The high school dance: culmination of all parental nagging to keep elbows off tables, chew with mouths closed, make conversation, open doors, and act like human beings in polite (and mixed) company. Even the current practice of attending dinner and dance in large, amorphous groups does not diminish the adolescent instinct to primp and strut and take a giant leap across the chasm of the dance floor (most eloquently treated by Anna Quindlen) separating teenaged boys and girls.
As leaves fall and nights grow colder, age-old Homecoming rituals create an awful lot of drama in the halls of American high schools. A happy report from the trenches: amidst the tears, hormones and general craziness, in the past couple of weeks I have witnessed:
Teenagers Are Compassionate: Open Wallets, Open Hearts
Word got out: a freshman boy, small and overwhelmed by the whole high school experience, dropped the cash for his Homecoming dance ticket and was distraught. A senior boy (a golden child; an athlete; one of the popular kids) stood up in his second-period class and announced, "I'm in for five dollars. Who's with me?" The class raised enough for the boy and a date to attend the festivities.
Teenagers Are Kind: Friendship and Flowers
A 17-year-old girl was dumped by a long-term boyfriend two weeks before another Homecoming dance. Her friends rallied, accompanied her to dinner and dance, and bought her a corsage so she would feel lovely, not lonely, as she danced the night away.
Teenagers Are Classy: Royal Behavior
A local high school elected two students with Down's Syndrom Queen and King of the dance. Who knows how it happened? Someone launched the idea, during the lunch-time balloting, the powder-puff games, the pep-rally, the jumpy castles, the dunk tanks, the hall-decorating and the costume-wearing. Like every word uttered by every adolescent, it spread like wildfire. And then at the dance, a celebration. No press releases; no media; no big whoop. Just a boy and a girl and their peers, and a dance.
Ohhhhh boy, are high school kids up to no good much of the time. Parents who KNOW their adolescents--who watch them as vigilantly as a mother falcon--receive the added benefit of seeing all the compassionate, kind, classy things teenagers do. They are many; they might surprise us; let us keep our eyes open and catch our teenagers in the act of doing good.