No Dancing | Menories

No Dancing | Menories

A Story by Haley
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My first slow dance fell flat, only to be brought up again and again.

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            When I was younger, like 11-13, slow dancing was a thing, and a big thing at that. In middle schools, or at least the middle school I attended, the school would host a handful of dances every year for the 7th and 8th graders, perhaps preparing them for the mess that would be high school homecoming dances. It was rare that two people, even if dating, would go as a couple to these dances, so instead and being in middle school, we would gather our friend group at someone’s house in order to spend hours getting ready for what we thought would always be the best night, resulting in groups of girls excitedly arriving in clumps followed by the groups of boys. Regardless, the last two groups to arrive, fashionably late, were always the popular kids.

            These were the kids who monopolized the only outside lunch tables, the ones who gossiped loudly in the back of class while making eye contact with the person they were talking about, the ones who dated each other almost in rotation, and yet they stood unchallenged and somewhat looked up to. The girl side of the group was strict and unrelenting when together, yet some were friendlier and more inviting when alone. The boys, often interacting only within their group, were the stars of the school, they consisted of most of the sports teams, while also being threateningly smart, for the most part. While I can’t speak for who the boys in the school had crushes on, I can confidently say it was the popular boys that most of the grade would crush on. Unfortunately, myself included.

            I considered myself a social floater in both middle school and high school. I had my own group of friends but often found myself hanging out with anyone that would tolerate me. In middle school especially, I had a strong girl friend group (which would come to a dramatic end with them attempting to “Survivor vote me off” the friend group, which in itself is a story), but would find myself friends with the middle school burnouts, the drama kids, the nerds, mean girls, and a third of the popular group. My 8th grade math teacher would go on to tell my mom in a parent-teacher conference that I just needed to shut up sometimes; he was my favorite teacher.

            In 7th grade, the Winter Formal fast approaching, the topic of slow dancing became especially prevalent. I think it was in P.E., as we were trying to avoid doing any actual physical education, that Jessi had asked me if I wanted to dance with anyone, mentioning my crush on undoubtedly the most popular guy in school, Greg Clarksen, and much like a celebrity, you often found yourself saying both first and last name. As soon as she spoke, I knew she had a plan. She was one of those girls who liked to push you outside your comfort zone; notably the first time I snuck out of a house, climbed a fence, or streaked was with Jessi. Being pushed to do more was fun and it helped me get out of my shell a bit; however, she tended to go too far and to also do things without consideration.

            “Jessica, do not message him.” I immediately begged. Facebook, being still relatively new, had dominated our middle school, and Jessi liked to brag that she had over a thousand friends. While his profile was somewhat of a mystery as he was one of few, at the time, who would deny friend requests, being selective as to what to share or who to call friends, Jessi endlessly clicked “Add Friend” until he obliged. She smiled at me, before getting up and sprinting to a different friend across the field, leaving me sitting on the field, worried about what would follow.

            For a week leading up to the Winter Formal dance, I begged my dad to allow me to have a sleepover and pre-party at our house. After promising to match the socks in the loose sock drawer (this is where socks lived when we found ourselves too lazy to finish putting clothes away after laundry), he relented to having four girls come over. When the day came, the last Friday before our two-week winter break, I found myself excited, but already anxious to see if Jessi had actually messaged Greg Clarksen. I played what the message could have said over and over in my head, the thought of having to have someone ask him to ask me to dance with him was mortifying and made me want to avoid being on the dancefloor during all slow songs. The girls and I got ready, frying our hair with too hot straightening and curling tools, packing make-up onto our eyes, then finally taking an hour’s worth of photos before jamming back into the car and heading to the now decorated school gym/cafeteria.

            The songs faded loudly into each other as the DJ played 2008’s greatest hits, the crowd of pre-teens fist pumping, something they had learned on the newly aired Jersey Shore, or jumping up and down. Several upbeat songs played, setting the tone for the night, before the first slow song came on, signaling for a few friends and I, a bathroom break. Two girls in the grade above argued in the bathroom corner as my friends and I touched up any smudged make-up or to more realistically, wipe sweat off our foreheads. When the next upbeat song came on, we exited the bathroom and returned to the dancefloor, fist pumping as we went.

