University of Maine students don’t know how to dance. I don’t blame us, call it the difference in cultures or the superior danceability of Latin music, but I was stunned the first time I walked into a disco here. At the majority of dance venues I’ve been to near UMaine (pretty much just bars), most of the dancing consists of jumping up and down or rhythmic wiggling. Here, it seems as if people can’t bear the thought of being caught standing still. Even the worst dancers must have been born with rhythm.

A week ago, after a night of barhopping, my roommates and I ended up at a disco. Feeling more confident than was reasonable, I invited one of the more aggressive dancers to a dance-off. I’d like to think that I held my own for a few rounds, but I’m sure I looked ridiculous to any observers. My adversary got tired of watching me make a fool of myself and pulled out his ender. He started spinning on his hands, whirling his legs around his center of mass. Seeing this I knew I was done, but I couldn’t just walk away in shame. I know three or four dance moves. One of them is just an exaggerated limbo pose, and I decided to pick it up a notch by getting lower than anyone had ever seen. Impressing the enthusiastic crowd and me, my shoulders touched the ground. If you can imagine this position, with my legs out to the side, knees bent in a way they’re not supposed to go, it doesn’t look comfortable. I realized I was stuck almost immediately and had to be hauled up by a sympathetic onlooker. After retreating to the bar in shame, my bruised knees told me to call it a night.

I got out of bed the next morning and my knee wouldn’t hold my weight. I was unable to walk for 12 hours. I haven’t gone to the doctor yet because I’m still holding out hope that it will heal itself. I’ve been telling people I pulled my MCL (otherwise known as the medial collateral ligament) dancing, but any witnesses know that it was far more humiliating.

The actual skill of dancers here is tangential to the atmosphere surrounding dancing. Parties aren’t excuses to get drunk, people really just want to get together and move their bodies. Alcohol obviously gets in the way of good dancing, so it seems to be less of a focal point. As much as I made a fool of myself, I felt wholly supported and encouraged by everyone laughing around me.

By embracing the stereotype of the blundering American, I’ve found that people here are much more open to my presence. It applies to life outside the disco too. My classmates and professors know that I probably don’t understand 70 percent of what is said, and are more than happy to dumb things down for me. Pretending to know anything is the worst mistake I’ve made here. I’m sure this is something that I should apply to my life anywhere.