Sorry, kids: Ban on grinding is a good step

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Mt. Lebanon High has banned "grinding'' at school dances.

What's that, grandma? What's "grinding"?

I'll let Principal Brian McFeeley explain, as he ably did in an Oct. 19 letter to parents. Let's skip straight to the good part:

Inappropriate, overly sexually suggestive dancing by students ("Grinding")

"Grinding" is a form of dancing common among teenagers not only in Mt. Lebanon but across the nation. Its form generally includes a male student rubbing up behind a female partner while both make a gyrating motion from side to side.

Sometimes it evolves into very suggestive sexual motions by both partners. Quite frankly, warnings and reminders by administrators and faculty chaperones who intervene to stop this sexually suggestive behavior on the dance floor have not been successful.

Oh, this really takes me back. Not to my high school days, Lord knows. I graduated in the mid-1970s. One could say I came of age during the sexual revolution had I not spent the entire time wandering through a cease-fire zone. Slow dances to "Colour My World'' in the high school gym would be pretty much the extent of my school-dance highlight reel.

No, this talk of grinding takes me back to the late 1980s, when I was single and in my early 30s, and made a trip with friends down to the Caribbean island Trinidad for Carnival. That's their Mardi Gras. It's traditional to spend much of that time doing a dance called "wining.''

It has the same pronunciation as "whining" but is the furthest thing from self-pity. I'd dance down the streets in wild crowds to calypso music. The proper etiquette was to keep your hands in the air. If you stuck to that, sooner or later, some beautiful woman or another with a lilting island voice would be backing up into you.

The nerve of these incredibly fit, gorgeous strangers! Swaying into me, over and over and over again, block after block, song after song. I'd give them six hours or more each night to cut it out but they wouldn't. After a week I'd finally had enough and went home.

So maybe you're thinking, given my history, I'd be sympathetic to the grinders?

Not on your autographed picture of Lady Gaga. I'm with Mr. McFeeley on this one and it's not even close.

Listen up, grinders: You're not an adult blowing off steam at a festival in Port-of-Spain, you're a kid in a South Hills high school gym. You don't get to make the rules.

Yeah, I know we're old. That's exactly why, just as the adults of my high school years knew something about us that we didn't, we know something about you that you don't. I'll let you in on that secret, which is simply this:

Your music stinks and you dress funny.

How do I know this? How can I say that without ever having attended a dance in Mt. Lebanon or at any other high school since eight-track era?

Because high school dances don't change. Sneaking drinks before the dance, posing sullenly along the walls, dancing provocatively to music your parents hate -- that's your role. Trying to keep you from being too stupid, that's the adults' job.

The adults won't always succeed. For evidence, look no further than any high school yearbook from the 1970s. Or look at yours 30 years hence. Meantime, like The Man says, "Students who do not want to engage in appropriate dancing should NOT attend our school dances.''

Thou shalt not grind, boys and girls. And cut out that binge drinking, too. You're not very good at it.

Look at the bright side, grounded grind fans. As Mr. McFeeley said in his letter, they tried almost everything before this outright ban: reviewing the drug and alcohol policy at assemblies, a cop at the door and cops on the floor, more chaperones, having more throwback songs and slow songs. Nothing worked.

What he didn't tell you concerned the ultimate weapon they chose not to employ: having the teachers and administrators grind on the floor beside you.

That seemed just a little too cruel. That might have put you out of the dancing mood for life.


Brian O'Neill: or 412-263-1947.


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