Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Cotton-eyed Joe and other tales from a middle school dance chaperone...

Last night I had the fun of being a chaperone for my son's middle school dance. I've never even attended a middle school dance in any capacity at all, so this was all new for me. Our child has never attended a dance, either, and not wanting to make him feel like The Big Nerd and not let him go, we decided to let him go, but to go as helpers in order to see what the dances are like and how safely it was run, etc. Of course I promised to not embarrass him by trying to dance with him, take picutres, or introduce myself to everybody as "sullen's mom."

It was an interesting psychological study, watching 6th, 7th, and 8th graders interact at a dance, especially since I am also currently reading Reviving Ophelia for my book group. (an excellent and important book about adolescent girls in our society)

First of all, one shouldn't be fooled into thinking that because it is called a dance that the kids will actually dance. Many, like my son, spend the entire time walking around as if they have some very pressing business to attend to on the other side of the gym, and others spend the entire time huddling into suspicious-looking groups, nervously eyeing adult chaperones who walk by or stand near them. Some (like my son) actually bring a walkman and sit in the corner listening to their own music, rather than listening to the DJ-provided music that is blaring all around.

Secondly, it seems that dancing in any individual style is *not* a thing that many middle schoolers are willing to do. If they dare to do this, it is usually only in the context of a small group of friends huddled up together, so that if you do your little dance moves, your friends are the only ones who will notice. More often than not, they don't even dance in these groups. They just have little spurts of trying a particular move. They kind of do their move for 10 seconds, and then stop and giggle.

The dancing that they *will* do and that seems very safe to them are the group dances. The songs that have a specific dance that goes with them, such as

The Electric Slide (seems to be getting a little old and stale)

The Cha-cha Slide (new to me and very cute--even a mom could learn it and not look like a fool!)

The Chicken Dance (I was amazed that kids would even consider chicken dancing. No surprise, though, the black kids run off the floor immediately upon hearing the Chicken Dance song come up. Smart kids!)

some train song (hey--maybe it's called The Train Song! I don't know.)

Incredulously, they didn't do the Macarena. Boo hoo..I actually know that one and have the hips to do it justice. ;)

and then there was "Cotton-eyed Joe." Now, maybe I'm the last one to know about this song, but it was new to me and it was Hi-Lar-I-Ous. It's a song where total hickster tune meets techno funk. And there was an appropriate hick/techno cool dance that went with it. *Very* funny. Loved it. I simply MUST have my very own copy of the Cotton-eyed Joe song for Christmas. I will have much fun dancing to it in the kitchen....

The couples dances were pretty amusing. Most often they featured a girl dancing with a boy approximately 8 inches shorter than her. (my husband tells me this is actually a Big Plus for the boy....) His hands on her waist, her hands on his shoulders. Sway back and forth a little, decent amount of distance between the two of them, and pay no attention to the actual beat of the music. Do not look at each other. In fact, look very bored and as if you'd rather be someplace else.

At the last slow dance it seems the kids get up their courage to finally dance with the girl/guy they like, before the dance is over and they miss their opportunity. I observed a whole line of farmer-type boys (camo or carhart jackets, baseball caps) slow dancing with girls, but all the couples were lined up side-by-side, and the guys all talked to each other as if it didn't mean a thing to them that they had some girl in their hands. Huh.

I saw no groin-grinding or dirty dancing or salsa-ing or backing-it-up as I feared I might. Well, except for the odd pairing of girls that would give it a try for that quick 5-10 second range. Never between boys and girls, though. I was told by the boy we gave a ride to that the high school here isn't even allowed to have dances other than the prom because of past problems with way-too-sexual dancing. Thank goodness for small town conservativism!

The music was kept clean, except for the inexplicable choice of that country song that says "Save the horse, ride the cowboy." Um, excuse me?! Is *this* the kind of message we want to promote to 11-13 year olds? Ugh. Fortunately, although we do have a lot of farmers here, we're mighty low on cowboys.

I thought it was a crying shame that the adults would make a spectacle of themselves if they dared to dance. I used to be quite the dancer in my college days (snicker, snicker) and I really wanted to Get Down. ;) Actually, I did succumb to my dance fever when the DJ kindly provided a blast-from-the-past for the moldy-oldy adults that were there when he played the B52's LOVE SHACK. I even had some kids cheer me on and come dance with me. I have no idea if they actually thought I was cool or if they were making fun of me. Probably the latter. At least I was a source of entertainment, and enjoyed myself in the process.

Other oddities include noticing once again how, uh, "backwards" (as they say around these here parts) even the adults can be. Has it somehow gone out of style for adults to introduce themselves? Do people not know how to greet one another in a civilized manner? Tell me, you folks who live in other parts of the US and the world--is this just a rural Kentucky problem, or are people socially retarded everywhere?

What I mean is, to me, if a new person comes into the school and contacts the first fellow volunteer that she finds, the appropriate thing for that volunteer to do is to say something like,
"Hello, I'm Marge. I'm in charge of the volunteers. Glad you came."
and I would say something like,
"Hi, I'm Dolly Mama. Nice to meet you." and probably include a hand shake in the deal.
Instead, it was more like a half-smile and a grunt, followed by some vague directions and a general cluelessness about what we were supposed to be doing.

But around here it's more like if you don't already know their top-secret name, then maybe you are not to be trusted with it. Seriously, hand shaking and name-giving are RARE. I'm sure I must seem like some big-city corporate dynamo to some of these souls because I commonly meet people and use a normal introduction process.

It's just little old me trying to change the world one hand-shake and introduction at a time.......

1 comment:

Hope said...

Hi, Dolly Mama. Just want to let you know that I have just written to Blogger to ask why the comment function hasn’t been working very well on our sites. (I have mentioned to you and to Blogger just now that I like to leave comments at yours but have been unable to do so in recent weeks due to some sort of problem at Blogger.) I'll you know what I find out, if anything.