Friday Flashback: Turning Fear Into Fun At My First Dance Ever
The year was 1990. Spring Time. The promise of night broke through the orange and pink skyline. A line of cars waited nose to rear out front of my middle school gym.
“Bye dad,” I mumbled, shutting the door, straightening out my striped rose colored shirt and matching pleated shorts. He loved that car, a really old model, he’d bought from one of his clients.
The gym stood behind the school, a separate building. I looked back at my dad driving away down the road and I walked calmly toward the entrance, squishing little pebbles under my brown Eastland shoes. The kind with the curly-q yellow laces I begged to have, so I could fit in. The kind with the slick bottoms that betrayed me many times in winter when I walked to school, me slipping on the ice and bruising my tailbone when I completely wiped out by falling backwards on my backside.
The gym was darker inside than I remembered from class. I handed my ticket away. Music boomed. Classmates started to sway in the center while more of my classmates stood around in groups talking, too embarrassed to get out there and dance. I have to admit, I was one of them.
I found my friends standing way against the far wall and I wove through the crowds to meet them, sighing and breathing a little fast, totally nervous and reminding myself, I was a different girl. Older, no longer pudgy from all the Pizza Hut Pizza and Spangles Hamburgers. White straight teeth no longer sparkled with braces. Three months before, the brackets came off. Right at the time I decided to change my life. To change my diet. To stop eating the things that made my stomach hurt. To start exercising. Taking aerobics classes and surrounding myself with others, music, and learning dancy moves. I loved dance. Aerobics was the next best thing I could find after I’d stopped taking ballet when I was nine.
My hands felt sweaty. I looked around the crowd, watching and wondering what to do. Do I stay here and talk all night? Do I dare dance? Fears raced through my head. Scared no one would ask me out there and not knowing if I’d really want them too, anyway. Scared of dancing in front of people. Scared of saying the right thing to just about anyone.
We stayed huddled together, me and the girls, until Jenny’s eyes went wide. I don’t remember if she said anything at all, all I remember is someone grabbing my hand, me whirling around, me suddenly planting my feet in shock recognizing Michael, one of the 7th graders in the science class, the class I interned as an older 8th grader. Michael had my hands and proceeded to drag me along the tiled floor—straight to the center of the dancers. And they were good.
I don’t remember what he said to me either, but I think it was something like, “Come on Erika. You’ve got to dance with me.”
I just remember the sparkle in his ornery dark eyes. He threw my arms around his neck and I laughed because he was smiling so big. I stopped fighting my fear once I realized how much fun everyone was having. No one cared what I looked like, too busy moving in their own little worlds. So I danced with him. My first dance ever. In the gym. With a boy. And it was so much fun.
I wanted to share this story tonight because our fears and our worries can keep us from doing some really amazing things, and when we finally let go of the fear and we trust blindly in someone else or even ourselves, the thing right in front of us, our one big fear in the moment, is actually REALLY fun.