Tuesday, August 30, 2005

reader requests: tales of a sixth grade nothing, part the first

(Second in a series of requested stories)

You all know how nerdy I am now (answer: very), but like most people, I was much, much nerdier in sixth grade. Like, way nerdier. With the glasses and the hair and the late-eighties exploding all over my wardrobe and...well, let's let the picture speak a thousand words:

So you understand the extent of the nerditude now. It's scary. Hold me.

I was tolerated, though. I had a little bit of a tough transition from private school to my local neighborhood public school in the fourth grade (for the first few weeks, I couldn't believe how rowdy the public school kids were--they even said the S-word! And the F-word! Loudly!) but after that, I was mostly looked at as the short sarcastic one who liked to draw comics and whose math homework you should copy. I had my place in the sixth grade universe, and while not glamorous, it wasn't a terrible place to be.

(You really shouldn't copy my math homework anymore, though. Sometime between sixth grade and seventh grade my math skillz went down the crapper, and now I have to wear a calculator around my neck--literally--because I don't quite trust my arithmetic. Well, that, and because a long division error nowadays could kill someone. BUT ANYWAY.)

It was the spring of sixth grade, and we were all feeling VERY mature, what with our newfound use of deodorant and impending graduation and the transition to junior high school, where (it was rumored) boys and girls would hold hands in the hallway, all out in the open. Shocking! Also, the class was all abuzz because it was just announced that prior to graduation, the school would be sponsoring a dance for the three sixth grade classes, with dressing up and a DJ and everything. And yes, it would be held in the gym, but it would be AWESOME. This dance was immediately dubbed "the prom." The sixth grade prom. How cute and yet how sad.

There were some stirrings of the pre-teen hormone pot under the surface, but in those days the sixth grade was largely sexless, and no one assumed (despite the fact that it was "THE PROM") that we would be pairing up or going with opposite-sex dates. In fact, I don't even think anyone had thought far enough ahead to the prospect of actually dancing in the gym in front of everyone, because PUBLIC DANCING? Lo, the mortification. We were just excited about the idea of THE PROM. We liked to say it. THE PROM. What are you wearing to THE PROM? Are you excited about THE PROM? Etcetera. Also, did I mention that it was only March?

The real hubbub began, however, when Franklin C. came up to me in the cafeteria during lunch one day and asked me to the prom. All calmly. In front of everybody. You have to understand that at that time, no one was asking anyone to the prom, and now the first person to get asked was Michelle Au? Not exactly your class standout for Prom Queen. Might I remind you:

Franklin C. was sort of the male version of me, though. Sure, he was this husky little Dominican kid, but he was similarly sarcastic and nerdy. Still, the fact that he would ask me, A GIRL, to go with him to the prom when no one else had even started thinking about dates--it caused quite the stir. Franklin was immediately accosted by our classmates, male and female alike, and interrogated as to WHY he asked me to the prom, what did this MEAN, was he IN LOVE with me, etcetera etcetera. Franklin (who I have to admit kept fairly cool through all of this) would only answer that he thought I was funny and cute, and that he liked the way I dressed. I guess he never saw this outfit, then:

Anyway, I said yes. We were on for the prom.

Once it was in the water that Franklin had asked Michelle to the prom, other girls in the class started applying all manners of subtle and not-so-subtle pressure onto the guys in our class to ask them to the prom as well. Alfred, under great duress, asked Mieko. Jonathan asked Julia. Josh asked...well, I can't remember who Josh asked, but he was a cute one, that Josh. The class was pairing off. The problem was, no one quite knew how to act after they were coupled. Did it mean that they were dating? Engaged to be wed? No one was clear. So after all the asking was done, boys and girls largely resumed ignoring each other.

Franklin would call me on the phone sometimes, though. These phone conversations were rambling and pointless, especially since we had just seen each other at school 45 minutes ago, but at least we were talking. This, in the sixth grade dating scene, was HUGE. As the date of the prom drew closer, he got his suit ready. I chose a dress--an unfortunate leiderhosen-skirt-type number, with suspenders over a white blouse and everything. (Damn, I wish I had a picture of that dress. Unfortunately, I think said snapshots have since been lost in the sands of time. Either that, or I may have destroyed the evidence.)

And then, finally, it was prom night. Well, prom afternoon, anyway. I took a shower and put on my new dress. I cleaned my glasses. (They were very very large glasses, so this took about half an hour.) And I sat in my apartment in all my frilly, Ricola-esque glory, waiting for Franklin to come pick me up so that we could go dance the night away under the baskeball hoops.

To be continued...

(Special P.S. To Diana W., who e-mailed me a few weeks ago and who I--OF COURSE--never e-mailed back because I am a terrible person: I think we did go to elementary school together. P.S. 116, baby! Good to hear from you, and glad you're doing well!)

Currently reading: Still chipping away at the fluid and blood therapy chapter in Baby Miller.

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