Last night was the Girl Scouts’ Sadie Hawkins Day Dance. (Never mind that any Lil’ Abner fan knows that Sadie Hawkins Day is November 15 — that’s the kind of thing that leaves you uninvited to dances.) This is a delightful event at which girls and their dads get to dress up for dinner and dancing. They seated us by troop (bad dad doesn’t know his daughter’s troop number — 75, as it turns out — but remembers his Cub Scout Pack was 63, Boy Scout Troop was 21, and Explorer Post was 30) and I had to work at small talk with the other dads and a grandpa, but we were all game for it. The girls were all dressed to the 7’s — they’ve got a little bit of practice before they get to the 9’s, but there were lots of heels and shawls, flouncy gowns and strappy little numbers, and a little bit of makeup and eye shadow here and there. Very cute, particularly when the DJ encouraged them to shout along the chorus to Shania Twain’s “I Feel Like a Woman” at the top of their lungs. The irony was for the dads. There were daddy-daughter dances, macarena and hokey-pokey, and a medley of oldies that at least gave me something to dance to. I wasn’t constructed to dance to “Jennie From the Block,” but I can manage the “Hawaii Five-O” them very nicely still.
But sitting in a cafeteria with swirling lights, a mirror ball and a DJ is still the same as it ever was, and it was just a little weird to be transported back in time. During our 6th grade class trip to Old Sturbridge Village, while we were eating our picnic lunch, Eddie Carroll asked a question that would unnerve me for the next year: “Who ya gonna take to Teen Town?” I didn’t even know what Teen Town was. It turned out to be a school dance in the eighth grade gym — they were held three or four times a year. (And yes, the name seemed dumb then, too, but there was still the Generation Gap then, and the oldsters had trouble naming things right. I suspect we still do.) From that moment on, my 11-year-old brain worried about nothing more than I worried about who I could possibly ask to a dance, and who would possibly go with me. I was not alone in this — we boys discussed this night and day. Our options, being from a very small neighborhood school, were very limited. If I’m remembering right, my active crush at that time (and there was always at least one active crush) was on a girl a year behind me, so she was safely excluded from consideration and I was safe from ever having to actually talk to her. When we advanced to seventh grade the next year, there would be girls from 5 other schools to choose from, but we worried whether we would have enough time to develop crushes on any of them before the first dance. (The biggest problem with being young is that you have all the time in the world to obsess over this stuff.) But still, that seemed like the only sane option.
Of course, in the end, despite dares and double-dares and months of consideration, almost no boys asked any girls. We all went in a knot. I still remember the song that was playing as we entered the darkened gym: “Go All The Way” by the Raspberries. (We knew that meant something. We didn’t really know what.) I still remember the horrible horrible horrible orange soda that was offered by way of refreshment. And I still remember that I danced not at all, talked to no girls whatsoever, and generally tried to stay invisible along the gym wall. The girls ran around whispering about who liked whom. The boys wandered in and out of knots, trying hard to be too cool to care since we were too dorky to dance. They could have torn up the center of the gym and it wouldn’t have had any effect — all the action was on the sidelines. I did have an active crush, but she was way out of my league, and if she was even there, I don’t remember, but I would never have talked to her. My friend Keith talked to girls like it was no big thing, and we all desperately envied his cool. I had fun anyway, and developed a progressive plan by which I would be both talking to, and dancing with, girls no later than high school graduation. I couldn’t see a way to speed things up.
In just a couple of years, all those little girls from the dance last night are going to be the gossiping objects of desire for boys who don’t really have a clue what they’re desiring. And so the world turns…
Oh, the top of the cafeteria must have been used for orchestra practice. Up with some of the music stands was a sheet of paper listing their practice order:
3) 1812 Overture
4) Cripple Creek
I’m dying to hear a fifth-grade orchestra wheeze its way through Cripple Creek. A music teacher’s desperate attempt to be hip by letting them play music from their parents’ time?