Friday, 3 P.M. The gym is dark. The music, loud. Kids run around with glowing accessories and I immediately regret signing up to chaperone the winter dance.
This year’s winter theme is “The 80s” and girls enter the gym wearing neon tights, t-shirts with their sleeves cut off, and their pony-tails tied to the side. The boys aren’t as creative, or daring, and many of them show up wearing their regular clothes, with a few hip ones wearing plastic-framed glasses. I wasn’t sure if the glasses were from the 80s, but if you think about it, who’d be willing to cut their hair into a mullet and show up like this for an afternoon. They knew better.
A line of kids are at the entrance to submit their tickets for the dance. I enter as a VIP, or MOP (Make-Out Police), and march around the gym looking out for suspicious behavior. Laser lights aim in every direction and the bass shakes the walls. I see some of my past and present students huddled together in separate groups, trying to look cool. Teenage insecurities.
Thirty minutes pass like a decade and I’m in so much pain. Why, why, why do I do this to myself. I want to pull my hair out. Then the kids start dancing and I’m suddenly in first row seats to witness their embarrassing moments. Girls are more developed (mentally and physically) during middle school, so it’s funny to see tall girls dancing like they’re in a club while little boys jump around uncoordinated. What an awkward age. A few adults walk around as MOPs, and whenever we make eye-contact, we communicate via telepathy: “LOL.” There are no delinquents today.
I notice that the DJ rarely plays slow songs. This is because the few times he had played slow songs, the kids went wild not knowing what to do, running around in circles like chickens with their heads cut off. I see girls wishing for Justin Biebers to snatch them away from their group of friends, while boys migrate to get nachos and popcorn. A few minutes pass and everything goes back to normal when a fast song begins to play. The DJ didn’t play more than two slow songs for the rest of the afternoon.
The party finally comes to an end at 5 P.M. and the gym smells like sweaty kids. And I tell myself, never again.