Monday, January 13, 2014

Horrible, Embarrassing Boy Stories Episode 2: The Winter Dance of Despair

 For background please refer to Episode 1

Sometime in the Winter of 2003/2004 (I honestly can't remember which month it was), I accepted an invitation to attend a Winter Ball at a high school which I did not attend with one of my ex-boyfriend's best friends. This, as you probably already guessed and as I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself, was a terrible idea.

The ex boyfriend in question had been my very first boyfriend, and although the relationship was hardly substantial, it ended in a way which hurt my feelings quite a bit.  The relationship began in mid-summer of 2003 and was over by September, but because I was 15 and unfamiliar with the concept of "healthy social habits" I decided to stay in contact with him once I was done being furious and hurt. The breakup is another story for another day, but as it relates to this story all you need to know is that by December, or February, or whenever it was, I was still operating with a slightly bruised ego and some unresolved confusion.

If you don't remember 2003, or weren't an adolescent at the time, I should remind you that this was before the ubiquitous proliferation of cell phones, before Facebook, and at the height of the popularity of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). So, by "keep in touch", what I really mean is "talked online sometimes" because we did not go to the same high school. For whatever reason, I sometimes talked to his friends (most of whom I had never met or even seen a picture of) as well. I really can't account for any of this behavior on my part except for the fact that my own high school was fairly small and it made my world feel a little less confined to have contact with outsiders. I literally have no fucking clue why I wasn't resolutely "blocked" by everyone in this particular social group. But as it happened I was not, and one of them needed a date to their winter formal. They were Juniors at the time and I was a Sophomore.

I accepted because the idea of showing up in a pretty dress and lots of sparkly makeup (I still hadn't figured out that boys do not automatically fall in love with you if you have glitter on your eyes) and nonchalantly ignoring my ex was very appealing to me. I guess it never really sunk in that I was going to be someone else's date, and that would mean being alone in a car with that person, being obligated to dance with that person, and not being a total bitch to that person. The person in question, who we'll call X, was 1 foot and 3 inches taller than I was, and had no particular reason to think that we would get along. I think one of the other friends in the group sort of asked me for him not because he liked me (he had never met me) but because I was a girl and they knew me.

I had a couple weeks lead time before the event and during that time I allowed myself to indulge fantasies of arriving looking flawless and being approached by every male at the dance. They would abandon their dates in favor of the beautiful stranger and I would smile demurely and accept the attention with grace while my ex looked on from the corner where he and his mousy date (I had no idea what his date would look like but I needed to believe that she was mousy) would be having a boring time. This is going to be outstanding! I thought, moronically.

It didn't occur to me until the final few hours that this might be a profoundly uncomfortable endeavor. I avoided thinking about the potential disasters which awaited me by making sure my hair was shiny and my eyes were sparkly and skin was dewy. I had gone to my own prom as a Freshman and it hadn't gone particularly well (again another story for another day) so I was enjoying the primping process despite the creeping sense of doom which had begun to permeate my consciousness.

Memories of everything that happened between my ex and I along with questions regarding the absurdity of the night ahead of me began to pop into my mind. Wasn't there another girl who was really mad that he dated me at all and kind of wanted to kick my ass? Wasn't that probably why he broke up with me? Wouldn't she probably be there? Does he even know I'm coming? Am I being pranked? Do they all make fun of him for dating me and are inviting me just to embarrass him? I considered calling the entire thing off, but then I realized that even if X had a cellphone I didn't have the number, and he was already on the way.

So I got in a strangers car and went to a dance at a school where I knew no one except for a group of boys who only knew me as the girl who their friend had changed his mind about dating. I felt sick most of the night as I tried to avoid my ex whose date was probably wearing just as much non-mousy glitter as I was. I guess I must have danced because I don't know what else I would have done but the dominant state of affairs for me that night was one of sadness and humiliation. I had no real reason to be humiliated, but it was a private source of agony that I had made such a monumental error in judgement. I'm sure that I was being rude to X and even surer that I made zero impact on any of the people who I had fantasized about impressing because I was too busy being miserable.

X drove me home with no funny business whatsoever and I probably immediately went online and tried to make it seem like I had a great time. I would like to say that this massive misstep had an immediate impact on my ability to make sound decisions in regards to boys and dating, but unfortunately, as you will find out if you continue reading this series, that is simply not true.

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