Four years of attending an all-girls’ school meant that my daughter couldn’t wait for co-ed dances when she entered high school. But her visions didn’t account for all the fanfare.
At my daughter’s school, boys were expected to make a “big ask.” They’d show up with flowers, cupcakes and posters adorned with clever puns like “I’d like to taco-bout taking you to homecoming.”
At first, it seemed romantic and exciting, but the public nature of the invitation added a lot of pressure. It’s not like you can say no when there are a hundred of your peers watching in the lunchroom.
When my daughter heard through the grapevine that she was going to be asked to homecoming by a boy she sat next to in math class but had never spoken to, she was petrified. She came home from school and sat at the kitchen table shaking her head.
It’s not like you can say no when there are a hundred of your peers watching in the lunchroom.
“Mom, I want to go to the dance, but I don’t even know him,” she told me. “I’m sure he’s great, but I don’t want my first high school dance to be awkwardly spent with some person I don’t know how to talk to. We have to go out to dinner and get pictures taken together and then what? Do I have to hang out with his friends all night long instead of mine? Or do we split up and spend the entire dance apart? And can I dance with anyone other than him or is that forbidden?”
I had no idea how to help.
When I was in high school, everyone knew everyone else, and most of us went to dances in big packs or with the person we were dating.
“Ideally, who would you go with?” I said. “What do you envision your first big high school dance to look like?”
“I want to go with… Look, I didn’t know anyone when I started school four weeks ago, and I’m just starting to make friends. It would be fun if a group of kids went together. But I’m afraid that’s not a thing. I think everyone pairs off for homecoming.”
It was a Friday afternoon; we had a few days to work it out, I told her. Maybe something would occur to us over the weekend.
In the end, she solved the problem 21st-century-style. She used her social networks to get the boy’s phone number and she called him.
“I told him I’m sure he’s a really nice guy and I’m happy to save him a dance, but that I don’t know him very well and I don’t want to embarrass him in front of everyone by saying no, so please find someone else to ask and we can get to know each other as friends.”
I was absolutely floored. “What did he say?”
I had visions of him being angry or vindictive, trading on his social capital to shun her at school. (I’d heard of worst.)
Thankfully, my daughter’s courage, cleverness and empathy worked.
“He said ‘thank you.’ And he said he’d like me to save him a dance.”
Two weeks later, we hosted six girls and one boy at our house for pizza and sodas before the dance. There was one couple, but the other kids were just friends — and relieved to know that it was possible to go to a formal high school dance without a date.
When I picked my daughter up afterward, she couldn’t stop talking.
“Mom! Our group had so much fun! We got photos taken and I swear we had the best time. There were so many other freshmen who were so awkward because they didn’t know their dates, but we danced and laughed and had the best time. I’m so glad we did it this way!”