Homecoming and the What Comes Next

Eleven years ago tomorrow, I went on my very first date.

Some people think it’s weird that I can recall dates with creepy precision. It’s not that I have a freakish memory that allows me to remember everything . . . just, you know, particular dates. Important ones. Ones that can mark a before and after in Megan History.

And October 14 is a memorable date. It was my very first “anniversary,” and a day I would recall for months — even years — afterward as the day I went from an awkward 15-year-old prone to acne and frizzy hair to a young woman someone had a crush on.

Do you remember that moment? The first time someone confessed to like liking you, and the rush that flooded your whole body? The first time you realized you could have feelings for someone who might actually have them back?

It was a heady, crazy time. Always prone to dramatics, I had an absolute freak-out when R. asked me to the dance just weeks before the big night. Long resigned to the fact that I would be going with friends, I never imagined someone would actually pop the question and ask me to accompany him. But R. came in out of nowhere, professing his interest and asking me to be his girl.

But that came later.

It’s funny to think about the early days of courtship. How simple everything was in 2000 — before smartphones, Twitter, Facebook. Before social media of any kind. Before text messaging and before most people had cell phones, for cryin’ out loud! I mean, if R. wanted to talk to me, he had to call the house phone. And if he didn’t want to incur the wrath of my very protective father, he better make sure he called before 9 p.m. And if I wasn’t off the phone at 9:30 on a school night?


Like most high school romances, R. and I didn’t last. After a few months, we agreed we’d be better off as friends and “broke up,” thus ending the three months we spent giggling on the phone at night, holding hands in a clandestine manner and shopping together on weekends (ooh, naughty!). The break-up talk took place over AOL Instant Messenger, and I printed a transcript of the entire chat to rehash with my friends at school the next day.

I was as heartbroken as a sheltered sophomore could be.

But before then? Before the mess and sadness? Well, we had homecoming, friends, and what a glittering and exciting night that was! An evening when everything felt possible. When I was invincible in my sparkly black pantyhouse and “princess jewelry,” a set loaned to me by my mother. A night when I had a handsome older man (16!) on my arm, and nothing could possibly go wrong.

And nothing did. We danced with friends and chatted all night, wiggling our way around the reshaped cafeteria. When a slow song finally came on, R. pulled me in close and swayed gently to the music. I remember being way too close to the speakers — so close that I could barely make out anything he was saying. But I do remember his lips close to my ear, listening to him form the words at precisely 10:30 p.m. (I checked the clock): “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

A wave passed over me. A new title. Even now, in strange moments, I stop and think, “I’m someone’s girlfriend.” A girlfriend to an awesome someone, no doubt about it, but the shift in our identities is so strange. Exciting, but strange. Today I am someone’s girlfriend, sister, friend, daughter. Granddaughter to several someones, and niece to several others. Also a coworker, and an underling. Tomorrow I could be someone’s wife, then someone’s mother. An aunt. A sister-in-law.

I’ve been thinking about the many someones we are over a lifetime — and the many roles we fill for other people. We can be confidantes, bullies, shoulders to cry on. We can provide transporation, advice, hope. We’re many things to many people, and our faces change so constantly. Sometimes I don’t know which role I’ll be stepping into next. Sometimes I think I don’t want to know.

Like the wistful girl above, embarking on the wild and amazing journey of courtship. Of falling in love. Of getting her heart broken. Of falling in love again — and better this time. More completely.

I didn’t know where life would take me after that dance, which was what electrified me most. The Mystical Beyond. The What Comes Next.

Maybe it is better not to know.

Meg’s brief history of dancing — and Britney Spears

Not me -- but remember this?!

Not me -- but remember this?!

Growing up, it seems like opportunities to awkwardly dance with friends, classmates and total strangers abound. Starting in the eighth grade, I was a frequent attendee of “dances” in the school’s gymnasium — times I could dress up in my little skirts, put on a pair of low heels and (attempt to) straighten my hair (Please note: I’ve since ceased all attempts at straightening my unstraightable hair. Forever). A sweaty 13-year-old would ask for my hand, he’d slip those beefy arms around my waist and away we would go! Of course, “dancing” then consisted of stepping back and forth and side to side. No pressure. Nothing much going on.

From those first, innocent days, we had the homecoming dances and winter formals of high school. Months of preparation were required to find the right dress and scrounge around for a date, putting out feelers through friends to see if some random guy who sat parallel to your table at lunch would be interested in, you know, taking you or something. When I was formally asked to attend my first homecoming dance with a date in my sophomore year of high school, I was ecstatic. Seriously. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that soul-soaring, overwhelmingly joyous feeling of being asked out of my very first date (aww). But, as the joy began to wear thin and the event drew closer and closer, the anxieties began to set in . . . Do I even really know how to dance? What is dancing? Do I just move around like a crazy person? Should I stand as still as possible, letting the guy do all the work? If we’re “slow dancing,” do I need to have my arms around his neck — or his waist? Do we stand close, or far apart?

What is happening?!

Britney singing "Every Time" -- and I know it's a terrible shot, but I tried!

Britney singing "Every Time" -- and I know it's a terrible shot, but I tried!

Dancing was, for me, a mystery. I survived that homecoming dance with very few bruises and fewer totally awkward dance moves — and was even asked to be someone’s girlfriend (that’s another crazed blog entry!). But I will admit that, to date, dancing is still a puzzle which I’m unsure how to begin solving.

Thankfully, opportunities to break it down in the present are pretty scarce. We have weddings to attend, but you don’t have to dance. No one’s going to make you. The bride and groom might throw you dirty looks for being an uncooperative party pooper or something, but hey — they’re your two left feet. My days battling the general nervousness and sweatiness of adolescence, and the accompanying proms, are over!

Until I go to a show.

So let’s jump into the presnet. This past Tuesday, I attended a performance in D.C. put on by the one and only Ms. Britney Spears. I say performance because, you know, it wasn’t a concert. She wasn’t singing live (save a few songs). But that’s okay with me, really, because girlfriend was working it out! I’ve never seen so much dancing in my life — and definitely not with such a complex array of performers gyrating around her, too.

And I’ve never seen so many skinny girls in their twenties dancing in one place ever. Definitely not at the homecoming dances, not at the proms — not at the formals. Just dancing. Everywhere. So much so that the Verizon Center was shaking. When Brit launched into “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” I was pretty sure the rafters were going to come down.


Pussycat Dolls

And there I was, acting ridiculous. Hip checking my sister. Waving my arms above my head. Dancing along to opening act the Pussycat Dolls’ rendition of “Jai Ho” (good God, I love “Jai Ho!”). I wasn’t thinking about those homecoming dances where I stood in the low heels and the little skirts with some weird guy’s arms around me — I was shaking my moneymaker. And any worries I had about looking totally ridiculous faded out when the heavy beats kicked in.

I have a long history of dancing like I have no sense at concerts. Put John Mayer in front of me and I worry that you’ll never want to be seen with me again. I’m usually hesitant to attend with anyone other than my sister, who’s typically as excited as I am, and usually feel compelled to worn boyfriends about my impending deranged behavior. I try to be kind and give them an out before the event actually begins. If they see me in all of my full-concert-dancing glory, I fear I will have changed in their eyes!

But hey, it’s a good time. If you’re not going to leave your inhibitions at the venue door, why bother going? Like homecoming dances and the Prom, we’re all here to have a good time. Maybe that’s why everyone’s always downing so many beers at these things . . . ?