RIP Patrick Swayze

As a teenager, I fondly looked back at the 80s and divided the decade into two distinct periods: pre-Dirty Dancing & post-Dirty Dancing. I still divide the 80s that way today.

Yes. The release of Dirty Dancing in 1987 opened up my innocent 11-year-old eyes and mind. You could say that it was a coming of age for me as the movie introduced me to issues of class, women’s rights, and charged sexuality. I had to sneak into the theater to watch Dirty Dancing because it was rated PG-13. Immediately, I related to Baby Houseman whose jaw you see drop in the following scene when introduced to something she had never been exposed to. I understood her rapidly changing emotions from discomfort to embarrassment to curiosity as she watched what has happening in front of her. When Johnny beckons Baby with his finger, she goes from being a voyuer to a participant. And just when she’s just about getting the hang of it and she begins to enjoy herself, she is spun around and is left wanting more.

Like Baby, my jaw dropped watching everything I was being exposed to. I especially couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the undulation of Patrick Swayze’s hips. Like the generations before me who went gaga for Elvis Presley and John Travolta, there is just something captivating and incredibly sexy about a man who has the ability to move his hips with such suave grace. I was hooked. He was my biggest crush in the 6th grade.

When Patrick Swayze was promoting the movie, he was a guest on Z100, the local radio station. I was one of the lucky call-in winners that won an autographed copy of the soundtrack on cassette tape (which I still own)! I also asked my friend to tape the movie on VHS when it aired on HBO since we didn’t have cable. When the tape was ready, I rode my bike to her house without telling my mother. I kept watching it and watching it to the point that I even memorized Baby’s steps in their dance number.
Little did I know that this movie would capture my heart again in seven years when I enrolled at the very college that Baby was going to attend to study economics. Lines like, “Baby’s going to Mount Holyoke in the Fall” and “[My name is]Frances…after the first woman in the Cabinet” suddenly had extra special meaning.
So thank you Patrick Swayze for your movies and your dance moves. Thank you for inspiring me to shake my own hips on the dance floor and to fall in love with ballroom dancing. Thank you for teaching us how to live with courage in the final chapter of our lives. And thank you for being a Hollywood anamoly: a devoted husband to your wife of 34 years.
Oh yeah, and thanks for teaching us about humility and the ability to mock yourself.

For a real in-depth analysis of Dirty Dancing check out this blog.

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