After losing myself in dance at an over-40s disco, it hit me – you’re never too old to shake it

There was a smoke machine and lights and pop music. For a split second, I was 25 again, happy with all my friends. Why did this ever stop?

Shaparak Khorsandi
Friday 28 February 2020 13:57
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‘25-year-old me would have laughed at the naffness of such a thing’
‘25-year-old me would have laughed at the naffness of such a thing’

Don’t tell anyone, but last week I found myself admiring the hanging baskets outside a pub before I went into the actual pub.

I stood for a full minute I’d say, taking in the colours and wondering what the name of the pretty purple flowers were. This behaviour is a classic sign of ageing along with smiling at pregnant women and enrolling in beginners art at an evening class. Never fight these things, embrace them. I relaxed just once in my youth. I was on a lilo in Corfu. It lasted about half an hour and I never forgot it. I was always partying, never knowing when it was hometime. Might sound fun, but a lot of it wasn’t.

Those among you with a self-destruct button will know this. If you’re the last to leave a party, it’s rarely because you have had the best time. You’ll have just hung around till the bitter end in the hope that the elusive high you are endlessly chasing will finally kick in. You don’t even know what it is, just a feeling that some kind of life-changing joy is around the corner and you should have another drink and wait for it to happen. It never does. When you wake up the next day, it will be yet another night filled with shame and regret.

Getting older has brought with it the confidence to stay in. At university, I was skipping out to the union one night and my flatmate was in her pajamas, making a cup of tea. “Not coming?” I asked in surprise. “Nah,” she said, “I’m reading a really good book, I’m staying in to finish it.”

I don’t think I had ever had more envy for another human being than I did for her in that moment. Fancy being able to make the decision to stay home instead of partying. That was an inner peace, a confidence I was decades away from.

My first child at 34 didn’t change things. I love being out, in crowds, dancing. It helped that my job as a stand-up comedian was at night time; I would have missed his bedtime anyway, so why not go “out-out”? Before you go tut tut tutting, (I read the comments occasionally, I see you naughty trolls), I was a single mum and big nights out were almost always when my son was at his father’s. Personally, a drunken night on a sweaty dance floor was not enticing when I knew a lovely lump of my flesh and blood was snoozing at home, and it was never worth marring a lovely morning with him because of a hangover.

My second child arrived on my 40th birthday and I had her on my own so going “out-out” pretty much stopped. It was a relief to be honest. I just wanted to be at home. But what I miss is the dancing. Why do we stop dancing when we get old? I don’t want to get trashed and snog strangers anymore (with the coronavirus threat? Are you kidding?) But why must I wait for a wedding to flail my arms about and twirl around?

Human beings need to dance. Dancing is an integral part of the Iranian culture I was born into. “Having a dance” is a social activity. It’s normal among Iranians to have friends round one sunday afternoon, stick some music on and take turns to dance in the middle of a circle while the others stand and clap or clack their fingers. My gran, aunts and cousins did this sober, to pass the time. Can you imagine? “Kids! Come downstairs! Your nanna’s arrived and we’re going to have a dance before lunch is ready.”

I miss dancing. At my daughter’s school disco recently (we parents all go to “help” because there is a bar) I was watching the little ones dance and I was having a laugh with some parents. There was a smoke machine and lights and pop music. I skipped to the bar to get a round in and for a split second, I was 25 again, happy and in a disco, with all my friends. Why did this ever stop?

So, last week, myself and a gang of my school gate parent friends went to an over-40s disco. 25-year-old me would have laughed at the naffness of such a thing. But what does she know? She doesn’t even know what prosecco is yet.

Anyway, we had a blast. The place was chock full of Generation X, all dressed up and dancing to great music. The chat in the girls’ loos was different. Less about relationships and more “so, what school do your kids go to?”. The dance floor was much more polite and very easy to elbow your way through.

I’ve found there are quite a few club nights for those of us who stop to look at hanging baskets. I’m going to another one next month. As the old rhyme goes “I don’t know, but I’ve been told, you keep on dancing you never grow old”.

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