I had been hanging around the record player with my friends for most of the seventh grade dance. After discussing the finer points of Rush and Eye of the Tiger, and wondering why the girls kept requesting Michael Jackson when we had plenty of perfectly fine Van Halen albums to play, I decided the time was right. We only had the room for another half hour or so, and I had been dragging my heels long enough. I was finally going to ask my crush to dance. I had never really danced before, actually, I don’t think I’d ever even really touched a girl before, but it looked pretty easy – just sort of hug her lightly and sway back and forth. I could do this.
And this was a true awkward middle school crush. I rode my bike in front of her house constantly (which was like 3 miles or so from my house) on the off chance she’d walk out and …I don’t really know, actually. See me and decide we needed to make out on her driveway, I guess.
Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover” was playing as I approached her. The lights were low (as low as Catholic middle school would allow) and the dust from the art room filtered through the light from the windows.
“I’ve got to do this,” I thought.
I had been working on my approach at home for quite some time. In rehearsals I was pretty suave, giving off a mixture of both smoldering seventh grade bad-boy sexuality, with a hint of sensitive, artistic guy along with a studied air of indifference, just to seem hard to get. She was going to melt.
She was standing with her friends. Joan Jett was wrapping things up as I got closer. “Shit,” I thought. “What if she shoots me down in front of everyone? I’ll have to pretend to be sick Monday. And I’ll have to find a way to get my desk moved away from her. No more secretly staring at her neck (and sometimes getting a glimpse of bra strap, which was pretty exciting.) God, she smells so nice, and I’m going to have to give all that up after this public humiliation. I’ll have to find a new girl’s house to ride my bike in front of. I wonder if my parents will let me transfer schools. Maybe I could say I’m getting bullied.”
Should I look at her? Yeah, I mean, I had to look at her, right? But I don’t want to look at her too much, that would be weird. God, haven’t they heard of air conditioning in this place?
Well, I’m here. I have to do it now.
“HeyumCatherineyouthinkyoumightwanttodancetothenextdance? Um…With me?”
“Sure, I’ll dance with you.”
Man, this was easy! I could have been asking girls this whole time, dancing like a … I don’t know…dancing MTV guy!
Joan Jett finished and the next song came on. Journey. Don’t Stop Believin’ Hell yeah.
I put my arms stiffly around my dancing partner’s waist (I had a dancing partner!). Her arms were around my neck. We were swaying to Journey’s tale of lonely small town girls and city boys. I could feel her breathing under my hands. I couldn't really look her in the eye, but I could smell her hair. It smelled sort of like fruit. Beautiful, beautiful fruit.
It would make a much better story if I wet myself or freaked out when the song picked up, but I did pretty good, even if my arms were sticking straight out in a stiff 90 degree angle and I was swaying back and forth like a retarded robot. Of course, I never really talked to her that much afterwards, since she still made me nervous, and it was much easier to fantasize about being cool around her than actually, you know, having a conversation.
Years later my wife would express amazement that my first slow dance was to Don’t Stop Believin'.
“But you can’t slow dance to that song,” she’d say.
“You can if you’re a superstud,” I’d reply.