Finally 16!

At my high school we had lots of dances and they were all a big deal requiring a good amount of planning. The next dance to come up once I turned sixteen was the big Valentine’s dance—the Sweetheart Ball. This would be my first opportunity to practice the not-so-fine art of dating.

A few weeks before the girl’s choice Sweetheart Ball my friend Krystal asked if I wanted to join her and a group of girls and their dates for the dance. With some hesitation I told her it sounded like fun. Still, I had my worries. What would we do? How does dating even work? And (most importantly) who would I ask to be my date?

The Invite
Deciding who to ask was a daunting problem, but after much yearbook combing, class scoping, and extensive deliberation, I decided on Adam, a friend from my math and orchestra classes.

At my high school, you could not just walk up to someone and verbally ask him if he would go to the dance with you; instead you came up with a creative (and corny) way to ask. With this in mind I hit upon the perfect method to ask Adam.

Krystal came over to help me with the mission. We climbed into my mom’s huge GMC Safari van and set out for Adam’s house. I pulled up outside and kept the engine running while Krystal stealthily made her way to the front door, deposited the package, rang the doorbell, and sprinted away.

As we made our speedy escape all we could talk about was Adam opening his door and seeing what we had left him: a heart-shaped block of ice with my name frozen inside and a note addressed to him that read, “My heart would melt if you would go to the Sweetheart Ball with me…It’d be really cool!” Soon enough he’d have the paper inside—there was no turning back now.

Staring Fear in the Face
The anxiety of that night was agony, though it was nothing compared with the distress I felt at school the next morning. I tried to avoid any possible place where Adam might be (so I spent much of my morning in the restroom). In orchestra class I successfully averted my gaze from Adam’s eyes—I absolutely did not want to look at him. Math class, however, was a different story.

When the tardy bell clanged I gritted my teeth, stiffened my spine, and slunk through the door. When we were given our assignment for the day and people started chatting with their neighbors I knew that I had to swallow my insecurity. Bravely, I looked up. I made eye contact with Adam who had been staring at me (probably just as uncomfortably). The tension was alleviated somewhat by our nervous laughter, and we were able to greet each other without too much strain. He commented on the frozen heart and somehow we were both able to have a good laugh.

After I spoke with Adam I was reasonably sure he was going to go to the dance with me, but I still hadn’t been answered. For several nights I waited for an answer as creative as my request.

One evening a few days later I heard the doorbell ring and then my dad calling me. I got out of bed and ran to the front door in my pajamas, with my hair pulled back, makeup washed off, and retainer in (nice image, I know). Opening the door I couldn’t see anyone, but there was a cup on my front porch. I leaned out to bring it inside and heard running footsteps—they had seen me like that!

I brought the cup inside and realized it was full of warm water. I read the note attached that said, “You’ve melted my heart, as you can see, let’s go to the dance, you and me.” Any doubts I was still harboring vanished, and I started looking forward to the Sweetheart Ball.

The Anticipation Ends
The day of the dance arrived. Around 3:00, I started to pick up everyone in my mom’s van. We were a very tense bunch with one thing in common—it was everyone’s first date. Gradually we started talking and laughing, but it was a slow process. Around 4:00 we started our themed date, which was celebrating all the different holidays. (I told you these dances were big events in a small town!) We did things like decorating Valentine sugar cookies, hunting for Easter eggs, lighting fireworks (which resulted in Adam accidentally lighting himself on fire), and trick-or-treating (much to the bewilderment of my neighbors). Then after dinner I dropped everyone off with the promise of picking them up at 9:30 to go to the dance (the perfect time to be fashionably late).

The Evening Takes a Detour
I raced home to get dressed and then sat around waiting for Jill, Brittany, and Krystal to get to my house. When 9:15 rolled around, I figured they would show up any second. When 9:30 came I was a little annoyed, but assumed they would be coming. When 9:45 came I called Jill who reassured me they were getting in the car “that very second.” When they rang my doorbell at 10:35 I was extremely stressed and irritated. We jumped in the car and then traveled around picking up all the guys. Adding to the time crisis, most of them lived in the country, their parents all wanted to take pictures, and the dance ended at 12:00. When we finally got everyone in the car I raced the van towards the high school.

I apparently raced a little too fast. I was driving down Main Street and noticed flashing red and blue lights behind me. A policeman was trying to pull someone over. Only after several moments did I realize that the someone was me!

In all my worst nightmares about what could go wrong this night, getting pulled over on the way to the dance never even crossed my mind. As I sat there numb with disbelief, my cohorts began teasing and laughing.

They quieted down as I rolled down my window to talk to the police officer. He informed me that I had been speeding (thirty-five miles per hour in a twenty-five zone) and asked for my license and registration. I handed him my license with a shaking hand and tried to think of where the registration would be. After some frantic searching I called my mom and asked her where it was; she didn’t know either.

The policeman was understanding and told me it would be okay, he was just going to check my license. As soon as he walked away and I rolled up the window, the car exploded with laughter. Everyone was crying from laughing so hard, and I was about to join their tears—for a different reason. When the officer returned, I meekly accepted my license, told him I would go slower, and drove the rest of the way to the high school.

This is it?
We made it into the dance without any more problems. By the time we got our pictures taken and made it to the dance floor it was 11:40. When the next slow song started the eight of us stood awkwardly by the side of the dance floor and watched all the other couples start to dance. Gradually, everyone in our little group began dancing. After we started moving it got a little better, until two people made their way over to me and said, “Hey, Lofgran! We just heard about your driving problem tonight!” The story had spread across the entire dance floor in the twenty minutes we were there. I was glad to leave. We dropped off our dates and called it a night. My big (and action-packed) first date was over.

And what a date it was! I had a good time with a nice friend, but still, I couldn’t believe it. Was this all there was to dating? I had waited sixteen years to find out that dates, once you get over your embarrassment, are not quite the magical events I had looked forward to for so long. Why, dating was almost like hanging out with your friends on a regular weekend night! At the young age of sixteen I knew I had realized some important dating truths: it’s not exactly the fairy tale they show in movies, it doesn’t have to be stressful (like mine was), and it can actually be a pretty casual and fun part of teen life.

Oh, and I also learned to go twenty-five miles an hour down Main Street.
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