Memories of elementary school dances … and dads dropping their little girls off

I’m not sure who had more fun: My daughter going to her first school dance, or me, getting to go along to drop her off at the school dance. I needed her special permission just to be allowed in the car. I had to keep a low profile. I wasn’t allowed to drive. Like a dog, I was required to sit in the back seat. I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t say corny, obnoxious or sappy things. And I wasn’t allowed to cry, laugh or pontificate.

Any of these things would get me kicked to the curb, or worse! Shoot, I nearly got slugged when I came home from work and said to my daughter — her hair neatly brushed to one side and wearing a wonderful, flowing summer dress — “Boy, you’re the most beautiful girl in the world.” I dodged the swing and jumped over the sofa to safety.

But the short drop-off was still awesome. I pressed my nose up against the window, trying to catch a glimpse of something — anything! — as she walked into the school. “Stay away from boys!” I wanted to scream, but the child lock was set and the window wouldn’t roll down. (Darn kid had thought of everything!)

How it reminded me of my younger days, and my first elementary school dances.

I don’t remember that we had too many. Maybe because I spent most of my years at an all-boys Catholic school in Tampa, which was directly across the street — and two barbed wire fences away — from the all-girls Catholic school.

There, the young ladies were taught that we were two rungs below flea- and tick-ridden howler monkeys — not that far from the truth. The girls pretty much kept to themselves at any dances we had, watching us carefully … tempted to use the tranquilizer darts their parents had given them.

Not that we wanted to talk to girls, or God-forbid — and clearly, he did forbid! — dance with them. We wouldn’t have known what to do. Certainly, not me. And I had been to cotillion — a fancy French word that means “steps on pretty girl’s toes while waltzing like a one-legged zombie.”

Mostly we stood around, smiling awkwardly, wondering why they despised us so much. Why they were so pretty, and we looked like a garbage truck emptied onto the gym floor. Why they had no interest in talking to us. And why someone had brought a frog to a school dance, but hadn’t thought to freak out the girls with it yet. Now, that would change their minds about us!

I don’t remember ever dancing with a girl. Or talking to one. But I do remember at the end of the night, lines of cars with dads in the back seats — their noses pressed up to the windows. I always wondered why they were there. What they were doing. And how I would never be like that, not in a million years. Man, does a million years go by fast!

Also published on Medium.

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