Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Monday, November 28, 2016

You Know I Won’t Dance – (The Blunder Years – Part 3A)

You know I can't dance, you know I can't dance*

(As always, names have been changed to protect everyone of everything)

The announcement that tickets were available for the 1976 Kenmore High School Senior Prom created quite a buzz at the school. The event was much more important to the girls than the guys.  To senior girls, it was the social event of the year and it was essential to be there to maintain your social status. To most of the guys, it was just another dance.  Now if you had a girlfriend, you were obligated to go. Some of the other guys actually enjoyed these events and might even invite a girl in hopes of sparking a new relationship.  

Almost immediately, The Question, was asked of me:

“Don, are you going to the senior prom?”

Consider that this event involves slow dancing, wearing fancy-smancy clothing, and being serious and refined for an extended amount of time.  I abhor all of these things (my lack of dancing skills has been previously blogged about) and I didn’t have a girlfriend (things had cooled with Connie by this time), so I had no reason or desire to attend, none.

Now when a guy asked me The Question, it was because he didn’t want to go this thing either and wanted assurance that other guys were not going. He also didn’t want to be the only one not going, because it would look like he couldn’t get a date and that would be bad for his image.  Image was important to most seniors and this prom thing was the ultimate image test.

When girls asked me The Question, I thought they might me fishing for an invitation or just curious, because the event was so important to them.  But soon I thought there could be a craftier, even sinister, motive for the inquiry.  I can’t prove it, but I suspected that somewhere in Cindy Nolan’s basement was a blackboard with the names of senior girls needing dates on the left and uncommitted senior boys on the right.  A team of girls then met in secret to share information on how to pair couples up.  It was a primitive form of Match.com. It was similar to the NFL draft: With the third pick in the 1976 Kenmore High, Senior Prom Draft, Becky Hollins selects Troy Maynard!  Once the names were matched up, they launched their diabolical plan.

One day after Physics class my friend Janet asks me The Question but with an added twist:

Janet: Are you going to the prom?

Me: No, I’m not.

Janet: Well, I just want to let you know that Rhonda Sandling wants to go with you.

Me: (looking perplexed) Thanks, for letting me know.

It was no surprise Rhonda Sandling wanted me to ask her to the prom.  Rhonda had a huge crush on me and had been trying to spur my interest for a while. Rhonda was pretty, tall, and pleasant.  We may have made a great couple.  The problem was that Rhonda came on way too strong, stronger than your Aunt Gertrude’s perfume, strong.  She made no secret that she wanted to marry me and have my babies, and maybe not in that order. 

Rhonda scared the hell out of me.  I was only 18 and not ready to make any babies.  I needed the opportunity to get to know her, woo her and then see where it led.  If I took her to the prom, I feared she would interpret this as an expression of my desire for her and create a magical moment for her. This act might commit me to a relationship for the entire summer.  If I was unable to extract myself from her clutches, or if babies were involved, we could be making wedding plans in the fall.  In my mind, asking her to the prom could be equal to a wedding proposal, so there was no way I was taking her.  
There was now an organized campaign directed against me, but there was absolutely no way I was going to the prom, NO WAY. However, I had greatly underestimated the strength and commitment of my adversary.

Almost every day, senior girls asked me The Question and kept tightening the screws:

Random Senior Girl: Are you going to the prom?

Me: No

RSG: Well, Rhonda Sandling really wants to go with you.

Me: Thanks for letting me know.

And then they added the sad look of disappointment, when I didn’t show interest.  A look that said:  You are a mean, horrible, jerk if you don’t take Rhonda to the prom when she wants go with you soooooooo much.  You disgusting piece of crap.

Worse yet, they were picking off my fellow prom holdouts one by one.  Troy Maynard did ask Becky Hollins to the prom.  Phil Cooper invited his designated date, Ann Nichols.  These victories must have encouraged them to turn the heat up on me.

Indeed, I was weakening and they could smell blood.  Friday, I got The Question in the morning and then they hit me again in the afternoon, a cute cheerleader delivering the inquiry, with a very convincing sad look of disappointment.  When the bell rang at the end of the day, I rushed to my locker, grabbed my stuff, and sprinted out the door.

