The Middle School Dance-Stairway to Heaven, indeed.


December 9, 2010 by readlisaread

I’m not sure which puts my teeth more on edge: the pounding techno-funk; the vast expanses of flesh, far, far contravening the day to day expectations of the dress code; or the river of spilled pop on the gym floor, upon which many bare feet are jumping.

Welcome to the Middle School Dance Experience.

Surprisingly, the parts that might seem even more obnoxious to the outsider are the parts that I relish.

A novel I read recently referred to Fermat’s Last Theorem. I think The Middle School Dance presents a similar apparently unsolvable riddle: it is where one can find the meaning of life….if only the mystery can be solved.

Here are the known truths:

The dance takes place in a gym, which has been magically transformed into a club/Winter Wonderland/formal prom/undersea garden.

Girls will dance together, or in a group.

Boys will stand awkwardly to the side unless they are dancing with one girl. They may make an exception for a Conga line or the Cha-Cha slide.

Chaperons will hover with a feigned look of disinterest, and look away from groping unless it becomes too obvious.   Teacher Chaperons will occasionally dance self-consciously in an attempt to humour the awkward children into joining in.

It will be dark.

It will be loud.

There will be balloons or streamers.

Here are the variables, which when arranged in the correct order, will illuminate all the mysteries of the man’s behaviour. The Middle School dance is a metaphor for the human condition.

Why do some kids go to all the trouble to come, only to stand aloof and alone, with a look of disdain on their face?

Why must there be drama? Why must there be at least one romance break up and two friendships go through a crisis and 5 girls in tears?

Do they know that will look back, in years to come, on the pictures of this night, and think “I can’t believe my mom let me go out wearing that!  I can’t even walk in high heels now, how did I dance in them? Why don’t I still have time to do my hair…not that I would do it like that…..Was I really that skinny/fit/pretty/glowing/happy?”

Why don’t they see what I see? Young people just entering the height of their power, their beauty not just shining but exploding from them. Their energy almost tangible.

One of my jobs as chaperon is to circulate through the crowd, make sure nothing untoward is going on. I did intervene in one incident of passionate kissing, but otherwise, my bouncer skills were not required. I carried a camera with me, though, and captured images, not just of Who was Wearing What, but of the Emotion, the incomparable feelings associated with being in the midst of raging hormones, teen age angst, the unbearable intensity of being 14.

You couldn’t pay me enough to go back in time and experience it all again. If only I could call back through the decades to my own 14 year old self and reveal the answers. The sense of nostalgia that sweeps over me is not for wanting those days back, but rather for wanting to have understood what I was meant to be learning.  We can’t wait to grow up, but looking back (from the evil side of 40) I wish I had tried harder to breathe it all in,  instead of waiting for my life to begin,  understanding that THAT is life.  Our life is just like a Middle School Dance.


  1. Lisa, this is really poignant and beautifully written. It brought to mind an Oscar Wilde quote – “youth is wasted on the young”.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LisaRead, Clint (dadventure). Clint (dadventure) said: A lovely, poignant post from @LisaRead > The Middle School Dance Stairway to Heaven […]

  3. readlisaread says:

    Thanks Clint…I think you (well, and Oscar) are right, and yet when I hear that quote, I hear it with a tone of derision or despair. I kept thinking not so much with disdain for their lack of understanding, but more with just a kind of wistfulness that it’s never until looking backwards do we see what we might have been, or celebrate who we were.

  4. […] little over a year ago I wrote about my contemplations on the Middle School Dance.  Tonight, as I dragged my weary carcass home from chaperoning yet another one, I had occasion to […]

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