The Rescue of the YMCA

A twitter friend tweeted that the YMCA was changing its name to just “the Y”.  While most people probably didn’t care about the name change, the disco singing group, the Village People did.  After all, their song, YMCA, has become the staple dance song at weddings, bar mitzvahs, reunions, stadiums and any other gathering in the last 30 years that combined booze and white men trying to dance.

Well, as it turns out the Village People had nothing to worry about.  Their song will be played in its entirety at all these functions, but I started to wonder what would have happened if the organization YMCA had the legal right to demand that the song be changed to support its new name.

First of all, let me tell you why I am attached to this song. My Dad is one of 12 children. He grew up in Little Italy in Manhattan.  I have about 68 cousins on his side, and I was about the 64th one born into this huge family.  Growing up in this large family in the 70s and 80’s, it seemed as if there was a wedding almost every weekend, and so there was lots of dancing.  We may not all have talent, but the dance floor at our weddings was always crowded, and the dance that got most people out there was, of course, YMCA.

I have a theory on why this is so.  For the most part, men are uncomfortable with dancing. They are self-conscious about how they move, and sometimes, they have good reason to be self-conscious if my observations of men on the dance floor are accurate. However, give men an open bar and a good DJ or band, and they will attempt more than a typical slow dance which requires nothing more than rocking back and forth with another person.

YMCA was the perfect dancing tool. It required only arm movements which was perfect for men. Having to learn just arm movements took the pressure of dancing off their shoulders… or, more correctly, off their feet. No awkward kicks or advanced swaying techniques were required. A guy did not have to lift his feet off the floor with YMCA. He just had to know how to mime the alphabet.�
Now, what would have happened if there was a bunch of tipsy, scared-to-dance guys on the dance floor ready to cut loose to a new song called “The Y”? I won’t go through all the lyrics, but blah, blah, blah and then the chorus “It’s fun to stay at the Y…” and then nothing.

See the problem?  The men on the dance floor, in fact, everyone on the dance floor, is done after the Y.  What was all the booze for?  The song loses its meaning without the other three letters being acted out.  It’s useless.

And in case you are thinking that other songs would pick up the slack for the abbreviated form of YMCA, think again.  What are the other great wedding staples?  Well, The Hustle got people to their feet, but like the Electric Slide and the Macarena, it coaxed mainly women to the dance floor. By the time these songs came on, we had all ditched our high heels and were dancing in stocking feet which made those slide dances really easy to do. The only danger with stocking feet was when the wooden dance floors were slippery and someone slid too close to the cake.

It only happened at one of our family weddings, and the bride wasn’t too perturbed that her wedding cake took a slight tumble.   It still tasted good although some of the more superstitious older women in the crowd thought a knocked over cake was the harbinger of doom, and you know what? They were right.

Anyway, take away the disco dances mentioned above and what we have left is the Bunny Hop, Chicken Dance and Hokey Pokey. I know, as a woman, nothing says sophistication like hopping around the room like a gentle bunny while my boobs are jumping up and down in my face because I wore a cleavage-inducing underwire bra for the special occasion.  Okay, I guess clucking and flapping my arms like a bird might make me feel equally alluring or perhaps I would be at my most attractive when I put my rear end in and put my rear end out, put my rear end in and shake it all about.

It’s true, the rear end isn’t technically part of the Hokey Pokey song, but once you get people on the dance floor willing to put different body parts in, the song takes on a life of its own.

So, I believe that a tragedy was averted yesterday when the Village People made a public announcement that their song YMCA would still be played in its entirety at concerts and public gatherings. Yes, wedding goers everywhere can sleep soundly in the knowledge that somewhere down the road they will still answer the call when asked to raise their arms for those four wonderful letters, Y M C and A.

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