Thursday, April 3, 2014

School Dances. Sweet Lord.

Y'know, working in a high school the past few years and seeing my own kids grow up way too fast has gotten me thinking about my experiences with school dances.  My friends and colleagues are posting pictures of their beautiful children going to Prom, I just watched the Prom episode of Glee...awwwwww, what fond memories!  Yeah, not so much.

I need to make some basic statements.  I was in high school in the 80's, so the fashion and the hair aren't my fault. I had to troll for all three of the school dances I attended. I did...I had to go HUNTING for them, and my friends helped me find some.  I don't think, that in all four years, I was ever actually asked to a dance. Two of them may have "asked", but it was only after mutual friends had convinced them to do so.  Boo hoo.  Poor me. Looking back, I thank GOD. There is so much that goes on now that I never had to deal with.  I never had to end any of these nights on a romantic note, nor was I ever put in a position where I had to make decisions which, knowing me, would have been unwise.  I don't even think I kissed any of them.

"When You're Cool, The Sun Shines 24 Hours a Day."

Jane is a GOOD SPORT.
I just want to preface this by saying this date was so bad, I referenced it in the speech I gave at my dad's funeral.  Why?  To illustrate how my dad taught me to laugh at the absurd.

Ohhhh, where to begin? He was new to our school, and we had gym together. I didn't know much about Leroy, other than he seemed nice enough. In 11th grade, my best friend convinced me to ask him to Homecoming. I have zero recollection of the actual asking out, but the night itself will live in infamy.  I spent an insane amount of time getting ready, but finally I was, in my pale pink polyester contraption with shoulder pads and fake lace. So I waited to be picked up. And I waited. And I waited. And then I became 100% convinced that I was being stood up by someone I wasn't even interested in. (footnote for some of my younger readers...please understand that in the fall of 1986, there were no cell phones. NONE. People had to call on actual phones. And if you were my date, you managed to lose both my phone number AND my address.)  I must give the poor dude some credit. Under the unfortunate circumstances, he was rather resourceful. He went to the dance and searched madly until he found my best friend, then he made her show him where I lived.  By the time they got there, I was pretty pissed off, but I attempted to be excited to go and tolerated some pictures.

Oddly, when we walked out to the car, there was some other kid in the driver's seat.  As it turned out, he had hired his friend to drive us around. We had a driver. It was a sweet gesture, there were good intentions behind it. Upon arrival at the Homecoming dance, things began to go south (or just further south) fairly quickly. He just seemed over it. He sat at our table and wasn't really talking to me. He wasn't asking me to dance, so I attempted to ask him. The response I got was, "I don't want to, go dance with them!", pointing to a group of my friends. Alrighty then, don't mind if I do!  I loved to dance, so I made my way to the dance floor to dance with my friends and their dates, who were dancing because that is what you are supposed to do at a DANCE.  I was having a lot of fun at that point, but it didn't last very long.  My "date" walked up and poked me on the shoulder, telling me it was time to go. ?????  He revealed that he had made reservations at a really nice Italian place and we had to go. I asked if we could wait until the court was crowned or whatever, and he said nope, no time. So I sulkily said goodbye to my friends and we got back into the car.  Who makes reservations at a place AFTER the dance?  People don't eat AFTER the dance...  When we got on the road, I noticed that our "driver" was wearing sunglasses, but it was dark. I decided to ask about that. The response I got was, no joke, "When you're cool, the sun shines 24 hours a day."  Ohhhhhhhhhhhh noooooooooo......I got that awful cringe-y embarrassed feeling that you get when people do something incredibly lame.

