Lessons you can learn at school dances

Perhaps we too quickly assume that change comes with age. We take for granted that childhood behaviors differ from adulthood ones. We presume that wisdom accumulates naturally. We feel an age-based superiority over our minors. And we think that becoming “grown up” happens inevitably over time.

The first time I consciously questioned this was probably in middle school: I was realizing the danger of gossip, and some middle-aged women on my mom’s tennis team clearly weren’t. I heard their various conversations, thought they were super catty, and then found myself surprised that that was possible. Their grown-up talk wasn’t much different from that of my peers’ chatter.

I recently recalled that idea again, yesterday evening at Junior Formal. It was like a high school dance rerun!

This is not a commentary on the definition of maturity; If I do not believe that maturity is necessarily attached to age, then I do believe that it is individually defined. This is just a little note on how various things I naively associated exclusively with middle/high school dances made their grand reappearance at my junior class dance as well. And if that is possible, then maybe the “juvenile” things young people do are not a function of their youth or immaturity, but a function of just, well, being people.

Thus:

Lessons [about people] I’ve Learned At School Dances

  • People can gossip. In middle school, we gossiped about how that guy just asked that girl to slow-dance! In college, we’re gossiping about how those two just got engaged. In general, it seems that other people’s supposedly more scandalous lives will never lose their novelty.
  • People can be loud (and/or obnoxious) on large buses. Before last night, it had been a long time since I’d been on a bus crammed with students. So it had also been a while since I’d had my seat repeatedly kicked from behind by a random rambunctious kid. Also, whether surrounded by 14- or 20-year-old crowds, there will still be very loud people around shouting really weird and maybe gross things.
  • Some people don’t mind public obscenity. I’m learning to accept how traditional I am: Considering this was a generally sober dance party, I didn’t think there’d be as much dance-like-you’re-having-sex-dancing as there was in high school. I saw WAY more underwear than I was expecting (zero). Granted, this is probably because I don’t go to enough reportedly crazy-wild parties/I don’t go…
  • People can be really PDA-enthusiastic. The couple sitting in front of me and my friend on the bus ride back home were making out harder than I’ve ever witnessed that up-close. That’s totally fine – they can do whatever/however they want. What was amusing was the cliche of the post-dance intimacy!
  • People/girls eye each other. It’s doubtful that women will ever stop giving each other the head-to-toe look-over to scan their beauty competition.

Actually, the music was quite bad at the dance. What was fun was anticipating the next song’s potential, and the Chex-mix style chats with people I’ve met all over the past two and a half years. And, of course, it was definitely enjoyable seeing these various high school dance characteristics making unexpected re-entrances at a college formal. So they’re really not “high school dance characteristics” in my head anymore, I guess.

We’re in our 20s, maybe getting married, maybe investigating careers, mostly feeling like we’re getting old. But some things are going to stick around for good, middle school or high school or not. So, going just a tad against an ethnic norm of my heritage, I’ll say that age definitely does not guarantee a certain behavior. Like most people, I think I always knew that. But my everyday forgetfulness of it leads to many, often entertaining, surprises.

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2 thoughts on “Lessons you can learn at school dances

  1. hi nina! i found myself reading this again (for the gazillionth time) while i’m supposed to be “working” 🙂

    this reminds me of a story i once read, about how no matter at what age we are, we still have moments when we regress to our younger self (i.e. when we’re sad crying as if we’re six years old again or being really happy and excited like we’re our five year old self). i guess no matter what, it’s hard to deny that who we once were is often still very much a part of who we are now.

    p.s. i’ve found that for me, school dances can only be looked back on fondly, when a year or two has passed and i’ve forgotten about the body heat of the dancing masses and the awkward moments brought on by witnessing LOTS of pda and can only recall the fun times (yay for a fuzzy memory!)

  2. Least it’s interesting for, if you generalise the parties you mention, both the two sides, no? Fun for them, in their gossiping, PDA-ridden excitements and those taking notice in the silliness!

    PS. I think I’ve told you this. Isn’t it the best when you watch a guy watching a girl? It’s funny…

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