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School dance a rite of passage

School dance a rite of passage
School dance a rite of passage
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell

My kids experienced their first school dance recently and, boy, did it bring back the memories for mom.

Back in the day, St. Joseph Catholic School in Corydon did not host school dances. Fifth-grade square dancing was as jiggy as we got; Sister Mary Raymond kept time by clapping her hands while the girls dreaded holding hands with some boys and blushed at the touch of those whom they had crushes on. An after-hours school-sponsored dance? No way. We made it all the way through eighth grade without experiencing this rite of passage.

Maybe that’s why I have such fond memories of the dances at Corydon Central High School. I’m confident I didn’t miss a single one in my four years there. This was the mid-’80s and big hair bands, strobe lights and lots of smoke were the hallmarks of these affairs.

My first 2-1/2 years of high school were in the old building, now the intermediate school. There was no air conditioning. Cram a few hundred teenagers jumping and writhing to the DJ’s beat into that gym and, man, was it ever hot.

It didn’t slow us down any, though. Well, not until a slow song came on. If you were lucky, you had a partner take you by the hand and lead you onto the gym floor. If not, you took advantage of the opportunity for a bathroom break or some refreshments.

I remember my first slow dance, or at least the one that lives in my memory as the first. It was the back-to-school dance at the start of my freshman year. I was wearing blue jean capris and a button-up cotton top that tied at the waist. Girls tend to have photographic memories of what they were wearing during milestone moments such as these.

I had been led onto the floor by the boy who would later become my boyfriend. He put his hands on my waist, and I linked my arms around his neck while we swayed to the Cars’ “Drive.” Had there ever been a more perfect moment at any school dance, ever? “Who’s gonna drive you hoooome tonight?” Such sweet, romantic words. I was lost in the moment, visions of the wonderful memories I was just waiting to make at CCHS — which most definitely included a boy driving me home after a dance — filled my head.

All too soon, “Drive” wound down and the moment was over. Soon thereafter, we parted ways. Our moms pulled up out front to pick us up; neither of us had a license to drive the other home, so the lyrics to the Cars’ song did not prove prophetic that night.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove up to the St. Joe’s gym to retrieve Hays and Sylvia at the conclusion of their first school dance. Hays, a sixth-grader, and his friends said they had a good time but were mainly there “for the food.” His class had zero interest in having a date for the dance.

There was a bit — and by a bit I mean a LOT — of drama in Sylvia’s class, not a little of it involving my daughter. The day the dance was announced, the fifth grade immediately erupted into a tizzy over who was going with whom. It was worse than a soap opera. Hearts soared, then were broken, all before lunch.

The situation resulted in an opportunity for parental guidance. There were discussions in our home concerning proper social etiquette, such as sending a friend to tell someone who’s asked you to the dance you don’t want to go with them is not acceptable and it’s not polite to tell a boy you’ll go to the dance with him only if the one you’re sweet on doesn’t ask you.

Despite the faux pas, I think this dance is a clear sign that my kids are on the road to young adulthood. They’re leaving childhood behind and taking those first tentative steps toward becoming teenagers.

And it all started on the dance floor.