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KyNN - Fab Junkie Notebook > Save the Last Dance

Each and every one among us surely wishes we might have the opportunity for a do-over or two in life. I have plenty of those wishes, and likely will have plenty more. Whether they spring from actions or inactions our choices, in large part, determine the course of our lives. I believe all that separates any of us are 1) opportunities and 2) choices. Life is constantly presenting opportunities and we are constantly making choices and some are better than others. Here’s a story of opportunities presented and choices made, curious choices I as reflect on them. And as prom season nears, this story seems appropriate.

I was eighteen years old in April of 1977, springtime, and a senior at John I. Leonard High School in Lake Worth, Florida. It was a good year at a school I liked, with lots of sunshine, going to the beach after school with friends, and reasonable academic and social success. After years of climbing the ladder I finally felt included in the top of the high school social scene, the enviable “A-List”. Things seemed so good that even my class-clown behavior went over well with most of my teachers and I had a good sense of how to be “cool”. I guess I just felt liked. And with prom approaching, being liked was a pretty important thing.

The year before, as a junior, I went to the prom with a senior and she and I had a really good time. I’ll never forget that prom, the bottle of champagne I managed to score earlier that day, or my date. She is a friend to this day and a reader of these blog essays on occasion. Maybe it was because we had such a good time that I didn’t feel a strong desire to attend the prom my senior year. I didn’t have a girlfriend either so there wasn’t much of any felt pressure to go. Basically it just wasn’t all that important to me, at the time.

But what did seem important, and I really don’t understand why, looking back on it, was Florida’s annual Senior Night at Disneyworld. That event was open to every senior in the State of Florida. Seniors would bus in from all corners and the park would be open until the early hours. Bands would play (KC and the Sunshine Band and Starbuck (“Moonlight, Feels Right”) that year) and tens of thousands of 17 and 18 year olds would be doing what they do.

So I made a choice and chose Senior Night over prom. Flash forward to Senior Night … it turned out to be a bore. Everyone else I knew there had a date. I felt awkward and lonely among my peers and recall asking myself why I was doing this. I couldn’t wait for it to end. There’s a word for the choice I made and that word is “dumb”. But the story doesn’t end there.

Rewind to the two or three weeks before prom. Two things stand out. The first is that my Mom casually mentioned that her friend’s daughter, let’s call her “C”, didn’t have a date to the prom. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Mom was looking out for me and that she got her information from a reliable and motivated source. What did I do? Instead of saying “Hey, thanks for the hot tip Mom” I grumbled something about not needing any help in my social life thank you very much. I’m sure that hurt Mom’s feelings and it also kept me from having a presumably memorable night at the prom with C, a very pretty and sweet girl. I was looking at her yearbook picture just the other day. We would have had fun.

The other choice made a week or so later also stings. Prom night was getting closer, and I imagine some of those girls who didn’t have dates were feeling a bit anxious. One of them, another very pretty and sweet girl “D” (again, her yearbook picture proves it) walked up to me by our lockers and shyly asked if I would go to the prom with her. She must have been nervous. I would have been. It was sincerely flattering to be asked and it came out of the blue. I remember my answer clearly, “Thank you D, but I’m not going to the prom”. She probably didn’t expect that. Maybe if I had more time to consider her invitation in advance my answer, my choice, would have been different. One can only hope.

Well, for whatever reason, the choices were made. C and D found dates. The weekend of the prom came and went. I remember driving around that Saturday night when most of my friends were engaging in that annual rite of passage and feeling lonely, a bit foolish, and wondering what I was missing. On Monday morning I found out exactly what I missed. My lovely D had been elected Prom Queen. She didn’t rub in the egg that was clearly on my face though. If anything, when we inevitably passed each other by our lockers she gave me a look that I interpreted as “What were you thinking, you sweet misguided boy?” Ouch! It still hurts, even thirty-three years later, and every time I see prom kids this time of year, all in evening dress up and having fun, I visualize what it might have been like to promenade with C or D. I coulda’ been a contender.

Opportunities presented and choices made. Sure, I was only eighteen years old then, not very smart, and I had my reasons. Maybe in some grand cosmic scheme they were even the “right” choices. I’ll never know for certain. But I do know that I’d like a do-over. Maybe the best I can hope for is that C and D may someday learn about my regrets and know that it wasn’t about them. I was just plain dumb, misguided, clueless. The choices were all mine, and having made them I get to slow-dance with their consequences for the rest of my life.

May 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersubalashi