That Tiffany song. You know the one. Sixth grade. The first time I stood in close physical proximity to a female who didn’t birth me and in a way that would’ve said, “Hey there, beautiful,” if a chubby boy in a peach knit cardigan sweater and a regrettable volume of Drakkar Noir could have emanated such a brand of clumsy middle school pre-sexual energy.
These are not the most positive of memories, and only the faintest brush strokes and passing scents remain with me after a quarter century of neglect. These are not memories I’ve chosen to reflect upon often so they spill like rainwater from a flower pot, the soil of which has been soaked repeatedly during a typical springtime. So much new and good has come that there isn’t room for what won’t promote growth. Onward and upward. Everything else overboard.
This is awkwardness in retrospect, the opposite of nostalgia. I didn’t enjoy my grade school career, to put it bluntly, and that first dance just about served as a neat and tidy microcosm of my school life: Mostly alone. Portly. Embarrassed, before I knew what meaning the word could hold. And with a girl who, rightfully, didn’t see me as a threat. It would be years before I’d realize this was the role of a lifetime.
My 10-year-old daughter has her first school dance this Friday evening, a sock hop with music from her grandparents’ heyday on the cutting-a-rug circuit. She’s over the moon with excitement. As am I, for her. She’s said that some kids are asking each other to the dance, less a date, from what I understand, as it is a ritual of accompaniment. No one wants to be alone.
She has asked a friend, a girl, if she’s going and if she’d “go with her.” It’s charming in its formality but it’s likely that none of the fifth graders will have full dance cards before their bow-ties are straightened by moms who’ll find it damn near impossible to keep their hands from shaking long enough to capture a single clear iPhone photo to commemorate the night and before car doors swing open and glittering silver-and-black shoes clatter down the concrete walkway to the grade school gym while dads drive back home in cars emptied of their most precious cargo.
I think we’re alone now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around.
It is Tuesday afternoon but I sit here anxious for the 8 p.m. Friday pickup time to arrive not because I want my daughter to stop dancing but because I cannot wait to listen as she puts her head on my shoulder and recounts the entire Technicolor evening in hi-def detail.
Those will be memories worth letting soak in for a quarter century or more.
A version of this first appeared on Out with the Kids.