Forty-year-old gymnasium, an underpaid DJ playing the “Cha Cha Slide,” boys on one side and girls on the other, it had all the makings of a normal middle school dance, but one thing was different, for me at least. This was to be the first time I slow danced.
I wasn’t allowed to go to school dances until I was twelve. I don’t know what my parents feared. Boys often ignored me at school, unless they needed help on a math question, and I don’t know why they thought this would be different outside of school hours. Maybe they just wanted me to really want it, and after a year of missing dances while my friends all went and told me the juicy details afterwards, I was definitely ready to dance like there is no tomorrow.
Except, there really isn’t that much dancing at a middle school dance. The boys and girls keep on separate sides of the gymnasium for most of the dance, while the cool kids plotted who they were going to dance with once the DJ decides to play a slow song, which happened a lot.
I had been to a few dances with no, shall we say, action. However, this fateful night my beautiful (inside and out, but I was mainly focused on the outside at this moment in time) best friend had decided to invite me over before the dance. This may mean nothing to naturally pretty girls, but for me, it meant I got to borrow one of her low-cut shirts, I’m talking showing collarbone, and she even brushed some blush and mascara onto my pale face.
I had on my best friend’s clothes and looked slightly nicer than I did that day at school, there was nothing to stop me. The first couple of slow songs came and went with no great event, but I had noticed one of the cutest boys in school checking me out. Well, maybe not checking me out, but he looked at me more than once, which was in itself a rarity. Plus, there were whispers in the bathroom that he was going to ask me to dance. You may not be able to bank on a lot on this world, but you can always trust the sincerity of girls in the bathroom at a party.
After another song or two of no proposal or declaration of love from the cute boy, I was outraged and decided to take matters into my own hands. As the DJ hit play on the next track, I walked up to him, and asked if he would like to dance. Unfortunately, I had to psych myself up to do this, and was already prepared for his rejection, so instead of politely and demurely asking, it came out more of a brusque demand.
Luckily for me, this boy was not only one of the cutest in school, but also the nicest. He chuckled and said yes, he was going to come over and ask me himself. I remember him saying something about how weird the song was and me thinking that I liked it and would never forget it in a million years. (You know, normal non-dramatic pre-pubescent stuff). It has been about ten years, and I have already failed myself. I think it said something about a mountain and maybe rain clouds? What can I say? I have had a slow dance or two since then and I hadn’t yet begun to keep my boring, and yet very detail-orientated, journal.
I remember he had a cast on and we talked about his injury. It was awkward and sweet, everything you would hope for a first slow dance, and yet, the real awkwardness of the night was still to come.
Dancing with him was fun and everything, but he wasn’t who I really wanted to dance with. The boy I had a crush on at that time, and off and on for the next six years, was Simon. (Please note that I am still embarrassed about this situation and have therefore changed his name because we are still Facebook friends and who knows, he may find this on the internet).
Simon was kind of shy, but mostly because he wasn’t as loudly confident about his slight good looks yet. I thought he was cute before most of the girls in my class, but they would all eventually take a turn crushing on him before we graduated. What can I say? I’m a trendsetter.
After my first slow dance I was feeling good. Looking back on it, it was probably too good. Some might even say cocky, and there is nothing more dangerous in this world than a cocky middle schooler. No matter how cocky I was, I still wasn’t confident enough to ask him out myself, but after having my gorgeous good looks confirmed by one slow dance with one boy at one middle school dance, I decided Simon would be a fool to turn me down, so I sent in the ladies.
One does not simply ask a boy to dance in middle school, so I assembled my girl squad, or “friends” as we so lamely referred to them back then, and asked them to scope out the Simon situation as I hid waited in the bathroom. After a few failed attempts they finally asked him why he was turning me down, after all, hadn’t he seen me dance with one of the cutest boys in school? His answer was short, and looking back on it, probably a lie, that I hadn’t asked him myself.
Middle school boys can be so fickle, but if Simon wanted a personal invitation to dance, that is what he would get.
As you may recall when I was forced into asking the boy myself the first time it came out a bit harsher than I intended, and that was just a cute boy, not even the one I had been crushing on. But this was Simon, the boy who I stared at in Math class just hoping he would turn around and give me that crooked grin he so rarely afforded anyone. What happened at the dance can only be reasoned away by middle school awkwardness and a severe desperation that most women don’t feel until they are nearing the end of their child-bearing years and decide to get just one more cat.
I saw Simon leaving the gymnasium and I knew that it was now or never. The dance had to be almost over, and I may never have the courage again, although, it was probably more mania than courage. From across the gymnasium, because who would have the sense to just walk over and talk to him calmly? I stood up and shouted, no that sounds far too calm, I bellowed at him, across a dozen or so other hormonal pre-teens, “SIMON, LET’S DANCE!” I may have spread my arms out wide too, so I was on full display.
I honestly don’t know how I haven’t blocked out this situation entirely. I don’t know if not phrasing it as a question was my way of trapping him, but it did not work. Simon stared at me wide-eyed for about a minute, and then ducked his head and basically ran out of the gym. So, at the end of the night I had to be content with just dancing with one boy.
The next day at school everything was fairly normal. A teacher asked me if I had never worn mascara before because I still had some smeared on my eyes (charming), the first boy was as cute and nice as ever, and Simon and I acted as though nothing ever happened.
Over time my crush for Simon faded out, and then faded back in, and so on for the next six years. He had a smart-ass vibe and knew just the right buttons to push to tick me off, and I knew the same for him. You can’t have every class together without learning a thing or two about each other. We almost became friends, but I never did get that dance. Maybe at our ten-year reunion I will bring a bullhorn, after all, he probably just didn’t hear me.