Staff List: School Dance Memories

The Bureau Staff recalls tales of adolescent loves and disappointments. (Okay, mostly disappointment.)

Illustration by Hallie Bateman

My junior year Inflatable water slides Canada prom date was a cool senior named Tyler. We had a great time at the dance. Post-prom we had a couple parties to go to, but I crashed about an hour into the first party and passed out on the host’s floor. I told Tyler to go on without me; I was going to fall asleep right there. On Monday, everyone was talking about Tyler and how he got more drunk than he ever had and peed on someone who had been sleeping. Couple that with the fact that I had told everyone I fell asleep promptly after the dance and — voila! — I was for a short time known as The Girl Tyler Peed On. Luckily, the rumor mill was righted, and I became known as The Smart Girl Who Ditched Tyler Before He Could Pee on Her. Tyler is now in medical school at NYU. — Writer Alice Stanley

I got my first-ever case of food poisoning on the night of my senior Homecoming Dance. I’m not sure if it was the venison or the clams, but by the end of dinner I was sweaty, sallow, and feeling pretty bad. 

Naturally, the best place to go in a situation like that is a crowded gym floor with hundreds of people, blaring music, and enough artificial fog to choke on. After the DJ played Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Jump On It,” which I did repeatedly, I was ready to bolt for the bathroom.

But I couldn’t. I’d been elected to the Homecoming Court, so I had to get on stage for the announcement of the Homecoming King, which turned out to be… me! Yes, I know it’s supposed to be every high schooler’s dream, but all I cared about was finding a toilet, and fast. No luck: after the announcement, I had to do an interview with the school paper, pose for some photos, and of course dance with the queen, a girl about a third of my size who I’m sure she was wondering what was making me lurch around in such an uncoordinated fashion.  

Once Céline Dion had belted her final note, I muttered a quick thanks and ran for the bathroom. I found a stall just as my stomach gave out. But there, sitting amidst a cheap paper crown, a bouquet of supermarket flowers, and the half-digested remnants of my fancy restaurant dinner, I have to admit I did feel pretty good. — Assistant Editor Darryl Campbell

I’ve attended many miserable high school dances, but my sophomore Winter Ball ended with a silver lesson: don’t bite the bad apples, no matter how hard they glisten. My friend Liz had set me up with a friend.

“I know a guy,” she’d said. “He’s your type. Longish hair. Likes books and shit.”

That night, I wore a too-sparkly dress and curled my eyelashes delicately upwards like a question mark. My date wore a fitted blazer, black trousers, and a beanie that matched the color of his eyes. He was a gorgeous thing, and he smelled so damn good — like linens and tea olive blossoms and inoffensive cologne. It made the music sound better and my high heels wobbly. Usher blasted from the circular speaker on the ceiling as the rain audibly hit the roof. I smelled him again and thought, I can stand here smooshed up against this wall sober as a bird with a full bladder and my ears ringing for hours, so long as he stands here smelling like this the whole time.

But when the lights came up briefly at 10 p.m., the true sadness of my situation was revealed: I was dancing with a boy who couldn’t dance worth a shit, who was too drunk to remember my name, who didn’t even like books. He had a pocket of marijuana (which he kept sneaking outside to smoke) and breath that tasted like cat litter. Reconsidering the night, I pulled myself together and stomped home, where reruns of Maury and That’s So Raven awaited me with safety.

If anyone knows the name of that cologne he was wearing, I’d still like to know. — Contributing Writer Vanna Le

The night’s theme is a new Sting song, “We’ll Be Together.” Could we, like Sting and his lady, forget the weather just to be together? Are we in love like that? I’ve got pink mousse spiking my hair, a leather shoelace for a necklace, and serious stress acne. You’re ironically wearing a Salvation Army flower-print grandma dress and seriously wearing multiple layers of blue, purple, and black makeup. We leave the high school gym arm in arm and step into my ride — a Chevy minivan. To the max.

I slide my Siouxsie and the Banshees cassette into the player. I’m pretending to like them to impress you. Where am I taking you now? It’s a secret. I’m equal parts mysterious and skinny. I stop the car in the dark, empty parking lot of the Dominican priory. What’s going on? I don’t answer. I glare. I turn towards you and reach behind your bucket seat. Then I pull it out: the Nerf. It’s football time, baby. Right now. Right here. It’s happening.

