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Dirty Dancing by myself

There are movies that everyone has seen, like Top Gun. These movies give us a common lingo, a pop culture lingua franca.

When you meet someone who doesn’t speak the language, you notice. My best friend Linds knows me better than almost anyone. But the fact that she’s never seen Top Gun really hurts our ability to ever truly know one another. How can I really connect with someone who hasn’t experienced the agony of Goose dying in that ocean? Someone who hasn’t felt the erotic snap of an in-his-prime Val Kilmer, wrapped in a towel, chomping his teeth at Maverick in the locker room?

Tom is even more aghast that Linds hasn’t seen Top Gun, because he considers Tom Skerritt’s role in that movie to be an archetype of manhood. Simply put, Tom wants to be Viper when he grows up. And I second the motion.


When I was a teenager, I made a list of all the movies my parents wouldn’t let me see. I planned to view them all in quick succession as soon as I turned 17. I remember nothing about that list except that Tequila Sunrise was at the top of it. And that Dirty Dancing was somewhere farther down.

Dirty Dancing is my Top Gun. I never saw it as a kid. Tom has no interest in seeing it, and it’s not a movie you feel good about watching by yourself. But this last Friday, that’s exactly where I found myself. In front of the TV, alone, watching Dirty Dancing.

Title aside, I assumed the dancing in the movie would be cheesy and awkward. I was not prepared for it to be, in fact, dirty. I mean, the movie was made in like 1985. Had dirty dancing really even been invented yet?

Turns out it had. Patrick Swayze spends essentially the entire movie with his crotch stuck between someone else’s legs. Watching him writhe against Jennifer Grey with “Hungry Eyes” wailing away in the background, I looked nervously around my living room and wondered if I should close the curtains. As if the movie I was watching was actually porn. Unfortunately, it wasn’t porn, because there isn’t even a real sex scene. After an hour of libidinous pelvic thrusting, I felt downright cheated that the sex all happened off screen.


Still, no wonder my parents wouldn’t let me watch this movie. I mean, if I had seen this movie as an impressionable teenager, I would definitely have spent my late teens and early twenties trying to get laid by a dance instructor.

As an adult, there were many things that I found challenging about Dirty Dancing. It was jarring and unpleasant that the guy who plays Baby’s dad is the corny cop from Law & Order. I found it unbelievable that in the space of three days, Baby went from dressing like Laura Ingalls Wilder to the trampy Sandy at the end of Grease. The scene where Johnny and Baby go into the woods to practice their dance moves on a log? Why would they practice their dancing on a log? That scene sucked and I fast-forwarded most of it.

Speaking of that scene, why does Johnny need to break into his own car to drive it to the forest? I found it hard to believe that Johnny Castle, using nothing but his tender dancer feet, would be able to kick a concrete post out of the ground. I have hit like twenty of those posts with my CAR and they didn’t budge. That whole scene was supposed to tell me something profound about Johnny Castle, but I wasn’t getting the message. Probably because I was too busy focusing on Patrick Swayze’s pants and shoes throughout the movie, which were distractingly cheap and hideous, like the bottom half of a Panda Express uniform. Lastly, I feel pretty damn certain that the real Johnny Castle would not have had a shaved chest. The real Johnny Castle would have had a hairy mat on which to nestle a heavy gold chain.

All told, Dirty Dancing was kind of a scandalous movie, at least to this 37-year old. After all, the events in the movie are set into motion when a character has an abortion. AN ABORTION. Kind of heavy for a movie about learning how to mambo at summer camp.

I pushed the “info” button on my remote control to verify that this movie was PG-13, which it was. My older kid is almost 8. That means he could technically watch this movie in five years. Over my dead body. I made a mental note to add “Dirty Dancing” to the list of things I needed to protect my kids from, right before “carcinogens” and after “girls.” Then I played the whole movie again. For this blog. For research.

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nothing like leaving a comment a few months after the fact…. “Bottom half of a Panda Express uniform” wins the internet for a day!!!

