, a young gentleman (the last time I will describe that particular male) starts grinding on the birthday girl, front on front. When out of nowhere, here comes another male, who goes up behind her and now both boys are now grinding on her. The jackass behind her now lifts up the girls leg and props it up on the nearby stage and returns to grinding on her. This, definitely immitating a specific sexual position. There are some who would tell me to lighten up, but to me, it looked like they were raping her with her clothes on. Now I do not know which is worse, this act, the birthday girl’s father standing off to the side watching this underaged sex show starring his daughter, or the fact that the two dirt bags had zero respect for her and in front of her father.
While I continued to disc jockey over the years, dancing habits as well as sing-alongs continued their racy exhibitions. I had learned to turn a blind eye to these actions. I watch television shows like Dancing With The Wannabes and I will make comment to Wendy on a dance that I felt was super sexy or erotic. There lies the difference. Those performers are adults. And when they are dancing, we are not left to have to worry about their ages (if too young) and their dance can be intrepreted as the artists intended.
I did my best to avoid playing the songs that would trigger grind fests, and occasionally I did gigs where the chaperones had mentioned the requirement even before I got into the door. But there was one gig that I did, where it made no difference that I had not played any songs that would allow them to grind. The kids grinded to every song that I played. As a joke, I wondered to one of the chaperones that these kids had no idea what they were doing with this grinding (they all looked awkward doing it), but was willing to bet that if I played the Cotton Eye Joe they would grind to that song. Guess what, they did.
Getting back to this newspaper article, other than driving on it, I had never heard of the dance “The New Jersey Turnpike”. I stopped disc jockeying a few years ago, and clearly it was something relatively new. At a local middle school dance, a student tells the reporter about this new “Jersey” dance that was seen on the television show “Jersey Shore”, and this is what the thirteen and fourteen year-olds are doing at this particular dance. Now I agree with the concept of not allowing the parents on the the gym floor so as not to promote any “coolness” issue for the teens, but chaperones should be able to stop any behavior deemed inappropriate. I know these are not the 1950’s when a boy and girl got to slow dance with each other as long as the elbows were locked with each other. And whether the times back then or today, a chaperone would not tolerate the same two kids sitting in the corner of the gym sucking faces off each other. Why tolerate an intense grinding then?
I was young and hormonally enraged once, so I understand what is happening. And I also know what that led to. And yes, I am being a hypocrite. It is not okay because I have two daughters. I once overheard a co-worker discussion concerning a recent trip to a “gentleman’s club” and all the wonderful things that they would have done to this dancer or that dancer. And then another co-worker who was not originally involved with the conversation chimed in, “how would you feel if that was your daughter that was being talked about like that?’ Being a dad now, that is the position that I find myself in.
I am not naive. I know that I will have to find that balance between hormones and trust, otherwise I will have at least one daughter who most likely will have made a huge error in judgement. And I do not want to see school dances banned either. The majority of kids have a great and decent time.
But I have to question the newspaper reporter as well though. Again, I do not have an issue with reporting on kids having fun at a school dance, but listing a child’s name performing what some may consider an inappropriate dance move I feel was irresponsible. Here was the description of the dance : “It involves the female bending over at the waist and the male dancing against her backside.” A comment from the mother followed, “I know there’s a lot of grinding, and I’m hearing they call it the New Jersey Turnpike, they got it from ‘Jersey Shore.’”
Parent led committees put a lot of hard work in hosting events like this and I truly do support them. But as the story reported later on, a group of boys tried to leave the building. What would have happened, had they been successful? What would have happened had someone who was doing the grinding got the wrong idea from his willing partner and met up outside? I am more than frustrated with the thinking “that won’t happen”, or that I am being a buzz kill. Like I said, I was young once too so I do understand. All it would take is one incident to occur that was initiated due to a possible misunderstanding and all the decorations, glow sticks favors, snacks, and good times will not matter.