I'd thought that maybe the night could be redeemed, maybe we were going to a really cool place and I could get to know him. Maybe it would be fun.  Or...maybe not.  From Pasadena, there are many many freeway options. You can take the 134, which will eventually lead you into West LA and Hollywood before turning into the 101 to take you up the coast toward Santa Barbara. You can take the 110, which will take you through downtown LA and eventually end in San Pedro. Or you can take the 210, which will lead you AWAY FROM EVERYTHING.  Suffice it to say, his paid chauffeur got on the wrong freeway.  We drove. And drove and drove and drove and saw less and less. We made it to Sunland!  Not knowing where we were supposed to have gone made it difficult for me to try to help, but I did try. I suggested turning around. I suggested stopping and asking for directions (should have known better, even then).  Both boys just got annoyed with me. I don't remember who started it, but I was pummeled with phrases like "Oh, good job Ranger Rick! Who do you think you are, trailblazer?"  So we just kept driving. (That's another thing the young ones should know...since there were no cell phones, there was no GPS. There was no interactive map, there was only the Thomas Brothers Guide.  Look that up!)  At some point, they accepted the fact that they had gone the wrong way, and turned around. It was probably around 11pm and I hadn't eaten since breakfast, since I was told we were going to have an amazing dinner. I was absolutely famished, and I had to beg these guys to pull over somewhere, anywhere, so I could get something to eat.  We finally found a 24 hour Winchell's Donuts.  I got a donut and a large diet coke.  When we finally made it back to my house, he was going to walk me to the door, and was holding the large diet coke.  "Do you want this?" he asked. Nope, no thanks.  Then he proceeded to toss the drink into the ivy in my front yard. Classy. Classier still, he actually leaned in as though he would get some sort of kiss after this disaster of an evening. I recoiled and then went inside and cried.

Apparently Jane looks fat.
Weeks later, our pictures arrived and I gave him his.  The next time I saw him, I asked him how he liked the picture and he said, "My sister said you looked fat."  A couple more weeks later, he wrote me a huge letter of apology, which I really wish I still had.  He said that I looked so pretty that night, and that he had really tried to make it a nice evening, having his friend drive and making reservations. I accepted his apology but really never talked with him again.  Poor bastard.

"Who Ordered the White Bread?"

So senior year rolled around, and again, here I was with no date. My friend Jennifer had introduced me to a friend of hers, Toby, who attended our rival high school. He was kind of a nerd, but actually a really nice, intelligent guy. I have no doubt that he is ruling the world somewhere.  I really don't have a lot of bad things to say about him, he was fun.  And yet....

The first issue was my dress. I had bought a shiny teal number with a peplum that I LOVED. I had taken it to the dry cleaners to have it altered and all was well. However, when I went back the day before the dance, the place had closed down. With my dress inside somewhere. There wasn't any phone number, explanation, nothing. Wow. So I had a date with a nice guy, actually, and nothing to wear.  My dear friend Karen quickly loaned me a dress of hers, a pretty white dress with puffy sleeves. I have since learned that white and very pale pink are bad choices for someone with skin like mine. Wearing colors like this make me look like a large pale blob.  But anyway...I had a dress! Hooray!

Toby arrived to pick me up on time, imagine! And he brought me the world's largest corsage. It was really pretty and it smelled good, but it seriously occupied my entire forearm.
It just keeps GOING.

This next picture just confuses me. Apparently I needed some guidance when it came to boutonniere placement. Is this complicated? Did I not know?  I find the fact that he had to point to his lapel pretty funny. (And how cool is that chandelier?  The house I grew up in was so incredibly cool, California Craftsman. Those chandeliers were antiques and once when I was little, my brother broke one playing air-drums during a Commodores song.  I digress...)

Here's the lowdown with Homecoming of my senior year with Toby. We honestly had a good time. He is not an adept dancer, but he actually danced, which was a huge improvement from the last dance. My best friend Renee was on the Homecoming court that year, so I was insanely happy for her and was generally much more focused on that than the actual date. The funniest thing to me about this particular date?  Seriously, have you EVER seen a whiter couple on earth?  I'm not just referring to the fact that my date was a Caucasian dude and my other dates were black guys. I'm talking about the COLOR WHITE.  My dress was white, my corsage was white (and a lot of it), my skin is incredibly white, his skin is incredibly white...I'm surprised we didn't vanish within the 1980's flash photography.  The irony of all of this is Toby's suit, white shirt, red bow tie.  He technically could have been one of the Islamic dudes standing on the corner of Lake and Washington selling bean pies.
Mr. & Mrs. CAUCASIA!!!

