The first real social engagement I attended was the homecoming dance my freshman year of high school. My parents felt that raising a family 15 miles from the rest of the world was great for keeping us protected from corrupting influences, while still keeping us close enough to the real city for things like "food" and "health care". However, the boy-that-was-me going to this first dance in his freshman year was socially backward and totally unprepared for what was about to happen to him.
I went to the dance alone, though that wasn't my plan. I had asked one girl, upon whom I had developed a minor crush... and from this perspective twenty years later, it's hard to remember exactly what her reaction was. I think it was polite, though.
But there I was, watching large children pretend to be small adults in the dim lighting. There were streamers, mirror-balls, laser lights, and a DJ playing all of the hottest hits of the day - RunDMC, Aerosmith, Chris DeBurgh, and... the Monkees. (The TV series had entered syndication on what would eventually turn into our local FOX outlet.) As I wandered the periphery of the dancing horde, I heard a small voice from somewhere behind and below me say, "Would you like to dance?"
I couldn't see very well, but there was someone down there -- shorter than even me! -- and so I agreed. We wandered out onto the floor just in time for a slow dance: the Monkees' "I Wanna Be Free". As Davy Jones crooned to us, my anonymous partner chattered excitedly. I couldn't really hear much, but I did catch her name, and that she really, REALLY loved the Monkees.
At some point, my habit of singing or humming along with whatever music is in the area when I'm bored apparently took over. She gazed up at me, utterly smitten and asked, "Do you like the Monkees, too?" Mom had a couple of their record albums - yes, the old vinyl LPs - which I had spun a time or two on our fancy new Panasonic turntable, and I nodded, "Yeah, they're pretty cool." What did I know about cool?
That really should have been it -- a geeky, but pleasant social experience. Put it in your diary, and seal it away to reflect on twenty years later. But come Monday...
Band was first hour, and afterwards I had to head across campus to Algebra, with a stop at the large banks of lockers midway. When I slammed my door shut, there was a small simian face framed by a frizzy blond Brillo pad and bristling with braces and zits. I couldn't guess at the gender, let alone the identity. It wore a Monkees tee-shirt the way most kids were wearing Def Leppard or Van Halen tees, and it chirped happily up at me, "Hi, sweetie!" Everyone whirled and stared, and I tried to melt into my locker.
Since this is just a blog entry, I'll spare you the weeks of high school torture that ensued. I'll skip over the details of my public agony at being pursued by someone who was obviously insane, and the private agony of not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. (I certainly won't dwell on the connection I made between what I was going through and what the girl I had asked to the dance must have been feeling when I approached her with my invitation.) I won't even tell you about the joy I felt when she began dating another kid -- a transfer student who proved to be an epic loser straight from a Revenge of the Nerds movie -- just to make me jealous. I don't think she planned on my reaction being one of relief.
But then, she disappeared. She simply stopped showing up at school, and her boyfriend refused to comment on where she went (though he did enjoy a perverse celebrity as the rumors flew around the school). When it became apparent, though, that she had not done away with herself or pined away for lack of my fourteen-year-old affections, I put it out of my mind.
The next year, her sister showed up. The sister had some issues herself; she was blind, and had two false eyes which she loved to take out and use in practical jokes. She would roll the eyes back and forth on her desk in class, waiting for the teacher to work up nerve to say something to her. Or she would stand around the corner from people, poke one eye around said corner and say, "I Seeeeee YOU!!" in a haunting, sing-song voice. Basically, she was really cool to be around.
At some point, I ended up talking to the sister and decided to ask where the Monkee fan had disappeared off to. It was meant to be an airy, nonchalant kind of question. The answer was neither airy nor nonchalant. She was in jail for molesting some kids she was babysitting.
Needless to say, I never developed a fondness for dances. I couldn't really work up the enthusiasm for social gatherings much at all, really. And I've avoided listening to Davy Jones since then, too.