Sometimes it is hard for me to remember what it was like to be a hormone-charged, dramatic sixteen year-old. Other times, I remember it quite clearly. One such time happened quite recently, when I chaperoned a high school dance.
As soon as the dance started, I was smacked in the face by memories. Spending hours getting ready with friends, wearing heels that killed my feet but were too cute to take off (okay, sometimes I still do that), those first few minutes of the dance where hardly anyone is dancing and everyone stands around awkwardly waiting for the party to pick up, and finally, the actual dancing. The – ahem – inappropriate dancing. You know what I’m talking about. The simulated sex on the dance floor. All of a sudden, the dance floor would transform into a mass of people gyrating and sweating and hanging on each other. As a teenager, I never understood what the big deal was. I didn’t get why the chaperones (mainly our teachers and parents, since I attended a public school, not a boarding school like the one I now work at) got so worked up about it. I got so annoyed by the ones who would prowl the dance floor, searching for couples to break up or just staring at us like they were waiting for us to do something wrong. Even worse were the ones who would move around the room in time to the music, as if they were trying to blend in or be less awkward. These chaperones were the reason I begged my parents not to volunteer. EVER. I obviously would have died of embarrassment.
Well, now I understand. I actually felt like a mother while I was at this dance. Even though none of the children are my biological kin, I felt like a parent at a dance where I didn’t belong. I could feel it in the air – I was now the “uncool” chaperone who was just standing in the way of the kids having fun. And while I didn’t prowl the dance floor breaking up couples who were too close together, I did feel the most awkward I have felt in a very long time. Because I suddenly remembered my sixteen year-old self so clearly, and I didn’t want to be “That Chaperone.” But what else was there for me to do? All I could do was stand on the sides, watching. I didn’t want to, but I was trapped. And I’ll admit, sometimes I did nod my head or walk in time to the music, just to make myself feel less like a statue who was stuck in one place. I turned into the person I used to despise as a high school student.
So here you go, teens: You may feel awkward around the chaperones at the dance, but I can guarantee most of them feel more awkward than you do.