A little late, but I just remembered this instance after the fact. Maybe for the better.
Perhaps this is one of those experiences that people repress and only remember in a flashback of horror. It has to be. So it makes sense that this instance was only remembered when the Valentine’s Day was almost over.
Middle school sucked. That is all there is to say about it. Perhaps that is why I’m drawn to writing for children, as my biggest escape was books. I don’t even try to give advice to kids who are in this age group, and only say, “I’m sorry” in response to “how can it get better?” Dude, I know that I’m not an exception and that everyone had a horrible middle school experience.
Seventh grade was the worst. That is why so many books and movies feature this awkward age. So how could the Webster City Middle School administration and teachers make it better? Oh, I don’t know, throw in a few mandatory dances, let us mingle with the opposite sex. I spent a considerable amount of time in the bathroom hiding during each of these experiences.
Valentine’s Day was legendary. Passed down information from the classes that came before us told of this day. Weeks before the event, every kid in my class whispered about the legendary seventh grade dance. A “computer” would set us up with a Valentine’s date, and we would have to dance with said student at the event that took place during the school day. So there was no getting out of it, unless you somehow luckily came down with a bad case of the flu. Those kids were lucky. A week before the dreaded dance, a printout of the pairings was placed next to our English teacher’s door. I remember moving my sweaty finger down the list until I found “Carrie Olson.” It wasn’t that I had a bad date, I just had never talked to this kid before. Not only that, but I had barely talked to any boy before. I wanted to throw up then and there.
It was funny, though, that the kids who were already dating were magically set up together. Funny, huh? That computer was smart. And by the way, dating in middle school meant sharing lockers, holding hands in between periods, and dancing at the Asbury Methodist Church dances together. It wasn’t the quintessential term of “dating” whatsoever. I remember trying to feign sickness that day. It didn’t work. Honestly though, I never told my parents about the dance. I was too embarrassed and nervous about the situation. My mother told me if she had known, she would have had no problem pulling me out for the day from this torture. Finally, an adult with some common sense.
That day I was a bundle of nerves. While the clock ticked closer to 2 p.m., I clutched my Trapper Keeper ever closer to my body. Finally the bell rang, and we were all hustled into Washington Central Gym.
Middle school dances were never pleasurable, consisting of the couples taking center stage while the gawky wallflowers stood on the sides feeling absolutely miserable. I remember walking home from these affairs, totally crushed, reaffirming that I was alone, ugly, and unwanted.
This dance took the cake. We had to, and I repeat had to dance with our date at least one song. So the teachers made sure that we weren’t hiding in the bathroom or cowering in a corner. My date and I never made eye contact, let alone talked. We were only touching each other’s bodies with our fingertips, at least two feet away. It felt like those minutes stretched to hours. When the song was finally over, we ran to opposite sides of the gym, recounting how awful the experience was with our friends. We then stood there, eyeing the clock, waiting for 3:13 p.m. to appear so we could run away from that day. And when the bell rang, we bolted.
So that was it. An hour of pure hell. Did I learn anything from it? No. Did it make me a better person? Uh, no. If my teachers knew that I was only going to repress the memory and write about it later in life, then good job. But it wasn’t a helpful experience, to say the least. It was forced, during an absolutely hellish time period for adolescents. If their goal was to help kids learn to socialize, it was an experiment that had gone wrong. We’d all get there eventually, but it would be a few years later down the road. In high school, at least you had the choice of torturing yourself with a school dance. This was just plain wrong.
Middle school teachers – basically what I am saying is that I am thankful that this event was canceled a couple years after our class. And I’m pretty happy that something like this would never fly in today’s standards. Middle school is hard enough – don’t make it harder. If you can’t tell, I’m still bitter about the whole experience. Yes, still.