Boot Scootin' Boogie

Here is a little secret: there are university professors in the social sciences in the United States who sometimes listen to country music.  Country music divides people in some ways (along the lines of my last post).  So don’t tell anyone about this.  Except you can tell people about me.  I am okay with that. 

When I was 21 years old and going off to graduate school at the University of Michigan, I listened to country-western stations all the way to Ann Arbor, nursing the blues about a separation-induced romantic break-up.  After that, I was hooked, and it was fine because at Michigan there were (big, powerful) others in the psychology department who admitted this same attitude behind closed doors.  A psychologist at Princeton once sent five CDs (of Johnny Cash, George Jones, and others) to me in France because he figured I was missing the music, and he was right.

I think that becoming an adult allows you to stand up and say stuff like “I like country music” because you no longer really care as much about what people think.  And when you make this particular announcement, you find that a lot of other people are just like you.

For instance, as an assistant professor at a prestigious East Coast university, I received a Lilly Foundation fellowship to develop a new psychology course.  One thing we Lilly fellows had to do was attend a teaching seminar in Indianapolis (IN).  As I recall, that year the other fellows came from Yale and from Ohio State University (OSU).  After a long first day of seminars on effective university teaching, a group of us was sitting around wondering how to entertain ourselves that night.  I looked over at a phone book and said casually, “Let’s go country-western dancing.”   Self-respecting assistant professors from Yale and from OSU said, “Yeah, let’s.”  They said that exact sentence, in fact.

The expansive country bar that we found in the Indianapolis phone book was called “Cowboys,” and, looking like the silly academics we were, we piled in.  Ten of us in all.  There was a Marlboro cigarettes promotion going on.  So, you could do free karaoke in a back room and be projected onto a huge screen above the dance floor.  Plus, they made a video that you could take home. When a professor from my university had downed enough beers, I proposed that we do the Patsy Cline number, “Crazy,” together.  She looked at me carefully.  “I don’t sing,” she said.  “I don’t care,” I said (because I wanted to sing).  “Just stand next to me and strum on a blow-up guitar.”  (Indeed, the Marlboro people provided plastic guitars to make the videos look good; they thought of everything).  Before we started, I sauntered up to the bar, where there were two real-looking cowboys, and talked them out of their ten-gallon hats.  We put them on, I sang “Crazy”, and my colleague pretended to play a pink plastic guitar.  I still have the video with the Marlboro stamp on it.

When I turned 40 my husband and I rented a house in the country and invited 25 friends from France and Germany (and two from the US) for the weekend.  One American friend, Bo, was coming down from Paris where he lives, and he had recently told me about teaching French friends how to do country line dancing.  “Bo, will you teach 25 Europeans to country line dance on my birthday?” I begged.  He said sure, but I needed to cough up the Brooks and Dunn.  I picked up the phone and called my cousin who was a bank president in Hutchinson, Kansas, at the time. “Jon?” I asked, “Do you know the Boot Scootin’ Boogie?”  He did.  Would he go out of the bank, walk down the street, buy the Brooks and Dunn CD and send it to me in France (this was just before it would have been much easier to down-load it)?  He would!  

The country line dancing was highly successful.  I have photos to prove it.  So, it just goes to show about that country-western cliché.   But just in case you are worrying about me, I also love jazz…

Posted by Paula Niedenthal at 8:32 PM SEP 14, 2011