            At our school dances, there was something called “snowballing” where you could submit a couple’s name, often time an unrequited crush, to slow dance with each other in front of the whole crowd. This was my nightmare, and as the DJ announced it was snowballing time, I grew cold, glancing at Jessi. She smiled first at me then at her other best friend, Theresa. Theresa smiled back at us, clearly excited to hear who it would be. “Okay ladies and gentlemen,” the DJ yelled into the microphone, “our lucky couple is Greg Clarksen and…” he paused to play a drumroll, “Theresa Robinson!” Theresa screamed and pushed forward, planting herself in the middle of the circle the crowd had created. I sighed, relieved forgetting that Theresa liked him more than I did and also happened to know Jessi longer. I looked over at Jessi and mouthed thank you, she winked back, still with a smirk on her face.

            As the night continued, pop songs from 2006-2008 streamed loudly out of the speakers, making the stage the DJ was on, shake. I watched while dancing as Theresa and Jessi whispered excitedly to each other about something, Jessi pushing Theresa up to the DJ, which I thought nothing of as the song continued to play and I turned my attention to a different group of friends. As Theresa walked, Jessi rejoined my side and grabbed my hand as we jumped up and down, fist pumping yell-singing the lyrics of the song. About a minute had passed when Theresa returned to our group, now crying, barely getting out the words that someone had said no to something. Theresa, Jessi, a different friend, and myself ran to the bathroom to hear the story and to help wipe her tears; however, once we got to the bathroom, full of girls in groups with drama, I excused myself back to the dancefloor.

            Some other friends were standing by the speaker, closest to the stage, the last chorus of the song ringing through our ears. We had been standing in a circle dancing, when Greg Clarksen approached, touching my arm, “Hey, I heard a slow song is on next. Do you want to dance?” He spoke loudly, making sure I could hear over the speaker beside us.

            I froze, my heart beating violently in my chest, and panicked as I yelled, “No, I don’t want to dance with you.” However, as soon as I spoke, the song cut out, leaving enough of a silence for my statement and gross misinterpretation of how loud I needed to be, echoed through the building. He looked shocked and took a step back, while I looked down and ran to the bathroom to find Theresa and Jessi.

            I continued to hide, letting a few songs pass, with Theresa, until Jessi pulled us out of the bathroom and back to the center of the room, the DJ soon announcing that last song of the night (Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”, which apparently got the DJ in a lot of trouble). Once the last song ended, my friends and I piled into the car, stopped for fast food, and went back to my house, Jessi convincing us to utilize my dad’s hot tub in the snow. I promised I would join them in the hot tub, but stopped to post what I thought was a well-thought out Facebook status about following your mind versus your heart sometimes but also tied astrology into it.  

            The two-week school break passed and on our first day back to school, we had a desk swap in class, meaning everyone would change seats. My desk was in the back row, seated next to one of the funnier popular guys while Greg Clarksen was sat at a desk in the front row. Jason, the boy I was sitting next to, immediately brought up the dance but was interrupted by Greg Clarksen yelling at him to switch seats. For whatever reason, they did, and so for the remainder of a year I sat next to Greg Clarksen. When he first swapped seats, I smiled at him to which he smiled he back. He would go on to try and talk to me several times, but for whatever reason, mainly anxiety, I shut all conversations down, instead, talking around him to my friend that was seated across the aisle from him (he was so nice about it too, leaning forward or back so I could see my friend as we spoke).

            In 8th grade, after not speaking to him unless for school work for all of the year before, Theresa was still crushing on him as well as another good friend. One lunch period, Jessi and Theresa tasked me with reminding him that Theresa had a crush on him. I’m not sure why, but the only thing I was instructed to say was, “You know that Theresa likes you, right?” So I did, but visibly shaken at the task as I did so to which he just shrugged and said he knew. Later in the year, my other friend’s crush developed and she pursued him consistently only to be stopped when he insulted her nose. In her anger, I watched as she poured glue all over his backpack before our shared 1st period class, after her job was done, she ran away only to come back and act surprised at the act. A few people I had heard I knew who it was and whispered at me, begging to tell them, which I did, but later heard that because Greg Clarksen had seen me whispering to people around the glue littered backpack, there was a thought that I had done it.

