It was Missy’s idea. Since it was her birthday and her house, no one really felt like objecting. Not that anyone would have stood in her way, anyhow. She was only the most popular girl I have ever known. It would have been like Angelina Jolie inviting you to a party at her house and then you telling her that you didn’t want to talk to her because she has too many tattoos.
Besides, I was already feeling guilty. Before I left home that night, I stopped in the kitchen to say goodbye to Mom before my father drove me to the slumber party. My mother has a rather eclectic palate and likes to experiment with food from different parts of the world. It was always something that teenagers in the 1980s had never heard of, like hummus or mousaka. That evening, she was spooning polenta over a steaming bowl of ground meat and olives. She paused to look me directly in the eye.
“Will there be a movie?”
I hesitated. I didn’t think so.
“If they watch a movie, you call me and I will come get you. You have no business watching that trash.”
Now, while our particular denomination’s handbook did clearly state that going to a movie theater was considered ungodly behavior—and therefore a sin—watching movies in the privacy of one’s home was not on the no-no list, per se. For some time, I assumed that this was because bad things look even worse in a theater—that the large screen acts as a magnifying glass of sorts. What might be a casual kiss on a 19” Sony would reveal itself to be a full-fledged Grecian orgy on the silver screen. The cigarette dangling from Humphrey Bogart’s mouth on our old black and white Zenith, when magnified 20 times, would no doubt prove to be nothing less than a crack pipe. Hollywood had put the “sin” in “cinema”. […]
But later that night, Missy’s parents certainly didn’t seem to mind. Her father, who turned out to be just as cool as she was, even watched it with us and totally pulled off some of the rad breakdancing moves we saw on screen. And he was even an usher at their church, which I think was Presbyterian or something like that.
Still deeply in the middle of being shocked and awed by my very first non-Disney, I barely even registered what was happening until later—until it was too late. I mean, it was Breakin’! It was a movie…and dancing…in one! I was so overloaded by the whole event, that I hardly knew what to do with myself. If that was sinning, well I liked it!
Later in the bathroom that night, I would stand in front of Missy’s sticker-framed mirror for at least five minutes trying to send a wave through my body from one set of fingertips to the other, just like Ozone and Turbo had done. I whispered the words: “Push it to pop it! Rock it to lock it! Break it to make it!” to my own reflection and tried to imagine what I would look like in Kelly’s leotard. I didn’t know how, but I knew then that I needed to buy parachute pants and a zipper jacket and move to the beach.
Anyhow, I was jazzed about the movie. Was it really wrong to be so excited about it? Surely my mother would be horrified if she knew about it.
My mother. I thought back to the time that a friend and I had watched Disney’s “The Black Cauldron”. Just the name was enough to send her reeling forcibly backwards into the stuffed grape leaves she was making for dinner.
When I came out of the bathroom, I almost got knocked down by a couple of girls doing the worm across the family room floor. Somebody had put on DC Talk as loud as it would go, and the whole place had gone crazy. I looked over at Sophie, a friend of from school. Sophie was beautiful. When the rest of us chose to spend hours in front of the mirror every morning maintaining an evenly curled and shellacked tidal wave, she wore her blond hair smoothly sideswept across her brow, giving her a naturally glamorous look. Sophie jumped up from the couch when she saw me and pulled me into the room past one girl attempting the sprinkler. In that environment, it wasn’t too difficult to forget that I was a child of God, and pretty soon I gave in to the excitement, too.
“Watch this!” I told Sophie, and proceeded to demonstrate the wave I had been practicing. She doubled over with laughter and tried it, too. Pretty soon, Missy’s dad came back in the room and tried the Scramble, which he did a little too well, if you want to know my opinion. I suspected that he had watched that movie before.
So, by the time Missy stood before us all in her baseball uniform nightshirt and suggested we play Light as a Feather, I was already in too deep to turn back. Breakin’ had already broken me in.
Missy’s best friend, Tina, volunteered to go first—a relief to me since I was on my period and was self-conscious about the enormous maxi pads I had to wear, which I was terrified would protrude up through my crotch to form an embarrassing point if I laid on my back. I was the only girl at the party who was wearing sweats under my otherwise perfectly normal nightgown. That is, if you consider it normal at that age to wear a nightgown which hung down to the floor and had enough ruffles on it to make a 1970s prom king deliriously happy.
Tina was clearly a returning player to the game by her knowledge of the lingo and laid down willingly in the midst of us girls, looking down on her in our newfound enthusiasm for sinning as if we were about to sacrifice her to the White Witch. Tina’s sister, Raquel, sat beside her while Missy took her head and encouraged the rest of us in a Siren voice to scoot closer and to stick two fingers between her body and the carpet.
When it was time to do the lifting, we all got eerily quiet and began chanting. At this point, I started to get scared that we were allowing ourselves to be vessels for Satan, so I only mouthed the words without using my voice. Together we lifted Tina who was, indeed, stiff as a board. It was a bit of a debate when it was all over, however, whether she had truly been as light as a feather, which ended up sending her off in a flurry of tears to the bathroom where she would be consoled for the next half hour by Raquel while the rest of us raided the kitchen for processed substances.
Which was right about the time when Missy waltzed in with a Ouija Board and a saccharine smile….
[Read more in: “Dancing with the Devil, Part 2”.]
Excerpted from Devangelical: A Memoir, By Erika Rae