This article has come up in discussion with others once or twice this week. I’ve saved it for years ’cause I thought it was so fun… I like the picture it paints of this slightly eccentric, talkin’-to-her-cat line dancin’ woman. So with a hat tip to its author, Philip, here’s my favorite story that anyone has ever written about me.
(Granted there’s only been like two. But Philip is a way better writer than that girl in my School Publications class.)
The “Redneck Girl”
A stroll into CJ’s home in Blairstone Forest reveals a setting that one would not typically associate with the house of a student at Florida State University. It would appear to someone like myself that Martha Stewart herself (the patron saint of home-decorating) had been present when the plans were laid out to design the interior where CJ and her four roommates reside. The house epitomizes comfort and is everything one could expect from a home whose primary resident portrays the essence of southern hospitality. Not more than two minutes passed by after sitting at the dinner table before I was politely asked by CJ if I’d like anything to drink. When I accepted she efficiently rose, poured a glass of the requested water, and returned again to sit with me at the table. It was then that I had the pleasure of conversing with CJ about another atypical aspect of her student life, her weekend nightlife.
On most days of the week, CJ stands a short but respectable 62 inches tall. On Friday nights, however, she gains an extra two inches with the cowboy boots that she generally wears to Stetsons on the Moon, a popular Tallahassee club that she attends regularly. Stetsons, in some aspects, is very similar to most of the night clubs found across Tallahassee. It draws in the student crowd with drink specials, flashing lights, and offers of an all-around good time. However, for CJ and many others, Stetsons is simply the place to go when line dancing is the activity of choice for the evening. Unlike any other establishment in the Tallahassee area, Stetsons on the Moon supplies the opportunity for students to enjoy a country and western style of dancing, a style of dancing that has spawned from what we now think of as old west throw downs and barn dances.
CJ traced her line dancing history back as far as nine years, to the days when she was in 7th grade. It was around that time when CJ was first introduced to arguably the most recognized line dance, The Electric Slide. She quickly realized that line dancing was a likeable upbeat way for her to participate in many of the school dances and also to interact with others. “It’s a bonding experience,” she says. The Electric Slide cleared the way for slightly more complicated dances and CJ soon learned to “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” and to do the “Achey Breaky Heart,” a dance set to the music of Billy Ray Cyrus’s popular (only heaven knows why) country song of the same name. It was also during her middle school years that CJ would receive gifts from her grandmother that were thematic to line dancing. For many years, she received pairs of cowboy boots as both birthday and Christmas gifts (she estimates a total number of six pair). An instructional videotape explaining the steps of many line dances followed the boots, and CJ was well on her way to the line dancing prowess she now exhibits.
CJ explained that her knowledge of line dancing carried on even to high school where she performed dances with not only the Mandarin High Mustang Cheerleaders, but also with Pop Warner at a halftime show for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. She even enjoyed line dancing at Walt Disney World’s Pleasure Island. It was not until her senior year of high school in Jacksonville, however, that CJ danced at a nightclub devoted to country line dancing. It was then that she began to frequent the Crazy Horse Saloon. The more she participated at the Crazy Horse, the more she enjoyed the now more complicated dances. It was this enjoyment for club line dancing that would transition CJ’s club attendance from the Crazy Horse Saloon to Tallahassee’s own Stetsons.
Between brief pauses during she would converse with her cat, Emma, CJ also discussed with me what one would generally expect regulars at Stetsons to wear and more specifically what she often wears. She took a moment to retrieve her preferred boots from the back of the house and then excitedly displayed them on the table. The design on the boots was simple enough and they were colored a traditional black, but the true story behind the footwear was the wear on the bottoms. It was obvious that the size 7.5 cowboy boots had seen quite a bit of action. Jeans were described as a must and should have boot-cut legs and a low-rise waist. Her belt always matches her boots and large belt buckles are “never out of place.” A simple tank-top suffices as wear for the upper half of the body. “Ideally,” as described by CJ, she would wear a cowboy hat to complete the outfit. She doesn’t own a hat of her own, but, with what I detected as a hint of jealousy, she described my own hat, a black Bailey ‘rider’ style, as being well-suited for the event and something she would certainly wear.
With as much time and effort that CJ has invested in line dancing, it is certainly reasonable that she would want to share her pastime with others. It should be no surprise, then, that she will hold line dancing lesson sessions at her home from time to time in preparation for those who are to visit Stetson’s for the first time. Being a personal friend of CJ’s, I have been privy to witness and even participate in these sessions on more than one occasion. As many as fifteen people will form lines in her living room (a living room that reasonably fits ten) and watch intently as CJ instructs them step by step in dances such as the “Funky Cowboy.” Because most of those who attend her lessons are beginning line dancers the atmosphere is extremely relaxed despite distractions such as the lovable household dog, Contessa Topaz, jumping and yapping in hysterics at CJ animated feet. With the aid of a few of the more experienced dancers, of which I have the privilege of being counted among, CJ succeeds in sending the first-timers onto the Stetsons dance floor feeling much more comfortable than they otherwise would have felt.
When asked what makes a good line dancer, CJ promptly replied that “it’s more than just knowing the dance.” She described that a talented line dancer will display confidence and style. The dancer should “make the dance their own” and simply have fun while doing it. A mutual friend, Kevin Shoemaker, was given as an example for someone who exudes such qualities and other important attributes such as endurance, determination, and rhythm. According to CJ “he is the guy who all the other boys want to be.” Such lofty compliments are promising to the up and coming line dancer as he was also described by CJ as having improved from being “pretty clueless.”
Friday evenings are rarely boring for CJ. Although her escape from the school week is not what one might presume from a student at Florida State, it provides her with a much needed release. To CJ there is something that is just plain fun about line dancing at Stetsons and, as very few would disagree with, “there’s something therapeutic about listening to good music.” The Bellamy Brothers perform a popular country song entitled “Redneck Girl.” To mention this song in reference to CJ is perhaps one of the kindest compliments you can pay her. As she’ll be sure and tell you, beneath the exterior of this 21 year-old Florida State graduate student lies the heart of a true redneck girl.