Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Dance

My son asked that I chauffeur him, and a friend of his, to his first high school dance last night, in our land boat. I offered to stop at a costume rental place and pick up a suitable uniform for myself, but he, sensing that I wasn't being serious, let me off the hook. I deliver every offer and every comment to him, no matter how ridiculous, deadpan -- then leave it to him to sort out whether I am pulling his leg or not. It's becoming more and more difficult to trick him. He claims that he has been on to me, and suspicious of everything I say, since I convinced him at some tender age (four or five) that if there was a Wal-Mart there must also be a Ceiling-Mart and a Floor-Mart.

So, I dropped off the boys, drove around a bit, then went home and waited. School dances aren't what they used to be. In your day, do you remember the gymnasium doors being locked early so that undesirables couldn't crash the event and cause trouble? Were there breathalyzers at the door to make sure fourteen and fifteen year-olds weren't drunk when they arrived? How about pit bulls and armed goons? Okay, so I'm kidding about that last one, at least at my son's school. The fact remains that the age of innocence is over.

At 10:15, I got the call asking me to pick up the boys. The lights were being turned up and the kids were being turned out. The dance was over.

Did the lads have fun? Seemingly. Did my son dance with any girls? Yes, about ten or so, according to him. Who asked whom? He asked some, some asked him. Was he telling the truth? Yes, according to his friend.

Boy, I wonder what lies ahead.


  1. I was a girl who despised being joked with in that way, because I was so terrible naive and believing.

    Some girlfriends of mine once chewed up cracker, spit it in between two whole crackers and told me it was tuna. Even after I'd eaten it, I believed them.

    I was made wiser as the years went on, but I still dislike teasing and now Ophelia tries to trick me!

    Does your son's school seriously have a breathalyzer installed at their dances??

    I love to watch your son grow through his father's eyes. It's an interesting and entertaining perspective.

  2. Yes, there really was a breathalyzer. I don't know if anyone was actually made to blow in it. The story my son was told by friends of his, is that last year there were so many instances of kids showing up drunk that they were originally going to stop the dances altogether. They relented and chose the stronger control option instead.

    The irony is that this is a Catholic school in a really good suburban neighbourhood, not a city-centre school. A lot of non-Catholics, like us, send their kids there because of the higher academic standards and stricter control over various forms of teenage mischief.

    My mother used to chide me for my approach with my son. She said it would backfire on me.

    My reasoning is that the approach encourages the development of 'filters,' ways to sift whatever is being said and to separate truth from fiction, etc. Also, I told my son when he first started school that there were bullies everywhere and the best defence against bullies is words. The words can either be sharp, where you essentially cut the perpetrator off at the knees and emasculate him in front of his peers, or humourous, which is less confrontational and dangerous but which usually serves to disarm the bully very effectively. It's hard to beat the crap out of someone right after he has made you laugh.

    I learned the power of words from an overweight friend of mine in high school. He would be insulted and teased on occasion, but it would only ever happen once by any given person foolish enough to tangle with him. With a few well-chosen words, Bill would shred the culprit and the person would stand there, mouth open, embarrassed and shamed. Word got around and no-one messed with him. He never had to raise a hand in anger or raise his voice.

  3. "Stricter control over various forms of teenage mischief" And excellent attitude from the school. Proactive, when prevention doesn't work in it's first place.

    And, a little surprising considering that strong Catholics don't support birth-control.

    I agree with you on the power of words. Wit and self-respect can offset the balance when it comes to bullies and their potential victims.

    What was the approach did your mother chide you for? A strict environment? I found that my friends who were subject to set guidelines and boundries, rules and expectations had them as ammunition in situations where the rest of us (my group was subject to no rules) were led astray, simply because there wasn't any reason not to be.

  4. My mother chided me for the humour I used with my son, my effort at trying to get him to see that everything, even the worst life could deliver, had a comical element if you looked hard enough. I used to (and still do) sit with him while watching Simpsons and Family Guy episodes that are superficially sophomoric but that have other levels of both sight gags and verbal references which probably 90% of the population don't 'get.'