I appreciate it when people compliment my wit, intelligence, courtesy or any other of my myriad strengths. (‘Modesty’ is a word I only connect with the comic strip.) I don’t appreciate it when people, no matter what they look like, compliment my physique or anything related to it – apart from my ears, which I consider my best feature. This is because I am not physically prepossessing. You need extra thick, specially-ground beer goggles to even begin to think of me as attractive. When I say I am white, I don’t mean Anglo-Saxon or Occidental; I mean that I was born with a such a melanin deficiency that ‘fish-belly white’ is a robust Mediterranean tan by comparison.

While I didn’t exactly fall out of the ugly tree, I grew up in its shade and played in the lower branches in my teenage years, when the acne flowers were in bloom. And I don’t have a imposing physique or presence. If he had met me, Macchiavelli would have shrugged, “Every prince needs a peasant.”

Thus I was rather uncomfortable on Friday night. I’m about halfway through a basic ballroom dancing course with a couple of friends. At this particular class, we learned a few basic merengue (mer-EN-gay, not mer-ANG) moves. The essence to the dance is wiggling your hips from side to side by shifting your weight onto alternate feet, like you’re desperate to go to the toilet but you have to wait because there’s already someone in there. Imagine trying to chew a Minty with your glutes. So, we’re wiggling, wriggling and waggling away, and the instructor commented, “Now that’s how you want to do it.” I turned my head, as did everyone else, and she was looking at me: well, at my nether regions. As was everyone else. I received applause. I turned my back to the wall and tried not to look at anyone.

If the instructor had been male, my embarrassment would have been far greater. I must be thankful for small mercies. And start doing more exercise from the waistal area on down. Nevertheless, I won’t be doing the merengue anytime soon.

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