May 22, 2011

School Dance Angst

Growing up, school dances were something I anticipated with more trepidation than excitement. Dances were never just a chance to dress up or hang with classmates in a more social setting than Mr. White's fifth period social studies class. This was where the magic was supposed to be. It seems it's almost always at a dance that the princess falls in love.

But the gym, in neither junior high or high school, ever looked like the school dance setting in Footloose or Back to the Future or any other teen movie from the 80s. No one ever asked me to a dance, which didn't stop me from going with some vague expectation that someone would declare himself there. In hindsight, I realize that would have been more creepy than romantic: who needs such a declaration from someone who can only speak it in the dark, in an over-heated room that smells of sweaty teenagers, while the music is so loud it guarantees that no one will hear you?

I have (mostly) managed to block out the memories of gangly, poodle-permed, over-sized-glasses-wearing, teen-aged me wall-flowering my way through school dances. But then Caitlyn's elementary school sent home the announcement about their annual Sock Hop. I'll confess to recycling the first one that came home in a desperate and naive attempt at making it go away. I have no interest in going back to relive any part of junior high or high school, thank you very much. And do elementary students need the social pressure and expectations that go with school dances? Aren't they supposed to think that the opposite sex has cooties or something?

But then Caitlyn brought home a second copy of the dance flyer and wondered aloud why we hadn't talked about going. She very definitely wanted to be there, and had already started to figure out how she would put together a 50s style outfit from the clothes on hand. I had no reason besides my own uncomfortable memories to say no.

It probably won't work out this way, but for now I find myself hoping that some school dance experience that is less about hooking up and more about dressing up in costume (is there anything cuter than kindergartners dressed up a la eighties punks?!?) and running around the school grounds with your friends (Caitlyn spent some time in the gym - which was indeed hot and smelly, and too loud for her taste - but more time out on the playground, I think), will lead to less hook-up pressure at future dances. By beginning the school dance phenomena in kindergarten, have we provided any counterweight to Belle and Beast or Cinderella and Charming as they waltz their way to fairy-tale endings?

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