Monday, April 15, 2013

"I got invited to the prom. Tommy Ross asked me. They're just trying to trick me again. I know."*

   One day during my sophomore year of high school I missed morning advisory (homeroom). I don’t remember why I was absent and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a cigarette-related emergency, since I’m almost positive I wasn’t yet smoking at that point. But I missed Miss Boulter’s 7:55 advisory period on the fourth floor of Duchesne Academy for one reason or another. We’ll say it was cramps, because that makes me sound like the victim (and you know how I like to be the victim).

   When I made it to advisory the following morning, the other ladies were way more excited than necessary to announce that I’d been nominated to compete in the upcoming Sports-and-Spirit activity the approaching Thursday: I had been nominated by my advisory to compete in a beauty pageant. Those sly, delightful bitches.

   I was beyond upset. I knew they nominated me because none of them wanted any part of it and I was gone so I lost the vote. I think I spent the next day-and-a-half complaining LOUDLY to anyone who would listen that I’d been sabotaged by the diabolical ladies from my homeroom.

   When no one gave a crap, I gave up, miserably resigning myself to an afternoon of shenanigans (the not fun kind).

   Our school spent a lot of time filling up hours: we were in class for most of them, but there were also chunks of each week set aside for filler: “activities,” and “assemblies” seemed to be always on the schedule regardless of their use or significance. I think our school had maybe somehow made a pact with a big-time financial investor sometime in the late 1800’s: the more time these girls are in school, the more money you’ll receive. Or something like that. It made no sense. Especially considering that kids from other private and/or Catholic high schools weren’t spending nearly as many hours in the building as we were. But oh well.

   The Sports and Spirit Beauty Pageant was one such activity: it made no sense and it was no fun and it was time we (theoretically) could have spent on the 6+ hours of homework we were assigned each night.

   The entire student body gathered in the gym for the faux “beauty pageant” and we were given a number of ridiculous ball gowns from the theatre scene shop to choose from. I didn’t care, and I was determined to lose on the first round. None of those dresses fit over the plaid uniform, anyway, and if other girls’ dresses fit: it just made me madder. (Oh, so now I’m in a beauty pageant AND I’m fat? FINE!)

   The Sports and Spirit Club made a big show of the grand prize: the winners would be paired with “mystery bachelors” and given movie tickets and a gift certificate for dinner. Maybe some of the ladies in the gym were legitimately excited: we hardly ever saw people who had penises, unless you were to count our male teachers, and just the sight of a dude was enough to cause an uproar: even if it was just a fat plumber. I personally hated the idea of a mystery date.

   I was petrified at the prospect.

   The first round of the competition involved a walk about the gym. Each advisory from each grade sent a representative: there were 16 of us. I wasn’t ousted in the first round, maybe because the rest of the student body was punishing me for my lack of enthusiasm. My face probably looked like there was glass in my foot and my shoe was slowly filling up with blood.

   I don’t remember the second round. It probably involved revealing some sort of hideous secret or some sort of awful physical event like Jello wrestling. But four more gals were ousted, and I remained.

   The third (and final round) involved a question from one of the judges. And this part I remember:

   “If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?”

   “Um,” I wanted out of this soooooo bad, “I guess I’d be Homer Simpson, ‘cuz he likes donuts and I do, too.”

   And I won. Ugh.

   I stood there for a minute wondering if the entire high school was trying to “Carrie” me: I may have even looked towards the ceiling to check for buckets of pig's blood.
You bitches better Carrie me, or else this has gotten really bad.

   But no. I had won and they weren’t even going to splash me with blood for my trouble. (At least if they were offering a major cinematic recreation I could get enthusiastic for minute or two.)


   I won a date with the mystery bachelor of the 10th grade class: P.D. Rudy.

   He was no great catch. Not because he's not a great guy. But I’d already known him for a decade. I’d gone to elementary school with P.D. and we were usually seated near each other throughout those 10 years because our last names both started with “R.” He wasn’t my enemy, but he certainly wasn’t my dream date. And he'd started out elementary as kind of a bully (a trait he later outgrew). But we were handed our gift certificates and we hugged awkwardly and agreed to talk about it later.

   In the ensuing days, my classmate and sort-of friend, Shannon started hinting about how she was really into P.D. and that they’d sort of started “talking.” I offered her my prize immediately: lord knows I didn’t want it. But she demurred.

   “Omigosh, no! I can’t take away your prize!”

   “Oh yes, I assure you, you can. Why do I want to go to dinner and a movie with P.D.? If you guys like each other, you should just go for it,” I replied. I was already seeing my way out of this incredibly awkward situation.

   “No, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with that. I mean, we’re only talking, we’re not, like, going out or anything.”

   “Okay, so then what? You saying you want to come with on our date?” I was confused because I didn’t want to go on the “date.” And neither did P.D. We'd already discussed how we didn't want to go on our date.

   “Would that be weird?”
   Ouch. Now I had to go on the date for her sake, but she wasn't about to explain that to P.D., so I had to...without giving away the fact that she "liked" him. Yark.

   “I guess it would be better than us going by ourselves," I said on the phone to Shannon after my phone conversation with P.D.

   And that’s how Shannon, P.D. and I ended up at a dollar theatre screening of Kiss The Girls in 1998. I actually really enjoyed the film, despite the general filthiness of the Westwood Dollar Cinema and the fact that P.D. and Shannon were trying to figure out if they were ready for hand-holding during the last hour of the film (which featured multiple stabbings and at least one attempted rape). In retrospect I'm surprised they didn't make me sit between them and hold both of their hands until they were ready to switch to just the two of them somewhere over my lap.

   After the movie we started towards P.D.’s car in the parking lot (I was 15 throughout my sophomore year of high school, so I had to be driven everywhere). I remember trying to get to the car very fast. The two of them were trailing behind me.

   P.D. said something like, “What about the dinner gift certificate?”

   The gift certificate was for some sad, old Italian restaurant that used to be in Westwood Plaza but which I’m pretty sure no longer exists.

   “You guys can have it! Seriously! It’ll be fun. But maybe right now, you can just drop me off at home…?”

   Shannon was having no part of that. Despite the fact that she and P.D. were now at handholding status, she did not want me to leave this date. But I was desperate to leave this date. But I was 15 and so was she so I gave in, because I was a spineless twit.
Three wheels. One of whom wants to go home.

   “Okay,” I sighed. “Well, there’s a McDonald’s over there. What if we just get some drive thru?”

   Shannon insisted that I sit in the front seat (I’m actually still confused and annoyed about that to this day) and the three of us ate our nuggets and burgers and fries in the car in relative silence. I think I maybe inhaled a fish o-filet sandwich in about 30 seconds. I so wanted to go home. I’d never wanted to leave home in the first place.

   P.D. blasted Warren G. all the way back to my parents’ house, a move which further alienated me because I already felt profoundly out of touch with my generation's music. So I sat silently in the front seat while he and Shannon sang along to their super hip rap music and screamed conversation back and forth to each other between the front and back seats. 
   I did, eventually get home.

   Shannon and P.D. dated for a couple of weeks or months…I think. They did not marry each other, so my sacrifice was, ultimately, in vain. They are both, however, happily married now to other people, so…Yay?

   There is a lesson here in all this: When you are not a swimsuit model and you do not have a performance skill and you are not hoping for world peace: don’t perform in a beauty pageant. And I guess aside from that all I can say is, kids: make sure you show up for homeroom.
*The quote is from Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976). It's dark, this quote. I don't really think my homeroom wanted to dump pig's blood on me.

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