Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew
Airing My Dirty Laundry!
Middle School Mosh Pit
I thought I was being a good parent by volunteering recently to be a chaperone at my son’s 8th grade dance. Judging, though, by his apparent horror when I told him, I suspect my boy will not consider my presence a highlight of his upbringing. Nevertheless, I was there, and after witnessing what passes for dancing among the middle school set, I fear for the survival of our civilization.
On the positive side, the dance has been responsible for a heartening improvement in my son’s hygiene habits. When he first attended as a sixth-grader, my pubescent progeny had to be persuaded to take a shower and apply a couple of swipes of deodorant. This year, however, he actually wore a suit and slathered himself in a variety of studly-smelling products so powerful I had to drive with the windows open. He even claimed to have combed his hair, although I saw little evidence of that.
As we pulled into the school’s parking lot, he bolted from our vehicle before I even came to a complete stop, reminding me on his way out that under no circumstances was I to speak to him or in any way indicate that we might be related.
The gym had been lovingly decorated by parents to resemble (in dim light) the legendary Kodak Theatre on the night of the Academy Awards. The girls, resplendent in their gowns, upswept hair and perfect makeup, entered on a red carpet, a disco ball throwing a rainbow of lights on their eager faces. They were followed by a less impressive group of sweaty, shaggy-haired boys -- my son among them – shirt tails already sticking out, suit jackets already slouched over their shoulders. The boys shuffled in a nervous clot toward the food and immediately began stuffing their faces. I began to feel sorry for the girls.
You can probably trace the progress (or deterioration) of a society by the sophistication of its dance forms. Dancing used to be a complex affair, carefully choreographed and elegantly enacted. But then it began a steady decline so that by the time I was in middle school (we called it junior high then), we were barely stayin’ alive, rhythmically speaking, doing The Hustle and cleverly concluding the evening by slow dancing to all eight minutes of Stairway to Heaven.
But at least what we did still bore some resemblance to stylized movement.
What I saw at the mosh-pit event masquerading as a social at my son’s school was “dance” only in the very broadest sense of the word: there was a tooth-rattling noise, amazingly defined as music, which appeared to elicit an assortment of involuntary twitches and spasms from the students. Very few of the kids actually broke off into couples. It was my job as a chaperone to monitor the motions of those precocious pairs and ensure their contact remained G-rated. Other than one or two juvenile attempts at a bump and grind that I quickly cut short, it did.
The majority of the kids simply stood in bouncy bunches and jumped up and down to the ear-pickling beat. Occasionally, these leaders of the future would engage in mass collisions, putting their fine clothing in peril by slamming into each other with obvious delight. Nowhere did I see any actual dancing. My own child, when he finally stopped eating and got up the courage to get on the dance floor, appeared to literally have ants in his pants, flailing his arms and thrusting out his legs in an alarming manner that I can guarantee he never learned from me.
When the evening’s final song was announced, these soon-to-be high schoolers clung together in a swarm, arms around each other, swaying to the sound, sad to realize it was all over. I heard many of them say what a great time they’d had. On the way home, my son mentioned that he’d enjoyed “dancing” much more than he expected. I tried to hide my smile.
The great Maya Angelou once said that everything in the universe has rhythm and everything dances. Well, maybe almost everything. Ms. Angelou may not have ever been to a middle school dance.
~ © Jackie Papandrew 2007 ~
Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at: JackiePapandrew.com
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