Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dancing with myself

One of Seattle's local schools, Vashon High School, has announced that their 2010 senior prom has been canceled. A school official sited lack of interest, as well as controversy over student "freak dancing" as reasons for pulling the plug. Less than fifty kids had purchased tickets.

What a shame it is to cancel senior prom. I don't think these students realize what a rare beast a school dance is, what a ritual of passage it can be for students of all ages and what an extinct opportunity it will prove to have become during their adult lives.

I will remember my first school dance until my dying day. I attended Olympic Junior High in Auburn, Washington, and the school held three major "night-time" dances per year, as well as numerous "sock hops" after school. During that fall of 1975, the first such hop was scheduled for immediately after school on a Friday afternoon in September.

It was the beginning of my seventh grade year, the first year in a non-elementary school setting—in other words, the big time. We had been given ample notice about this dance, and I was petrified about it, given my ample girth and the thought of some sweet, young girl watching it quiver rhythmically from two feet away.

The night before the event, my dad had graciously driven me to the local clothing store, Rottles, where we'd purchased a fresh pair of Lee wide leg jeans, a silkish shirt and some new socks (it was, after all, a sock hop). I returned home with my new purchases, walked straight into my bedroom and shut the door.

The new duds looked relatively good on my portly body as I posed in front of the mirror, yet I couldn't decide what to do with the shirt. Tuck it in? Nope. My gut hangs over. Tuck it out? No way. It totally covers my butt so I look like Florence Henderson in a pantsuit. Since I had never danced before, I carefully watched myself as I tried a few of the moves I'd seen on American Bandstand. This didn't help my all. Only my feet moved in spastic gyrations.

I wore the pantsuit to school the next day, my insides churning with the notion that I'd soon be embarrassing myself in front of the whole school. I toyed with the notion of ducking out at the last minute and taking the bus home, until she walked up.

"Hi, are you going to the dance after school?" It was Renee. She was in my math class and also the unsuspecting future mother of my children.

"Yeahhhh." My spleen throbbed.

The day crawled along until the final bell rang out, signaling the beginning of the end of my life. I tentatively shuffled into the dark gym to the sound of "Ballroom Blitz," removed my hiking boots and
set up camp in a dark corner of the room. "This works," I thought. "I'll just stay here, maybe for the whole time. Yeah, that's what I'll do."

"Hi, Tim. Wanna dance?" My head whip lashed to the left. She wasn't Renee, but she was a friend of my older sister's...and she was a ninth grader and she was a goddess.

"Okay," I barely muttered through my pinched throat. Every muscle in my body had clinched to near spasmic levels. She towered over me as she led me to the center of the gym, her long, dark hair nearly caressing the tops of her tight bell bottoms. I felt the heat of my colleagues' stares as the Amazon and I established our positions.

She glided effortlessly to the beat of something by Aerosmith, while I abandoned every move I had rehearsed, opting to focus on sucking in my gut. I'm not sure if I moved as much as swayed, but it didn't matter, as I felt the weight of a silverback gorilla hop off my shoulders and out of the multi-purpose room.

The song ended. "Thanks." She smiled as she turned and disappeared into the darkness, the fleeting aroma of her Love's Baby Soft lingering in my nostrils.

"Oh, no, thank you," I thought, as I returned to a group of my cronies, sliding victoriously on that new pair of tube socks.

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