But that evening I was still upset and I couldn’t stop thinking about the prom problem.  At that moment, I realized I had lost this battle.  Unbelievably, I would have to attend the senior prom.  The pressure was just too much.

However, whenever I’m forced to do something, I want to do it on my terms, a conditional surrender if you will.  Therefore, if I’m going to the prom, I’m going to decide what girl I would like to take.

However, my options were limited. All of my preferred options already had dates.  I couldn’t ask an underclasswoman without drawing the heated wrath of every senior girl in the school. 

I considered inviting Barb.  She had asked me The Question a couple times and she appeared to signal to me her availability when I didn’t show any interest in taking Rhonda.  However, there were issues here also. Barb was very short and had large bazoombas. Matched against my height, we could have inadvertently engaged in “dirty dancing” at the prom.  And she also happened to be fat, which now I realize was a shallow reason to reject her, but I was fearful that Walt and Keith would make fun of me.  This seems so ridiculous now.  Walt and Keith were losers then and they are still losers now.  I would not value their opinion on anything today, so why did I care so much about their opinion then?  Truth be told, Barb would have been my best choice. 

Then I came up with a totally illogical, bizarre, thinking-outside-the box, choice: Sarah Edwards.  I reasoned that Sarah Edwards might still be available because she had a physical abnormality. 

I know what you’re thinking: “Ahh Don, this is going to be a very heartwarming story about how you took the ugly girl with the cleft palate to the prom because no one else would and gave her a precious, lifetime, memory.  That is so sweet and you are such an awesome person.”  But of course, you would be wrong, so, so, wrong.

Sarah Edwards’ physical abnormality was that she was stunningly beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous.  Excuse my sexist, flaming heterosexual, description, but she was five-foot-eleven-inches of curvaceous excellence topped off with striking features and flowing, fiery, red hair.  If she were a road, she would be lined with “Dangerous Curves Ahead” signs.  She was also intelligent, talented and dignified.  This was not just my opinion, Sarah had won the regional beauty pageant and would soon compete for the state crown.

Sarah and I were both on the newspaper staff and she was more of an acquaintance than a friend, but we did know each other and occasionally talked. No one at our school was worthy of dating her.  Her family was moving to Puerto Rico by the end of summer so she probably didn’t have a boyfriend out of school either.  

She had not talked about going to the prom during newspaper meetings and the senior girls probably left her name off their board because they figured the beauty queen didn’t need any help getting a date.  But she did, because the all the guys were intimidated by her.  Sarah was 5’11” and she was not a frail, skinny, girl.  She had filled out perfectly into a desirous creature, she was a woman among girls.  However, her size did not intimidate me. At nearly 6’ 4” I could look her in the eye, provided I could keep my eyes off the rest of her.
But it was a totally ludicrous idea to even think about asking her to the prom.  

This would be a futile and possibly embarrassing effort.  This option was
I didn't smile for this photo to spite my parents, but 40
years later I'm left with this!
outrageous, insane and had little chance of success.  It would have been literally laughable if I had shared it with my friends, which is of course why I didn’t. It was just plain silly.

However, I was under extreme pressure and not thinking rationally.  I reasoned that Sarah was a good option because losing out to a beauty queen would not embarrass Rhonda.  Also, if Sarah Edwards somehow fell for me, she was moving to Puerto Rico, so a breakup would be easy. (I said I wasn’t thinking rationally, right?)

As hare-brained as this decision was, Sunday night I developed my plan for asking Sarah to the prom on Monday. No guy at the school had the guts to ask Sarah Edwards to the prom, but that was soon about to change.

(End of Part 1)

-         Who will Don end up taking to the prom?

-         Will Sarah Edwards laugh in Don’s face?

-         Will Don end up engaged to Rhonda? (Were there babies involved?)

-         What prom night incident gets Don in trouble eight years later?

Watch for the thrilling conclusion to be posted next week!

*Leo Sayer

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