Age 10, I am at a German restaurant in upstate New York with my parents. Everything is going swimmingly until an accordion-toting musician enters the room. Sporting lederhosen and a feathered cap, he launches into traditional Bavarian folk tunes of a bygone era. I try to accept the scenario as harmless but it escalates severely. "We are now going to do the Chicken Dance," he announces, "and this young man is going to demonstrate how it's done!"
He's referring of course to me, the only child in the room. Any intended humor is lost to my juvenile mind, and I am faced with the very real threat of having to chickendance for the thirty-odd patrons in attendance. I plead with my parents, please don't let him make me dance, in a tone reminiscent of a child being dragged to a death camp. My heart is pounding, my head heavy with the thought of flapping my lanky arms while the accordion squawks its tune. Already the crowd is laughing in anticipation. Already they await my drawn out humiliation. I can feel his eyes on me, ready for me to join him in the center of the room, his leathery jowls like the collapsable lung of his instrument.
I cannot accept this fate. I refuse to face the firing line, to be jester to these bastards. I run from the room, out into the lobby. I would sooner abandon my family than dance like a chicken at a German restaurant. As a consequence, I will never be able to dance in any acceptable way, and all efforts to hone this skill will fail miserably. My body shifts awkwardly. I stumble. I lack rhythm. I will simply look for the nearest exit and run.