    January 16, 2016
  2. Just came across your blog, and I LOVE it. Really appreciate your wit. Always looking for moms out there who work and mother and wife and have a sense of humor. For this, I’m nominating you for the One Lovely Blog Award! Check out the nomination on my blog at

    November 17, 2014
  3. Dirty Dancing was definitely my ‘Coming of Age’ film. I assumed that life was like this, then was sorely disappointed. Men don’t dance like this, EVER. Top Gun though, now that’s a film l still get excited about. So does The Husband (for entirely different reasons, l am sure..). But at least it helps marital harmony.

    November 12, 2014
  4. The age at which you watch a movie like this does matter. I have not seen the film in a very long time, but, for the record, I believe the reason for practicing dancing on a log was to improve her balance. She was supposed to be a klutz.

    October 26, 2014
  5. Peggy #

    How have you not remedies that gaping hole in Linds’ pop-culture education??

    Also, I have had “Hungry Eyes” stuck in my head for a solid day now. Not okay.

    Also also, did you know Patrick Swayze sings “She’s Like the Wind”? I’ve won quite a few bets with that little tidbit of trivia.

    October 21, 2014
    • Peggy #



      October 21, 2014
    • Yes I knew that but do YOU know how amazing the video for that song is? Google it. Linds has apparently seen Top Gun in the last few weeks, and she hated it. Which is way worse than if she hadn’t seen it at all

      October 21, 2014
  6. Dirty Dancing is the most mixed-up coming-of-age piece of weirdness ever.
    It’s like, “Go ahead, come of age. It’ll be fine!” then….. WHAM CONSEQUENCES.
    It’s a sexual awakening bait-and-switch, and I don’t like it.

    I haven’t seen Top Gun either (except for the volleyball scene, speaking of sexual awakenings) because I’m very anti-Kelly McGillis. If she’s selling, then I ain’t buying.

    So, as usual, I was right there with you; ready to anoint you voice of a generation. And then you had to go an malign star-of-stage-and-screen Jerry Orbach. Well, I won’t stand for it. He’s a legendary Hollywood institution. He was the voice of Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. He had his own Murder, She Wrote spin-off! How many Murder, She Wrote spin-offs have you had? And he’s certainly marginally better than Kelly McGillis.

    October 21, 2014
    • Kelly McGillis is definitely the difficult part of that movie. I mean, not Kelly McGillis herself, but her pairing with Tom Cruise. She looks like she could break him apart with her hands, which is not my romantic vibe of choice. Still they do manage to work up some sexual tension, so bravo for that. She also managed to work up a lot of sexual tension with Harrison Ford in Witness, which is definitely my favorite movie about the Amish. I will take your word on Jerry Orbach, and I agree he did really amazing work as the candlestick

      October 21, 2014
  7. Believe it or not I saw Top Gun in the theater with my brother on Prom Night because I didn’t want (have a date) to go to the dance. 🙂 Dirty Dancing had to wait for HBO… Love your recap!

    October 20, 2014
    • i think many of us saw top gun with our brothers. but maybe not on prom night. that’s a good twist

      October 21, 2014
  8. Karen #

    What I remember about Dirty Dancing? That Baby was heading to Mt. Holyoke in the fall – so of course she needed to get laid ASAP, because it sure as hell wasn’t going to happen at her women’s college. And I can say that because I watched DD with a bunch of my (MHC) college friends, and we ALL had that reaction – do it now, Baby, and heck, why not a hot dance instructor instead of some drunk loser from a neighboring school..?

    October 20, 2014
    • i did do a double take when she said Mount Holyoke. are we to presume that she matriculated, or that she ran off with Johnny? i found the ending needlessly ambiguous

      October 20, 2014
  9. Every chance I get, I kidnap my kid sister (she is 16) and force her to watch the GREAT movies with me: Dirty Dancing, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I feel like I’m doing a public service.

    October 20, 2014
    • Certainly. Or she might turn out 37 and confused like me

      October 20, 2014
  10. Tell your Tom that the other Tom (Skerritt) lives in Madison Park and gets his coffee at the Madison Park Starbucks every Saturday morning – and the barista usually calls out “tall nonfat latte for Viper” and everyone swoons (men and women alike).

