My oldest son, in his senior year, went to his first Homecoming dance. I’m not convinced he would have, but as luck would have it, he was approached to escort one of the ladies on the homecoming court. She was quite lovely, so of course he said yes, and then proceeded to ask her to the dance.
If you’re not aware, asking a young woman to this dance is a PRODUCTION. Gone are the days when, after several weeks of battle with the fear of humiliating rejection, you would take a deep breath and ask, “do you wanna go to the homecoming dance with me?” And then wait what seemed like months for the answer. The same familiar fear of embarrassment remains, but now, the young man must create an adequately clever sign (somehow appearing light-hearted AND committed) and venture to the girl’s house to pop the question.
Anyway, she said yes, they both looked gorgeous, went (as friends, as far as I know) and had a wonderful time. That’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the story of 2 other boys that I do not know. (The Angel & I were permitted to attend the dance – much to my boy’s horror – for pictures as the court and their escorts were announced.)
The first boy was very tall and very thin. He was dancing with his date, a girl, in a shockingly intimate fashion. (I recognize that I sometimes sound like everyone’s parents, old, old, old. I suppose that’s ok, I am someone’s parent and, there’s no way around it, pretty old.) I felt like I was watching something not meant for my eyes, for anyone else’s eyes. She was wearing a red dress. And so was he.
The next boy brought a girl who was wearing a too-short, shiny dress, carefully multi-colored hair, pulling him by the hand through the crowd, past the group of out of place parents, to reach her friends. He had scraggly unkempt patches of facial hair, disheveled hair, wore sneakers, jeans, and the piece de resistance, a Champion t-shirt.
The contrast was striking and obvious. One was totally respectful of his date, the formality of the evening, and himself. The other wore a t-shirt. One offered his special girl his most significant possession, the gift of his time – the time to plan, search for, and choose an appropriate oufit. The other wore dirty sneakers. One was unconventional, but clearly intentional. He lavished his undivided attention on his date, before just as much as during the actual event, who must’ve felt like the only woman in the world to him (which is exactly how every woman should feel to the man lucky enough to be taking her out). The other, an immature child, couldn’t even manage to shave.
Now, I have no interest in participating in the discussion of whether he should or should not have worn a dress. What is far more important to me is what’s happening underneath the skin rather than what we put over it.
Wide disrespect for everyone and everything and selfishness are direct descendants of insecurity and inadequacy. He simply can’t see others because he’s too busy looking for himself and who he is. And until he finds him, this silly facade will have to do, and for at least 1 night, the uniform of a sad pretender was a t-shirt. I have a giant soft spot in my heart for him because I know exactly the violence & pain of the “not enough” loop in my head. I didn’t wear t-shirts to formals or anything, my inadequacy manifested in different ways, whispered rather than screamed. But we know our own kinds, and can hear similar heartaches.
Maybe a red dress isn’t your preference, but this young man was nothing more or less than who he is right now. Maybe he won’t always wear a dress, or maybe he will. Like all of us, he’ll grow and change in lots of ways throughout his life, but one thing I hope sticks is his kind, passionate, thoughtfulness. The world needs more of that, more like him, no matter what they’re wearing.