I thought about this. I got, in my head, a little haughty. It seemed - forced. Another sign of how we rush things now. We had no such thing at early eighties Jefferson Davis Middle School.
(Yep. In South Florida. In a town that was still undiscovered jungle swamp during his "presidential" reign.. Jefferson. Davis. Middle. School.)
I was nursing on this nugget of self-righteousness when it hit me.
Wait a minute.
WE didn't, because we were rednecks and wannabe gang-bangers. We were a dangerous South Florida suburban mess, with smoke-filled bathrooms, girl fights in the halls, and a kid that used to pin live lizards to his shirt, concealed under an overshirt. Only just.
WE were JD.
I went to JD because we moved to West Palm from a tiny, desperate town in Georgia, and when we arrived in July knowing no one, we couldn't get into the Catholic school right away.
By the time we did, I was invested in the neighborhood, and walking to school along the canal (past alligators. And only once did we encounter a scary naked man, the infamous "Boogie Cain.") I begged to stay. 6th grade gave way to 7th, 8th. I never transferred out.
Since I was not in Catholic school, I had CCD. On Wednesday nights. With Conniston kids, and the few JD kids that were not pre-criminal.
Conniston Middle School was a few miles East, attended by the kids that lived closer to the Intercoastal. The only way I knew kids from there at all was because of CCD.
At CCD, I met my First Date. He, Tica, and I would spar during the break in class. Chat, laugh. I had crushes by that point, but "dating" him had not occurred to me.
Until he asked me to the 8th Grade Formal. At Conniston.
I wore a skirt and blouse. Two blouses, layered. Ombre-pastel-rainbow. I wore 6 skinny silk cords braided into my hair that matched.
Dressed, with time to kill, I proudly, giddily, went by Tica's house. Her sister, 7 years senior and impossibly stylish, assessed my attire and said, helpfully, "What the hell IS that in your hair? You better get it out before someone sees you!" I left, a little deflated - but not defeated.
Back at home, my date arrived. His dad stayed in the car and sent him to the door. He met my dog. He said hi to my Mom. I noticed for the first time that he was shorter than me.
His dad filled the silence on the way there. Then dropped us off to... dance.
My prior dancing experience consisted exclusively of leaping up and down on Tica's living room couch to REO Speedwagon and AC/DC albums while singing into a hairbrush. And the slow stuff? My palms sweatily draped across his slightly lower shoulders, our witty back-of-CCD reparte abandoned me. I felt conspicuous, and conspicuously awkward.
I knew no one at the school, so I couldn't even escape to the bathroom to commiserate and share lipgloss.
What was his name? This gnawed at me until I called Tica. 15+ moves, many miles, and years between there and here, and it is rare that we go more than three days without talking. While I feel certain we never talked about him, or that evening, again - she knew the answer. Without a blink.
8th grade prom. What a fantastic and ridiculous notion. That I survived it is no surprise - however it felt at the time. But that I still have the same comrade-in-arms with whom to recall it is nothing short of amazing.
My only memory of the dance itself is that cluster of emotions: wanting someone I knew there, wanting to be comfortable, to dance, to date, to be grown up and OK with my own skin. And I wanted to not have to go to high school, yet.
All that preparation - and then looking back thirty years later. WIth notsomuch to remember there in those middle two hours.
I only wish I coulda been part of today's pedicures and preparations, so I could, for a minute, imagine myself to be at all prepared for the day my own 8th grade girl tumbles out into that weird pre-dating, pop-music thumping, disco ball-spinning, crepe-paper dodging, sweaty palmed intersection of anticipation and nostalgia.
When that day comes... I know I'll be calling Tica.