I don’t think this will come as a shock to anyone who knows me, but I was just a tad bit awkward growing up. When I was 13, I was chubby, had braces, curly hair that was as big as it was long…you get it. This was all before I went to fat camp, mind you, which I assure you,did not make a lick of difference in my waistline or my confidence and is a story unto itself (I’ll save it for another time). School dances were probably my least favorite thing since they didn’t involve watching TV, reading or eating large quantities of sour cream and onion potato chips. Nonetheless, I attended many growing up.
I went to a very small high school where the boys outnumbered the girls five to one. This made me an easy choice to be a prom date. Not necessarily a desirable one, but one that was living and breathing and showed promise for growing breasts eventually. My date was a senior and I think I spoke two words to him the entire night. He was lovely and I was terrified. I probably would’ve been a slightly better conversationalist had I not feared throwing up all over him from every time I opened my mouth. By the time I attended prom (pictured above), I thought I was already out of that embarrassing phase. I was wrong, BUT this still was a vast improvement from where I was at the point where this story takes place.
I had the displeasure of attending an all-girls school junior high. In theory, going to a lady-filled school was great, because I was completely terrified of boys, but was also not great, since I was surrounded by excessive amounts of estrogen all the time AND had no real outlet to confront those fears of interacting with the opposite sex that I had. When it came time for school dances, as much as I didn’t want to go, that was basically my one chance to talk to the opposite sex, at least that’s what I told myself, because in reality, my parents made me go. I didn’t really seize the opportunity like I wanted to, though. The first dance was a disaster…I wanted to put my best foot forward when meeting boys, so I thought it would be a good idea to stuff my bra. That’s what boys like, right? A stuffed bra underneath overalls? Yeah. I clearly didn’t put enough thought into it. At least I didn’t wear a hat. There’s always that.
I got to the dance and was so self-conscious and terrified that I was going to have one of those Seventeen magazine “Why Me?” moments – you know, one of those moments where you do a cartwheel in the middle of the dance floor with the entire school cheering you on, and suddenly the stuffing comes flying out of your A-cup Maidenform? Like that. I was so petrified that would happen (although there was realistically no chance since I was not capable of doing a cartwheel), that I immediately went to the bathroom and threw out the paper towels that were tucked into my bra. PAPER TOWELS. Why would anyone do that to herself? I may as well have used straw or aluminum foil. It was a terrible idea. The bra I had stuffed, by the way, served no real purpose, since I was completely flat, which can be vouched for by my siblings, whose favorite game at that time was “guess which side is her front, guess which side is her back”. I was so embarrassed that I had done that, that I spent the rest of the dance in the bathroom and talked to no boys at all. Or anyone, for that matter. Seems no one is that interested in talking to the girl who seeks shelter in a toilet stall for hours on end. I never told anyone about that night…until now.
One of the next ones my parents forced me to attend was at a co-ed school. I don’t think I was even invited, and I definitely did not want to be there, yet somehow I was there. Sans overalls this time at least, but I assure you, dressed in something equally as dorky. I spent the bulk of the dance sitting alone, thinking about what TV Shows I wanted to watch that week (we didn’t have cable, but a girls’ allowed her fantasies). Towards the end of the night, I decided it was time to be brave. I had to do something to make being at that dance worthwhile, and to REALLY earn that brownie batter that was waiting at home for me. There was one boy I had been eyeing all night. It was now or never I figured. I of course hadn’t kissed a boy yet, or even come close, although I had held hands with one once in a school play, which lead me to my very first panic attack. I figured if any of that was going to happen for me ever, I had to be able to at least dance with a boy. Baby steps. So I pried myself away from the snack table, wiped off my Cheeto-covered fingers and worked my way over to the side of the room where he and his group of friends were standing, and I boldly asked him to dance. I braced myself for the rejection, and was pleasantly surprised when he accepted, however reluctantly it was. It didn’t matter, though. He said yes.
I could finally breathe a huge sigh of relief. I was having my first slow dance ever. P.M. Dawn played loudly through the speakers, and this very cute boy had his hands placed stiffly on my hips. It was magical. I was incredibly nervous, of course, stared at my feet the entire time and didn’t say a word, which made it even more mind-blowing when one of his friends came over, tapped me on the shoulder and asked to cut in. I couldn’t believe it. My bravery had paid off, and not only had I knocked it out of the park with my first dance, I was going to have a second one with a DIFFERENT BOY in the very same night. This was unheard of. I smiled and nodded, eagerly accepting the dance. I let go of the cute boy to let the new guy swoop in, and he did. Only I was wrong. Oh, he did cut in, but not to dance with me. Outwardly mocking me the cute guy and his friend danced together…right back over to their group of friends and had a good laugh at my expense, leaving me alone on the dance floor, dying of embarrassment.
It was certainly a low point in my early teen years, but one I can look back at now and laugh at (not a lot, but enough to make it worthwhile). I can’t say that I learned much from those experiences or that they made me a better person, but I can say that over the years, the dances only got better (yes, even the one pictured above). I was even Prom Queen my senior year, but keep in mind the ratio…there were about 5 girls in my grade, so the odds really worked in my favor. These days you can’t get me off the dance floor at parties and I can even talk to boys now without feeling nauseous! And above all, I finally had my perfect “Why Me?” moment for Seventeen magazine.
Photo via Deborah Tarica