My friend Christina still had this picture, and it came up on a very large screen at my 20th reunion.  I audibly screamed, as my friend Ronda said, "That's you, isn't it?" I buried my face in my hands and whimpered.

And then there was Prom. Or, "Jane's date looks like Ichabod Crane!"

So there I was in the spring of my senior year and no one to ask. (Geez, I sound really pathetic...I had friends, I wasn't a total beast. I think that my dateless-ness probably had to do with the fact that since I was deathly insecure, I wasn't very nice to boys.)  In any case, Renee helped me think of prospects. There were like three guys I really wanted to ask, good friends, cute...but I was too scared. Then Renee thought of Thurman. Thurman used to go to our school, but for reasons I don't remember, he had stopped. He was cool, everyone got along with him. He was a waiter at Ernie Jr's, an awesome Mexican place in what is now Old Town Pasadena. So we went down there and asked, and he accepted. Yay!

Getting ready for the prom was the best part. I absolutely loved my dress, complete with the lace fingerless gloves of the Madonna era. I believe it was the only dance where my hair was not a complete disaster, although you could have still cracked an egg on it. By 1988 there was decent self-tanner, so I wasn't blindingly pale.

The prom was held at the old Disneyland Hotel, which is weird to me now since it's fairly far from Pasadena, about an hour.  My friend Mona and I were going to double with a dude from her track team. They came to get me, and my mom took the required pictures.  Mona was driving for the evening, her dad's burgundy Camry.  I don't remember why we needed to head up to her mom's house, but her mom and her older sister were videotaping it. I didn't find out about this until way later, but on the video you can hear Mona's sister saying, "Jane's date looks like Ichabod Crane!"  Oh dear.  This was also the era of the jheri curl, and Thurman had done a slicked back version.

I'm 5'8" with no shoes. I knew a lot of tall people.

The Prom itself was fun, and all our friends were at the same table.  Everyone danced, which was awesome. At one point while I was dancing with Thurman and he actually DIPPED ME, he said, "You know, Jane?  I'm really proud of you, you've come a long way." Umm, okay. Thank you?  The truth of the matter was that he really didn't know me that well and to this day I don't know what he meant.  Maybe he meant that I was really letting go and having fun, in which case he was right.  My feet began to hurt from my black satin pumps.  These pumps had been mauve previously, left over from being a bridesmaid at my brother's wedding. I took them off and chucked them under the table so I could go dance painlessly.

When the time came to leave, one of my shoes was gone. Just one.  It was highly unfortunate.  I walked around the outside courtyard with my date and my friends and I said, "What am I going to do with one black satin shoe?"  Thurman took my remaining shoe out of my hands and tossed it into the lagoon.  I still haven't quite gotten over that fact. Why was that an okay thing to do?  I often think about the stuff they must have found in that lagoon while they were remodeling everything.  I shuffled in my stocking feet across the parking lot, shredding my hose in the process.  Mona and I had fun, but neither of us were really into continuing our dates. We both told them that we were really exhausted and we dropped the boys off at their respective homes.  After we had, Mona asked me, "Do you want to go back out?"  Yes, please!!  We went home and changed, and went back out to Conrads, our local family restaurant.  We both had warm cherry pie and talked about the night.  It ruled.

The final picture is one of my all time favorites from all of high school.  Those are some incredible ladies in that photo, and I'm still very good friends with them today.  In the end, that's what it's about.  Renee coming to the rescue when Leroy lost my address, Karen lending me her white dress in her time of need, and Mona and I in her dad's Camry, ditching our dates and having cherry pie.