            In high school, my best friend, Elcie, shared several classes with him and by our senior year she claimed they were friends. I had jokingly asked if he had remembered when I yelled no, I don’t want to dance with you in his face, not actually meaning for her to ask him, but she did, and she claimed to remind him of it frequently. On one afternoon, after school was out and we were getting some food before going back to my house, we were talking about the dance, when she continued to drive towards a truck stopped at a red light. Without thinking, I let out a short, loud scream, signaling for her to break before colliding with the truck bed. As she slammed on the breaks she exclaimed, “Oh my god, that’s Greg Clarksen’s truck.” The next day she told me she had told him of how I had saved his truck by screaming.

            By the time I moved to Berkeley at 19, I hadn’t seen him or even talked to him since high school (I hadn’t talked to him since 8th grade); however, within two months of me moving there I was crossing the street at a stop sign, and he happened to be stopped at that stop sign, the same truck that I had stopped my friend from driving into. It took me a second before I registered who it was and did a double take, as he drove, I thought I saw him do a double take as well. A few weeks after that I found him on Tinder, quickly texting my best friends about what to do and why this was happening when she told me he went to school around there, we decided to see if it would be a match. It was not, but after ignoring him for most of 7th grade and if he still thinks I put the glue on his 8th grade backpack, I don’t really blame him.

© 2021 Haley


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"My 8th grade math teacher would go on to tell my mom in a parent-teacher conference that I just needed to shut up sometimes" . . . this story is the perfect illustration of what you mean by this. I am amazed at all the details you can remember and then how you slam it all down in a non-stop breathless-seeming spiel that isn't a bit boring. You manage to catch a ton of the recognizable aspects of these youthful situations, which are surprisingly similar to when I was in this scene, some 50 years ago. I give you high kudos for making this so fast-paced & compelling, even tho it could be a little mundane if not for your feisty spirited way of storytelling (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 4 Months Ago


Haley

4 Months Ago

I find that when writing these types of "stories", if I did not add a little flair they would be muc.. read more
The days of our youth. Still learning and thinking too fast. I liked the story. I do believe, opportunity happen rarely. If we missed. It is gone. Thank you dear Haley for sharing the amazing and worthwhile story.
Coyote

Posted 5 Months Ago


Haley

5 Months Ago

Hi Coyote, thank you so much for the read! I often miss being young and am just starting to experien.. read more
Coyote Poetry

5 Months Ago

You do dear Haley. I am a old man and I learn something new every day. Life is a steady flow of lear.. read more
As the kid who went to all my middle school dances, I can say one thing. I was the kid who stood in the corner half the time and wandered around in the dark gymnasium looking for my friends who ditched me for the populare kids. The other half I spent stufing my face with snacks and questioning why I came in the first place. I think every one can agree that middle school sucked.

Posted 5 Months Ago


Haley

5 Months Ago

I felt like that kid half the time, or I spent my time jumping from friend group to group hoping I w.. read more
Ah! Those middle school days. Yikes! I shudder to think of all the tension, anxiety, and even bullying they occurred. Whew! I don't miss it.

You bring me back to those innocent yet stress filled days with this write.

Posted 5 Months Ago


Very nice hahaha, I found this amusing. You do have some encounters I'll say

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Haley

5 Months Ago

Thank you for reading! :)
I love this Haley. You captured those dances perfectly!

Posted 5 Months Ago


Such an amusing story. The awkwardness of youth is portrayed brilliantly. Your writing style always feels extremely cosy, like stories told in a tavern. Really great stuff.

Posted 5 Months Ago


Haley

5 Months Ago

Thank you, I'm still embarrassed but it's one of my favorite stories!

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Added on January 3, 2021
Last Updated on January 3, 2021
Tags: nonfiction, short story, quick read, dating, lifestyle, romance, humor, satire

Author

Haley
Haley

CA



About
Menories - Memories or Stories about Men Detailing encounters I've had with men in my life - from short run-in's to those who have had long lasting effects. It's the story of getting into a Lyft at.. more..

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