    October 20, 2014
    • NO. this is so amazing. does that really happen??

      October 20, 2014
    • i mean obviously it really happens if you are saying it does, but i cannot get over it. i need to find myself at this starbucks on a saturday

      October 20, 2014
      • Ethan #

        I’ve always bad for actors that become known as one of their character’s names instead of their own. Like Shooter McGavin. That guy went to Hobart and when he comes back to campus everyone who sees him just yells “Shoooter!!!” But then Carly told that story about Viper. That’s the opposite.

        October 20, 2014
      • I can’t stop thinking about her story. I can even picture his wry expression and amazing hair as he takes his coffee off the bar

        October 20, 2014
  11. I have a couple things to say about this:
    1) I think you should have watched it when you were 17, because you could have suspended your disbelief better and just thought “I wish I was Baby”
    2) Have you seen Jennifer Grey’s new nose? I fell in love with her and her nose in Dirty Dancing and then she changed it. Dumb.
    3) if you had a hard time believing Johnny could kick down a concrete pole, maybe you just needed to watch Roadhouse before DD, and then you would have know the massive power of Patrick Swayze’s legs.
    4) “talk to me, Goose”

    October 20, 2014
  12. I was in junior high when Dirty Dancing came out, and my friends and I were sooooo in love with Johnny Castle! To this day, when I see those friends, someone always drops a “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” Love Top Gun, and I fell I love with Viper when I was a teenager, which creeps me out a little as an adult because he was old! But he’s old in a timeless, Sean Connery kind of way, which makes it ok, I think. LOL! Love your blog!

    October 20, 2014
    • I looked up Tom Skerritt because I was curious how he is doing. And I was excited to discover that he lives in Seattle, which is not that far from me. But then I read that he’s 81, which put a damper on things.

      I also think it’s fascinating that when I asked Tom how old he thought Tom Skerritt was when he played Viper, he said 40, and I said 60

      October 20, 2014
  13. My parents straight up treated this like a kid’s movie. On rainy days, they would pop in a VHS recording that they’d ripped from a TV airing and played it for me. I loved it. But wow.

    October 20, 2014
  14. jen #

    I get teased for never having seen Lion King (which I’m sure will change now that I have a kid).

    Top Gun, however, I have watched possibly more times than any other movie. I was a military kid in San Diego when it was filmed. My classmates would bring in pictures of their dads with Tom Cruise for show and tell.

    Every summer, they do an outdoor screening of Top Gun on the deck of the Intrepid aircraft carrier in NYC. Pretty much the best way to watch Top Gun.

    October 20, 2014
    • This comment makes me feel old, and that is unacceptable. But it also tells me that Top Gun is truly timeless

      October 20, 2014
  15. And highway to the danger zone > time of my life

    October 20, 2014
  16. So I take it this isn’t Finn in this video –

    October 20, 2014
    • I mean I want my boys to dance. But not like this

      October 20, 2014
  17. Being a Mom is hard work. As is being a blogger. All the research required! So let me save you some time here – go ahead and add “Easy Rider” to your “PROTECT AGAINST” list for the boys. I’ve already done the research for you on that one.

    My youngest is back in school for a second undergrad degree and is taking an art history course that involves watching movies from the late 60’s and early 70’s. It has been jarring in so many ways to sit with her and watch those movies again. But especially “Easy Rider”.

    Back in my day I nearly wore out the vinyl obsessively playing the soundtrack album for that movie. Now? I’d point out plot holes but honestly that is pretty much all the movie consisted of. Holes. Holes filled with smoke, man. Smoke and freedom.

    October 20, 2014
    • I can’t even imagine. My mom is way more counter culture than me and probably really enjoyed that movie. It just stresses me out. The motorbikes and all

      October 20, 2014
  18. It hurts my heart that you didn’t love this movie! However, your love and adoration of Top Gun kind of saves you. I, too, want my man to grow up and become Viper. He was in the Navy, so that’s a start, right?!
    All joking aside – love your blog. And your instagram 🙂

    October 20, 2014
    • Wait I liked the movie–I just felt unnerved by it. And I could never love it like I love Top Gun

      October 20, 2014

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