Jan 11, 2014

Tiny Dancer

'85 Prom. Not awesome.
My 13 year old middle schooler had an “activity night” at school yesterday.  Back in my day, I think we called them school dances, but these activity nights have games, and they can play around in the gym, and sometimes they have the pool open. Anyway, I knew nothing about it because, of course, Quinn didn’t tell me.  When I asked him why not, he said he didn’t want to go. When I asked him why not again, he said he doesn’t really play basketball very well (so the gym thing is out), he’s not a great swimmer (so the pool thing is out), he’s not terribly interested in the games being played and... there’s that dancing part.

And then he got this weird, embarrassed look on his face and almost shouted, “I just didn’t want to go, alright?!?”

Hmmm. My mom-spidey-sense sprung into action. Do I sense a teaching moment?

See, not all my teaching moments have to do with flipping the bird, and girlie magazines.  This is one of those times where I felt it was important to get a social message across.  So I gathered the children together and began to discuss that most awkward of teenage milestones, the school dance.

First, I asked Quinn if he even knew how to “slow dance” with a girl.  Nope. No idea.  So Peter and I showed him the ungainly circle shuffle of our era: the boy places his hands at the girl’s waist, the girl throws her arms gracelessly upon the boy’s shoulders, and they slowly shuffle their feet while moving in a circle, mostly trying to avoid looking at each other or (God forbid!) talking to each other.

I really hated school dances.

I have no idea how it’s done now, but I imagine it’s not much different. Oh, I’m sure the fast dances have changed -- less jumping around, more twerking --  but I doubt slow dances have improved much over the decades.

Then we moved on to the anxiety-ridden part of the school dance: asking someone to dance.  I started my teaching moment with Claire.  Basing it upon my own school dance experiences, I told her that I didn’t care if the class toad - the kid who was a foot shorter than her and twice as wide, who smelled like cheese and sweat a lot - if he asked her to dance, she was to smile nicely and say, “Sure.”

When I was in middle school and high school, if I didn’t suddenly have to go to the bathroom when the slow songs came on, I would dance with anyone who asked me.  Not that many did, but if anyone asked, I would say yes.  Peter can actually attest to this.

See, I felt that if anyone had the courage to walk across the cafeteria - that wasteland of gawkiness - to ask me to spend 3 minutes shuffling across the floor with them while Spandau Ballet crooned what was “True” in the background, I wouldn’t negate that fearlessness by embarrassing anyone and laughingly telling them, “No way!”  Nope. Not gonna do it.  I takes a helluva lot of guts to walk up the the girl you sorta, kinda, maybe like a little bit and ask her - in front of all her friends - and that bravery should be rewarded, not made fun of.

So I told Claire I didn’t care who asked her to dance, she was to smile and say yes.  She didn’t have to dance every dance with that person - she could limit it to one. But she would say yes. And if her friends all laughed at her, or ewwwww’d her - she was to tell them that it take a lot of courage to do what that boy did, and she wasn’t going to be mean to him.  Maybe that message would get passed on to the mean girls. Maybe.

And then I talked to Quinn.  I told him that someday he was going to have to make that trek across the enemy lines to ask a girl to dance. That he should. And that, more than likely, the girl was going to laugh at him and say no. Because girls are bitches.  But that he should not let them stop him, and he should keep asking. Because, eventually, he was going to find that girl who was nice enough to dance with any boy who asked her.

Even if he is a foot shorter with sweaty palms.

And when the song was over, he needed to look her in the eye and tell her, sincerely, “Thank you for dancing with me.”  Because, at the end of the day, I still believe that graciousness and good manners will win over mean bitchiness.

So Quinn said that maybe next activity night he’ll go. And maybe he’ll even go to the dancing part. And maybe he’ll even ask a girl to dance. And if she turns him down, he’s just going to shrug it off and say okay. And not let it bother him. Because he’s cool with himself, which makes me so proud.

Just don’t expect me to chaperone. I hate school dances.


  1. You are the coolest mom EVER. Sigh. You have lucky kids.

    1. Awww. Thank you. I'm not sure they think so, but I'll tell them you said so!!

  2. I occasionally DJ activity night... I've never seen anyone slow dance. LOL! Maybe that will help! ;)