This piece actually appeared in today’s Mobile paper, but since I am unable to find it online I’ve linked to the Charlotte News-Observer. (al.com, worst website ever.) Anyway, Betsy Hart, who I can’t say I know much about, has resolved to chaperone every single one of her four (4) children’s school dances, or at least the ones they are “allowed to attend.” This is because she read a story about a mom chaperoning in Argyle, Texas, who tried to separate couples doing some kind of (how I hate this vulgar term, but now is the time to use it) dry-hump thing called the “freak dance.” Mayhem ensued.
I’m reading this on low caffeine, but what I’m taking away for right now is this:
1) There is NOTHING that could induce me to chaperone a school dance. NOTHING. No matter how freaky the terpsichorean antics.
2) $400 is an awful lot to pay for a prom dress. But then, I read on a message board recently that “prom is about the most formal dress occasion you will ever have, except for your wedding.” For a lot of people, I guess that’s true. Me, I’m glad I live in a town with Mardi Gras balls.
3) No matter what other permissive parents do, Ms. Hart intends to “find out what’s going on, turn up the lights at all times and always be ready to protect them from themselves whether they like it (or us!) or not.” I’m wondering, just how long will she keep this up? Will she chaperone her children’s dates? Will she be there in the college dorm “turning up the lights”? I can just see her offspring on his wedding night…room service knocks at the door and the poor kid jumps out of his skin.
Betsy, honey, they grow up. They’re sexual creatures. No, you don’t install a waterbed in their rooms, put a mirror on the ceiling and a deadbolt on the door and tell them to have at it; but at some point, when they start going away further and further and staying away longer and longer, you have to recognize that you can’t control what they do, that you’re not always going to be able to turn up the lights and find out what’s going on. And that the best way to make sure nothing regrettable happens is to make sure they’re prepared. Prepared not to be taken advantage of or exploited, prepared to say “no,” of course we want that; but also prepared to guard against pregnancy and STDs.
4) That said, this “freak dance” does seem to be in very poor taste. But gee, from what I remember the 70s were all about gluing yourself to your partner, pelvis to pelvis, and gently rotating while “Free Bird” or “Stairway to Heaven” were played. This was laughably called a “slow dance.” However, Betsy seems to be a few years younger than me, so it’s possible they’d cleaned all that up by the time she went to prom.
I think this kind of thing has been going on for a long, long time, though. After all, they banned the waltz once. I refer Ms. Hart to one of the final chapters of Booth Tarkington’s Penrod, published in 1914. Fanchon, an out-of-town guest from the big city, has taught a new dance called the “Slingo Sligo Slide” to the guests at Penrod’s twelfth birthday party:
“What are they doing?” gasped Mrs. Williams, blushing deeply.”What is it? What is it?”
“What is it?” Mrs. Gelbraith echoed in a frightened whisper. “What—”
“They’re Tangoing!” cried Margaret Schofield. “Or Bunny Hugging, or Grizzly Bearing, or—”
“They’re only Turkey Trotting,” said Robert Williams.
With fearful outcries the mothers, aunts and sisters rushed upon the pavilion.