Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life and Proms

Last week I was asked to DJ a wedding. Having all kinds of music on my laptop, and friends with some good sound equipment I could borrow, it seemed like a simple request. All I had to do was suffer through a few hours of truly atrocious modern tunes by Katy Perry, Usher and the likes, and I could earn a little cash. Sounds pretty simple huh?
It was pretty simple for the most part. The catch was that it was for a small charter school organization of home schooled kids. It was run by a conservative group of individuals. The administrator and teachers had decided these kids deserved a prom…you know it being an American right of passage and all ☺. So……….it was a little trickier than expected. I had visions of Footloose…….visions where I’d be pumping the jams, then mid Flo Rida, in would burst John Lithgow in a sweaty fervor condemning me to hell…………..
But. I pressed on, determined to give these kids the night of their life. Yet, I was also a little intimidated by the unfair stereotypical picture of the event I had painted in my head. Pressing on, I drove to the town, found the little community center and entered into the great abyss (wishing that Kevin Bacon could have been with me) not knowing what would come next. It looked very nice inside. There was a lovely wood dance floor, several candlelit tables, a gorgeous old chandelier and white Christmas lights strewn about…it looked like a nice little prom! I met the lady in charge, and began setting up.
The night started slowly. As we waited for the kids to flow in, I played a setlist that I had put together with the clever title: “pre-prom and dinner”. It consisted of classics by Tony Bennett, Frankie Blue Eyes, Swell Season, etc…..mellow and nice. The adults CLEARLY liked this! A few kids came in….some as couples and one or two as singles (turns out, most of them were waiting on dates…a little different than most proms). And we waited, and waited……..the tunes still played “Moon River”, “Such Great Heights”, “Love Me Tender”……….and still we waited. Soon it became painfully clear that this was ALL that was coming. So the small (I mean SMALL) crowd convened for dinner (they did give me a really nice prime rib dinner). The mellow tunes continued and all were happy.
Finally as I sensed they were done with dinner and ready for something else, but not quite sure how to “get the party started” I made my way to the DJ Table and set it off! I wish I could describe the adults faces as the tunes subtly changed from Michael Buble to “Apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur……” ☺
But, the kids got out there on the floor! The tiny group gathered and tried as best as they could to get their young rhythmically challenged ,caucasian bodies to move with the computerized, autotuned dribble that they requested. It was very sweet, and a little sad. But man..they went for it! I was impressed. They were determined to make the most of this! Even if their intellect and arms couldn’t sync quite perfectly to spell YMCA with their appendages, they were surely trying………….and they were smiling the whole time.
The adults sat nearby watching, clearly confused as to how “the DJ had them fallin’ in love again” and just exactly what a “G6” is. At one point the head administrator came over to make small talk…….but it was clear he was checking out the playlist (which his own teacher had sent me as given to her by a student) for questionable content. But the party kept going for the kids who clearly understood the deep mysteries of Ke$ha and Gaga. After five or so truly life changing jams, it was time for the inevitable slow dance. The first offering of the night brought to light a problem: there was one lonely girl without a date. She was just so cute. As the couples awkwardly scooted around (and actually a few waltzed quite nicely thanks to the songs ¾ timing) the floor, I was captivated with this young lady. In all truth it broke my heart. She swayed uncomfortably, with a forced smile on the sidelines. It was clear that she so badly wanted to be swept off her feet. I thought hard about asking her to dance myself…but decided against it (for fear of a possible mace attack accompanied by screams of “stranger danger”). Yet I watched her and could almost hear the struggle inside of her. It was gut wrenching and I was faced with a tough decision. Should I keep the next song lined up, which was also a slow dance, or should I show mercy to this beautiful loner? I wrestled with this and like the dad in the old tale of the train conductor with a son stuck on the tracks, I chose in favor of the masses..despite every urge to do otherwise.
So as the Paramore ditty started I saw something incredible happen. A young man (who was clearly the cool alpha male of the party) noticed the young lady. He proceeded to whisper something in his girls ear, who then stood back, smiled and kissed his cheek, and walked off. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I had the best seat in the house and was seeing this through! What he did next gave me chills. He walked over to the girl by herself and held out his hand. She looked, and then hesitated. He smiled and said "let’s dance”. A smile the size of the Rogue River spread from check to cheek and she giddily grabbed his hand. The young man’s girlfriend took a seat as her man danced around the floor with this girl.
WOW! Who says chivalry is dead!?!?!? In all truth, my eyes welled with tears. I was sure this would not take place at any “normal” prom. It was such a visible display of kindess and grace. I just wanted to hug that fella’. The rest of the night, she was included in most every song. She still stayed awkwardly in the margins at times, but she no longer looked so alone. It was amazing.
As the night wore on I was able to see and learn a lot. I was reminded of how hard it was to be that age. You could tell they wanted to act mature, yet at the same time wanted to jump around and be silly like kids. There was clear confusion as to what was their exact role, and you could almost smell the fear of the uncertain future. There were very awkward caresses and even tiny kisses. The horrible and awkward sexual tension that is so present at this age choked the air. I remembered how hard that was. I recalled how scary that was. I watched as they literally teetered on the cliff between youth and adulthood. And as two teens gazed into each others eyes and swore life long devotion as they sang the words of Bruno Mars to one another………I felt for them. I wanted to tell each one that they were going to be okay. That yes…life is hard and right now is confusing…but they were going to be ok!
I think many times we belittle teens, not even meaning to. We treat them with attitudes that imply “stop whining. You have it MADE right now. You have NO CLUE what real stress is like. Wait until you have diapers to change and mortgages to balance with buying new soccer cleats and THEN talk to me about difficult life decisions…”. We act as if they have it SO EASY. I was reminded that these kids have anything BUT the simple life. They have issues MUCH bigger than we credit them with. Cures for “bacne” and the newest Call of Duty games are not their only concerns. These young people face real issues and really tough decisions. I hope that we honor them, validate that and support them as they grow into the adults God created them to be.
It was a fun night. It really touched me. I pray that each of these kids has a blessed life. May they never lose the spirit to try and dance even when you cant! May they always continue to try and include those who have no one, and may they always continue to smile. I pray that heir lives are…in the immortal words of the great poet of their generation, Taio Cruz……….dynamite!!!!!!!

Rock on young people………….the world is your oyster.


Big Mike Lewis said...

I love stories like this that teach our adults to have some compassion on our teens. Thanks for sharing.

Kristi said...

Oh, geez - now I'm all weepy at my computer. Brian, that was an awesome bit of writing on your part. And what a totally precious story. I'm currently teaching a college Adolescent Development class and am being (painfully) reminded of the severe challenges of this age. Thanks, Brian!

[Have you read "A Tribe Apart"? It's one of our texts. Outdated in some senses, but relevant in many important ways.]

tom bigboy said...

Dang you Brian! I am at work and have to choke back tears.