You grudgingly catch one soft pass and demand to be driven home. Four apologetic poems later, you tell me to just give up. I retire the Nerf-move indefinitely. — Writer Jonathan Gourlay

Luke asked me to Prom in the most annoying way. He came to school early to post up all over campus 200 sheets of paper he had printed; each had a solo picture of him holding a soccer ball, because he liked soccer, with the text underneath: “JENNIFER WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME.” There was no comma after Jennifer, and no question mark after the question. By second period, everyone had come up to me and asked if I was going to say yes, and murmured comments like, “Luke is so sweet! I can’t believe he printed all those and came to school early to post them all over campus,” and “If Jennifer says no, she’s a cold-hearted bitch.”

He came up to me during lunch period and simply asked, “So?” I wanted to punch him in the face right then, because he was acting very confident; his creepy ass knew my insecure ass too well and that I couldn’t possibly turn him down in front of an audience. I said, “Okay.”

I spent most of Prom night doing exactly three things: 1. Loving the tired theme, “Midnight Masquerade,” because it was easier to avoid Luke while hiding under a mask, 2. Constantly looking over my shoulder, and 3. Wishing I had a Marauder’s Map. Other activities included annoying other couples by being a third wheel, and purposely dancing extremely low to the floor not because I’m a slutty dancer, but because it was harder for Luke to see me that way. The hardest part was dancing low to the floor during a slow song. — Contributing Writer Jennifer Eum

I was rude and round in high school — not a first choice date (nor second, third, or fourth). By the end of senior year I was still dance-less. Nonetheless, with Prom on the horizon, I decided to damn the odds and go for it. I psyched myself up and asked Claire to Prom. She was a long-time crush of mine, and obligated to tolerate me because our best friends were dating. She said yes — reluctantly — and our Prom date was set.

My thought process from there is a mystery, but a week before Prom I called my friend Sam (who hung out with Claire after school), asked to speak to her, and told her that we weren’t going to Prom together.

“Why?” she asked, confused.

“I’m just not feelin’ it,” I said. If I had a better reason, I still can’t remember it.

I was barred from the group’s Prom dinner. Claire went with Brad, a loud junior in the throes of a breakup. I didn’t go. Instead, I climbed the town’s cellphone tower, watched cars shuffling through the streets, and felt like a dick. — Contributing Writer Ben Bateman

The night of my sophomore year Winter Dance, my date revealed her theretofore secret and really disgusting love of Fritos, so the evening wasn’t going well to begin with. We had done the usual thing of sitting on the bleachers and watching kids grind, interspersed with the occasional slow dance, which I could handle. The only challenge was finding away to keep my head away from hers to avoid the Frito smell emanating from her. (She didn’t just take down a personal bag of Fritos. We’re talking “Family Size” bag here).

Finally, my date convinced me to dance to one of the fast songs — Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass,” if memory serves. Things were going surprisingly well hip gyration — wise when all of a sudden came the noises—first, of a scuffle involving a large group of people, then the noises of a group of girls fighting, and finally the music was stopped by a statistics teacher shouting this gem of a line: “Did someone just throw a fucking scalpel?”

Someone had, in fact, thrown a scalpel. The fight had started between two girls, one of those spontaneous pushing matches that erupt when crowds reach critical mass. Then it turned pretty vicious. In fact, it was one of the worst fights I have ever seen, way more no-holds-barred than others. Apparently, then these girls’ dates started getting into it and one of the guys decided to pull out his handy scalpel and huck it in the middle of a crowded room.

In the end though, the only thing injured was my pride as I made out with Frito-breath after the dance and learned an important lesson regarding that timeless adolescent antagonism between dignity and “getting some.” – Contributing Writer Jeff Merrion

In middle school, there was a girl I really wanted to dance with. I don’t remember her name, and I don’t remember what she looked like. But I asked her for a dance, and she said only if the DJ played “All the Small Things” by Blink 182. In hindsight, more than a decade later, I realize this was her way of saying that she had no interest in dancing with me — “All the Small Things” is not a slow-dance song. I probably knew that then, but this didn’t stop me from requesting Blink 182 repeatedly until the DJ caved. So we danced. Then I requested “All the Small Things” again. I asked friends to request it, and eventually, the DJ got so fed up that he played it a second time. Then a third time. This got me three dances with the girl, and probably ensured that she would never ever go out with me.

If there is a lesson to this story, it’s that I have always been really annoying. — Editor Kevin Nguyen

Illustrations by Hallie Bateman