7th grade dances and other painful memories


Aidan didn’t want to go to the junior high dance. Somehow he knew what his other friends didn’t—that it would be a bastion of awkwardness. And fear. And scary girls. So he didn’t go. He didn’t care that others went without him. He was happy to stay home.

I asked him how his friends fared. “Well, one had a headache,” he said. “He hated how loud the music was.” I sensed a hint of a smile on his face. An I-told-you-so smile. “And the other one’s girlfriend got stolen by another guy.”

“That’s what happens at junior high dances,” Patrick said. “It happened to me.”

As they continued talking I remembered my own foray into the junior high dance arena. I remember putting on makeup much like I painted on hopes. And I hate to admit this on the blogosphere, but I stuffed my training bra with toilet paper. So desperate to be loved or noticed or recognized, I longed for the dance to be my first step of validation. But I never found it.

Instead I found heartache. I stood along the wall with my friends—all wallflowers—desperately trying to pretend it didn’t matter that no boys approached our group. We made up conversations. We giggled our nerves while Journey and REO Speedwagon wailed songs from a disc jockey.

I was terribly skinny then, the kind of skinny that wasn’t cool, but is now. And all I really wanted was for one boy to wrap his arms around my skinny self and say, “Everything’s going to be okay.”

But everything wasn’t okay. Rejection and fear at the dance curdled inside me, verifying my lack of worth.

Seeing my son who stands tall on his own two feet makes me thankful he shied away from a dance. Why? Because I’ve seen him lose all abandon on the dusty circles of Ghanaian villages. He dances. He dances to his own rhythm. And he dances to God’s favor in his life. That’s him in the picture above–my son who dances to the rhythm of his African friends.

I wish I had known that confidence in seventh grade, wish I had danced in Africa first. I’m proud of Aidan. He is wise, and he is loved.

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