Monday, February 15, 2010

The Dance Competition

When I was twelve**, I entered a solo dance competition at a school dance.

My reason for doing such a thing is unclear. In the sixth grade, to place oneself on display, unprompted and without a considerable fan base, is a kind of lunacy. It wasn't like I was dared to do it. Nothing was on the line. There was no prize money that I recall. Just a first, second, and third place.

That week, my mother had purchased for me my first real pair of heels. The heel itself was a stacked parquet wood type affair and the upper was a white basket weave open toed sandal (so fashionably worn with some nude hose. - I, however, chose the "suntan" shade of pantyhoe. A pale child from the start, I developed an obsession with getting a tan and these tights would provide the illusion of sun kissed flesh. Never mind that the over all affect looked more like I had baked only my legs in an oven with a steady stream of butter basting.). The heels made a horse-like clip clop sound as I walked, and I wore them with a purple striped party dress and a bow in my hair. (Bow=homemade)

The dance was a normal tween event. Sixth grade girls huddled in hunchbacked clusters, unsure of how much they should flaunt their half formed, lopsided boobs. Boys shoved each other and mooned over the more developed eighth grade girls - the very height of elegance and sophistication. Teachers stared off into the middle distance. I danced with a couple of boys in the prototypical zombied tick-tock motion, back and forth, until "Careless Whisper" mercifully gave way to "We Built this City."

Then, they announced the competition. Anyone could enter. There would be a boys division and a girls division. It was freestyle. They would play a song and whoever wanted to get up and dance, could. At the end, they would announce First, Second, and Third place.

The boys were up first. I think their song was "Cool It Now" by New Edition - perhaps a not-so-veiled plea to the oversexed couple in the darkest corner of the cafeteria.

They boys were finished, and the winners were announced immediately. Then, it was time for the ladies.

Four got up to dance. Only four. One of them was me.

I remember who two of the other girls were. But the fourth is just a day-glo blur.

And they played our song. It was a song I happened to love:

I can't tell you what my particular Twelve-Year-Old dance style was like. Only that I knew the song backwards and forwards - and I think I may have lip synced a little of it. I think I wagged my finger Lindy style, and even attempted a time step (never having any tap lessons whatsoever). The whole thing was pretty invigorating.

Then, the song was over and we waited for the results. They came back in a flash. There were three places, and four participants.

Third was announced, the hormonal crowd let out a cheer.
Second was announced, again Hip Hip Hooray.
First was announced. The crowd went wild as the most popular girl in school ascended her throne.

My name was not called.

The extraordinary thing is that my pre-adult self was not phased at the loss. Instead of appreciating how magnificently I had exposed myself to the student body, I faded back into the crowd and danced with another couple of boys.

This dance was all but forgotten until I heard Billy Ocean's voice over the radio in a department store. Whatever dormant shame I might have encountered then, sprung out like snakes in those joke cans of peanuts.

I'm still not sorry I did it, but that doesn't make me shudder any less when I think of my homemade bow bouncing around in the disco lights lip syncing "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" to a throng of concerned onlookers.

**Twelve...jeez. I'm three times that age now. Was I even able to go to the bathroom by myself when I was Twelve? Twelve is an age when you think your little brain has it all figured out - that is before the Vesuvius of Thirteen erupts all over your unsuspecting paradise.

At Twelve I thought adults idiots when they smirked at my youthful certainty. "Oh I remember when I thought I knew it all," they'd condescend. I rolled my eyes at these fool grown ups and their cliches. Didn't they realize that I actually DID know everything? I mean, YOU might not have actually known everything, and I can guarantee you that these other pleebs I'm surrounded by don't know Jack about Jacob, but I'm the real McCoy. I'm the one who actually DOES know it all and I'm sorry, for you, Adults, I really am, that you cannot perceive my inherent genius, my immunity to whim, and my clear eyed vision of the world around me. You will all be laughing out the other side of your collective faces because I am the Greenwich Mean Time of Level Headed Human Wisdom.

I've heard some long to go back to the days of that sort of certainty. I can say that there is no amount of money you could pay me to go back. I let a lot of things slide past because I was positive I knew better, and some of the darkest times in my life arose when I pretended to have it all figured out. It can suck to realize that after all that twisting and effort, it doesn't make a particle of difference. But not knowing anything makes the act of discovery easier.

We'll see what happens tomorrow, when I have it all figured out again.

1 comment:

Erica said...

It's funny you posted this today. I just ran across an old trophy I won at a dance competition from my high school days. I came in third. There was only me one other girl in the competition in my age group.

I came in third out of two people.

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