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I have a neighbor with a daughter who graduated from high school this year and right before prom night I received a frantic call for help with her dress, which, evidently, was not cooperating in making the young lady feel like Cinderella, and needed some small alteration. I immediately headed for her house sewing box in hand.
The dress in question was a strapless affair, which seems to be every young girl's ballgown style of choice these days. Personally, I think that very few women look really good in them and they are wildly uncomfortable. Every time in my life that I wore one I spent most of the night thinking that I was in danger of having it slip south and was constantly trying to surreptitiously pull it up. My neighbor's daughter didn't seem particularly concerned about slippage, her problem was that the dress was a bit too long and she was in danger of tripping on it. This was good news – hems are easy.
While shortening the dress I remembered a prom incident from the past; not my prom past, but the prom of another child of a neighbor that turned out to be a rather interesting cautionary tale. In that case the teenager was a boy named Jake, a nice, handsome, sports hero type with floppy blond hair and an engaging smile. He was a very popular kid at school and had a very pretty, popular girlfriend named Tina. Being who he was, any other scenario would have been impossible in high school. They probably were voted best couple for the year book or something. His mother was very proud.
One late night I found myself with a headache, something I rarely get, and no pain killer in the house, so I got into my car and headed for a convenience store to buy some. When I got there I found Jake leaning against the building in a tuxedo drinking soda. Keeping in mind that I had no idea that it was prom night, the tuxedo kind of threw me. I got out of my car, walked over to him, and asked him what he was doing lurking at the 7 Eleven dressed like James Bond.
“My girlfriend threw me out of the car on the way to a party after the prom,” he told me.
Yikes. Prom night disaster. I tossed him my car keys and told him to wait and I'd take him home. I needed an aspirin.
When I got in the car and asked him what happened he told me that she was mad at him because he had talked to another girl at the prom and danced with her. I figured there was more to the story because there always is. He was so miserable that I told him I'd buy him breakfast at an all night diner and he could tell me all about it.
At the diner we sat in a booth in the back and he ordered a giant waffle. If you are a tall, lanky 17 year old boy drowning your sorrows in maple syrup seems appropriate. While we waited he told me the whole sordid story. While Tina was off schmoozing and giggling with her girlfriends, he had gone to get something to drink and bumped into a girl he had sat next to in history class that year. They didn't move in the same circles but they had chatted in class through the year and been friendly. They talked for some time and then talking turned into dancing and the rest is teenage trauma history.
“So,” I said. “Tina was angry because you danced with another girl.”
“She was angry because I danced with that girl,” he sighed. “I danced with her friends and that was Okay.”
I asked him if that girl was gorgeous or notorious or something, but he said that she was not either of those things; she was a redhead with freckles on her nose who was really smart and played the violin. Uh oh. Suddenly, the problem was illuminated in the bright light of day.
“Look, kid,” I said. “You can dance with Tina's friends because they are approved by her and not a threat. To a girl like your sweetheart, spending time and dancing with someone not in her circle, not at all like her, and therefore inferior, is some kind of insult. From her point of view, why would you want to spend time with a redheaded violin-playing egghead, someone who is everything she is not?”
He stabbed his waffle with his fork and looked at me through his floppy hair. “Tina said some awful things about her. Really mean. And it isn't fair because she's so nice. We got along really well in history class and I liked talking with her. I could just be myself”
Oh dear. People can be so dim. So dim and so superficial and so sure of what they think they should have and should want that they are doomed to forever get on the wrong bus. I told him that he should forget about Tina and get in touch with the redhead and spend some time with her during the summer, but I knew he wouldn't. He'd patch things up with Tina and go to college and replace Tina 1 with a Tina 2 and baring some kind of epiphany, just keep getting on the wrong bus. Too bad. He was a nice boy. But there have been plenty of nice boys on the wrong bus and while some of them figure it out, more of them just keep buying the wrong ticket.
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