Monday, December 27, 2010

I prefer my rump not shaken, nor stirred

With a flick of her wrist, my wife Kara sealed my fate.

“Dude, that’s not cool,” I said.

“Oh, it’ll be fine,” she replied. “Or at least really funny.”

Even after ten years of being with your wife, you can still discover whole new depths of evil she was hiding from you the entire time. If you’re anything like me, you won’t discover how sinister she can truly be until you’re standing in the middle of your in-laws’ living room, realizing that you’ve just been tricked into dancing to a song called “Rump Shaker” in front of a large percentage of your extended family.

This predicament began innocently enough.

“I think you’re all going to like the Christmas present that Dad and I got for each other,” my mother-in-law said to her three daughters and their respective hangers-on last weekend. We were celebrating Christmas a weekend early, in large part because Kara’s sister Jill is an anesthesiology resident at a hospital in Philadelphia, so her schedule has little time for things that don’t involve knocking people out. Even during major holidays, people still need to be knocked out. You can probably think of several people in your own family who could use it.

Eventually, doctors get enough vacation to spend more time on the golf course than your average sand trap, but they have to put in their time for many years first, working insane 30-hour shifts and 90-hour weeks. Jill’s schedule for the past several years has taught me a lot about our health care system. Apparently, our youngest medical professionals do their best work when they haven’t slept since last Tuesday. This seems like a good strategy, because we want these people as sleep-deprived as possible when they’re coming after us with syringes, scalpels, sigmoidoscopes and whatever other pointy instruments they can get their hands on.

“What’s the present?” Jill asked her mom. Incidentally, I’ve started practicing calling my mother-in-law “Mom” as well, just like her biological kids. You’d be surprised how many years you can coast by without ever addressing some of the most important people in your life by name. With in-laws, my limit turned out to be a decade, but I know some people who plan on calling their in-laws by various pronouns in perpetuity.

“I can’t tell you until we open it. But you’ll like it,” her mom responded.

“Did you get us all a trip to Hawaii?” Kara’s sister Sarah asked.

“No!” her mom replied.

“Hooray! We’re going to Hawaii!” Sarah said.

Sensing that speculation was going to run rampant until they opened their gift, Kara’s parents unwrapped a toaster-sized box to reveal an Xbox 360 with a Kinect sensor, which allows video gamers to act out motions to play a game, rather than using a controller. In the worst-case scenario, this means that to play a dancing game, you actually have to shake your rump.

While the technology is very cool, it seems to fundamentally miss the point that video games are supposed to be celebrations of sloth. Now I can envision a future in which I have to tell my son, “Sorry, Evan, I know you want to play outside, but you need to get your exercise in front of the TV first.”

To play the dancing game, you have to stand in front of the sensor and imitate the dance moves of the virtual dancer on the TV screen, right in front of the real people who are watching.

“I don’t think there’s enough beer in the world to make this fun for me,” I said. Undaunted, Kara dragged me onto the living room carpet and selected the “Rump Shaker” song while Jill taped the proceedings with her camcorder.

Hopefully, whenever someone tries to play that video, I can get Jill to knock me out first.

You can shake your rump with Mike Todd at

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