My oldest son, in seventh grade, has recently gone to his first school dance.
He did not go to the first dance of the year, I think because of fright. But he screwed up his courage, rallied a few friends, and decided to go to the next one.
He came downstairs ready to go. I took one look at him and said, "You are NOT wearing that to the dance. You look like you are going outside to play basketball!" He was in a tshirt and shorts. Basketball shorts.
While I am a HUGE fan of the school uniform on a daily basis, I sometimes think it creates a clothing impairment. My son has a hard time dressing appropriately (in my opinion) for many things except for sports practices or games (which require a uniform). This is compounded by the fact that he doesn't usually have much to choose from given that he is growing at an alarming rate at the moment, one inch in height in the last 60 days.
I understand the desire to fit in with his peers, and not to stand out. This is one of the difficult stages of parenting, both understanding that desire, dimly remembering it, and simultaneously wanting that conformity to be tossed off as soon as possible.
This understanding was not enough for me to drive him anywhere near a dance dressed like that though. Knowing there was absolutely no way he could win the battle, he resigned himself to his new cool jeans and a nice—but not too nice—shirt which featured the apparently unusual qualities of long sleeves and a collar.
Once appropriately attired, I drove him to the dance and dropped him off. On the way, I made sure he knew how to ask a girl to dance. I could feel him rolling his eyes in the dim light of the car. I completely forgot that dances cost money, so I didn't send him with any. Luckily one of his teachers working at the door loaned him the $10.
When I picked him up, I desperately wanted to pepper him with questions, but with effort stayed quiet and let him talk. The first thing he told me was that he was by far the most dressed up person there. I saw this as an advantage, he did not. The second thing he told me was that the girls ask the boys to dance, not the other way around.
WTF? Can things really have changed THAT much since I was in middle school? Apparently they have.
During the first slow song, he was asked to dance by a beautiful seventh grader. I smiled with pride. Then I got the funniest mental picture of them dancing. This particular girl, probably the tallest in seventh grade, is at least seven inches taller than my son. Where exactly was he looking as he danced with her: up at her beautiful smiling face . . . or straight ahead? I couldn't ask that question, but noticed when he talked about that dance he had a certain smile on his face.
Going to the dance seems to have given my son a certain new kind of subtle social confidence. It's hard to define but I see it. Another step toward growing up.
This is a picture of my friend and I going to a middle school dance. We were the epitome of fashion: Gunny Sax dresses by Jessica McClintock. My son looked at this picture with some amusement as a relic from long long ago. Probably he was surprised it was in color and not black and white. Trying to look at it from his perspective, I suppose we did look somewhat bridal. If my son looks at this picture from my perspective, he will understand why wearing BASKETBALL shorts to a dance is just NOT going to happen.