I Took My Mom to My First High School Dance… and I’d Do it Again
I went to a small private, K-12 school. We didn’t have dances. We didn’t even have a football team. Hot lunch was a once a week boiling pot of hot dogs, and we freaked out like we were Amish kids seeing television for the first time. Dancing wasn’t allowed and we learned moves in the bathroom like they were undercover drug deals.
We were the non-dancing citizens in the movie Footloose.
Then I went across town to a big, public, high school. My cousin went there, and then… that was it. I knew no one. I was at the very bottom of the freshman class hierarchy. The newest of the new kids in school.
But, just like Kevin Bacon's character, I wanted to go to a dance.
That was the trade off. I could stay in "Footloose land" for High School, swear off dancing, football, and close proximity to the opposite sex, or brave the social dangers of a new school, accepting the identity of a picked-on unknown, with an opportunity to dance.
Then it happened.
Back to School
A guy in my homeroom class said he was going to the Back to School dance, and asked me if I was going too. This was the moment. The end of an 80's high school movie montage, and I was going to be in it. I played it cool and said I was going.
He told me he'd meet me there. It was exactly how high school seemed in the movies.
The Night of the Dance
I showed up in my late 20th century best; Nike tracksuit, Air Jordans. I blew my whole school shopping budget on this outfit. It was the 9th grade equivalent of a Red Carpet tuxedo, and the Back to School dance was the perfect venue for its debut.
But first, I had to get there.
Like many of the high school lower class, I got a ride from my Mom. We arrived at the designated drop off point where countless other non-drivers were stealthily slipping out of their family vehicles hoping not to be noticed for lacking a drivers license, or having parents.
When it was our car’s turn, I froze.
I felt glued to my seat. This would be the moment in the movie where an extreme closeup would show a bead of sweat, and that gut dropping look of panic in the character's eyes.
My friend was missing.
He was nowhere to be found and we had arrived about 10 years too early for me to text him. I had to go in on my own, and I didn't like my odds. So I decided to improvise.
"Mom, can you walk me up to the front?" was the fateful phrase that would change everything.
She agreed, like a saint doing charity work.
In that all-too-important period of time where every teenager is embarrassed by their parents, wanting to look mature, and hoping to be mistaken for a Sophomore - I was walking up to my very first high school dance with my Mom.
It was as Freshman a move as you could get… and I did it.
I was numb walking up to the dance. You know, with my Mom. The entrance to the big party was through the school Quad, and it was flooded with people.
If there were music playing outside, the record would have skipped. It was a freeze frame of all the cool kids staring at me, and thinking the same thing, "is that his Mom?".
So, in an effort to minimize the social gaffe, I went to a bench and sat down, my Mom followed. I felt like sitting away from the entrance might shield me, and my apparent date, from the scrutiny. There was a group of Seniors huddled together and looking in our direction. All this did was make me an easier target.
So I devised another foolproof plan:
ME: “Mom, can you act like you’re one of my teachers?”
Without hesitation, or inquiring why, my Mom jumped right into character. My genius plan was immediately taking shape, and this impromptu student/teacher conference was sure to ward off any suspicion.
MOM: “You know Christopher, I want to talk to you about that English assignment.”
ME: (getting in character) "Oh, all right."
Apparently, the Seniors didn’t buy it. This act of faculty impersonation only strengthened their resolve.
They looked on like seasoned nightclub security guards spotting a fake ID made with cardboard and crayons.
Seniors: “Hey Momma's boy!”
I look around as if they could be talking to another Momma’s boy.
Seniors: “Yes, you! The guy sitting with his MOM right here in the quad.”
They really emphasized the word “Mom” and made it just loud enough for the zip code to hear.
Seniors: “What’s the matter? Don't have a date?”
That’s when things got hazy.
If this were a movie, I'd walk right up to the bully, use the Crane Kick from Karate Kid, and my Mom would look on with a pride and a sense of relief. But that didn't happen.
I said goodbye to my Mom, and stood up. I walked in the direction of the Seniors the way a frightened and determined kid would walk through the last 50 feet of a Haunted House. I locked my eyes on the front door and blocked everything else out.
They continued to toss verbal jabs, but they didn't register. It was like everything was set to "mute", and the closer I got, the more their power was fading.
In front of them, the moment of truth. It was one of those moments where you figure, "What is the worst they can do? Hit me? I'll recover." I was gaining momentum. They tried to make eye contact, but I was locked in.
They're behind me. I knew my Mom was watching me, but I couldn't look back.
I bought my ticket, and crossed one of the most important thresholds of my life. I didn't know anyone inside, but I learned that inside of my gut, I had overcome something I probably would have retreated from.
That feeling of pride and sense of relief was coming from me.
We all have a threshold to cross, or some barrier we need to break through. For some, it's moving into a new level or division in our ballroom dance hobby. For others, it's overcoming the fears associated with that very first step into a dance studio, or maybe you're preparing for your own High School Dance.
Just remember, it's worth it.
The fear, the anxiety, the hard work, the potential embarrassment... all of it is worth it. Swallowing that down is an elixir that prevents regret, and it just might make you a more courageous person along the way.
I hope that this story helps you understand that resistance is natural, and it makes walking through that barrier a milestone worthy of celebration with the people that helped you along the way (Thanks Mom).
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