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“When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.”
- Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
The first high school dance I went to was my junior prom. “Mom, dances are lame. They’re filled with teenagers waiting to get high and wasted after,” that was my argument for all school dances. I wasn’t a party person nor was I social. Long ago, I already came to the conclusion that I was a hardcore geek. I hung out with the self proclaimed ‘Geek Squad,’ filled with science nerds, optimists, and overachievers. Amongst the nine of us, we spoke nine different languages, took fourteen science classes, and six AP courses. Our favorite hangout spot was the library. All but one were part or full Asian. Luis was our honorary Asian, we liked to say- he could join us anytime he wanted to. Yet, for prom, only five of us were juniors, the other four weren’t. Two didn’t want to go and the other two were rather reluctant to attend. But Carol, like always, wanted to overachieve in all subjects, including prom. To step out of our comfort zone and attend an actual social event where we had to interact with others was shocking for all of us.
Arguing was part of the teenage experience and as my first act of rebellion, I fought Carol, in hopes that she wouldn’t drag me to prom. Unfortunately, she won, but it took almost four months for her to convince me and Jonathan to go. She demanded Jonathan to be her date and then encouraged me to invite someone as well. Not very fond of my other classmates, I decided to invite a middle school friend. Sean Gunn, who was just as clueless about a high school experience as I was, just happened to be my back up plan. I had this whole ‘date thing’ sorted out.
Just weeks before prom, my over-the-phone invitation went a little like this:
“Look... So there’s this dance... Yeah, it’s sort of prom... Do you want to go?”
“Uh... I’ll have to look at my schedule. When is it?”
“Um. I don’t know”
“Where is it?”
“I’ll have to look that over too”
“You might want to call back later when you have that information”
That night, my mom spoke with Sean’s mom, Auntie Wei, and they talked for an hour, trying to figure out the extra details. Sean and I are alike in the sense that we like seeing the big picture in situations. We don’t think of consequences nor do we think of results. Instead, we just go with the flow. And prom was something we probably shouldn’t generalize.
Although my mom was gone for a week to attend a conference, she already arranged the details; the ones I would have skipped out on all together. She and Auntie Wei would work on the corsages. My Grandma, or Popo, who lived in LA would go dress shopping. My cousin, Christine, who lived in Belmont was going to do my hair. Auntie Marcella was going to do my make up. Auntie Jeannie would take me dress shopping, just in case I didn’t like my Popo’s choice. Three people sent over a wide selection of shoes and two others sent necklaces and jewelry. My dad’s job was to take pictures and capture every moment.
Within twenty-four hours before prom, my family was panicking. They were calling every other minute to make sure everything was okay. My Auntie from Hong Kong timed her call perfectly so she managed to get ahold of me a few hours before leaving the house. My Popo called to make sure the dress fit. I went to and from Belmont for my hair to be dolled up. Auntie Jeannie visited. Auntie Marcella also came to the house to be my mom for the night. I looked in the mirror and I looked different. I felt different. But even then, under globs and globs of make up, I knew nothing had changed. I was still the same high school kid as I started out.
“He’s coming!” My sister shouted, peering out the window.
I ran to the closest room and slammed the door.
The moment of truth came.
The doorbell rang.
I don’t quite know what prompted me to scream, but the moment it escaped my lips, my hands clapped onto my mouth, and I heard my sister laugh. I heard the door open and heard Sean’s voice. It took a few minutes for me to gather myself together. Forget common sense. The moment the door opened, mine had flown away. Walking out the door, everything came as a blur. I vaguely remember the picture taking, the nervous laughter; excuse me, my nervous laughter, and the constant running back and forth from company to mirror, company to mirror. It was a wreck waiting to happen. It didn’t stop there either. My dad shouted, “Okay! Everyone hop into the car!” Sean and I didn’t know how to drive. It was either the minivan or public transportation and there was no way I was going to be taking the bus in this prom getup.
I listened to my dad talk with Sean, as if he only had just met him. I would have interrupted their conversation if my brother and sister weren’t in the back of the car with me, talking up a storm. “Bye! Have fun!” they shouted as they dropped us off at the restaurant and sped off. Poor Sean didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he agreed to go with me. To make things worse, I’m pretty sure the last thing he expected was to meet up with Jonathan and Carol for a candle lit dinner.
They were waiting for us when we got to the restaurant. A restaurant full of grown ups. We were intruders. We were fakers. We looked like adults with our pretty gowns and fancy suits, but we were playing pretend. We had no right to be in a fancy restaurant without our mommys and daddys, but here we were. My second act of rebellion.
“Hey Katie!” Carol chirped, glanced at Sean, and smiled brightly, “Hi! I’m Carol!” Only Carol could put an exclamation point at the end of every sentence and get away with it. The introductions went by quickly, much quicker than I imagined and soon enough, we were seated at our table. I heard about luxurious places like these, but my mother was often times too cheap to dine at places that cost money simply to be seated. It was rumored the napkins were made of cloth, the seats of cushion, and lights of candles. The sight was glorifying.
Unfortunately the beauty in the restaurant didn’t last for long. The orders were much too fancy to pronounce. The waiters and waitresses called us ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am.’ The chatter was quiet, practically murmurs. When our conversation topics grew dull, I leaned my head against the booth. Was this why adults were so dull? Because they were stuck in such a monotonous state of mind? I dug through my purse, or bag as I referred to it as, and practically shouted, “Aha!” when I found it. Our main source of entertainment for the evening.
“Who wants to play tic tac toe?” I declared and clicked my pen up and down.
We walked into the prom, only seeing a few students. “Hi Katie, who’s this?” Marta, the school librarian smiled brightly as she checked us into the dance. Her dark red hair waved back and forth, draping onto her shoulders, her black dress glimmering down to her knees.
“Um, this is Sean,” I said, glancing at him, “Sean, this is Marta... The librarian.” Introductions were always the worst.
She smiled again and after brief conversation, finally let us through to the dance. We walked inside to be greeted by my other classmates, some less pleasing to see than others. The room wasn’t very big. The walls were streamed with banners and strings flying from left to right. The music was already blasting despite no one on the dance floor. As a school of 250 students and only 120 invited, I didn’t expect a very big turn out. The table tops were decorated with poker chips and playing cards. The theme was casino night. How original.
Jonathan walked towards me, his eyes wandering for any form of amusement. Dances were supposed to be fun, but in high school, they were mainly the get together before heading off to Marin for the real party full of drama and drinking. Apparently, they’re tons of fun. “Hey Jonathan, I’ll play you cards,” I offered, starting to go from table to table, collecting the scattered cards to complete a full deck.
It wasn’t long before we had a game of deuces between me, Sean, Carol, and Jonathan. Time passed by and the room got crowded. I could feel the sweat and excitement from the other students, but I didn’t want to look up. Their halter tops, fancy dresses, and expensive suits were enough to make me feel sick to my stomach. The girls spent hours trying to make their bodies curve in the right places and this was their time to shine. They loved nothing more than showing off their perfect forms as they danced next to their friends. The boys hung out by the walls, checking out the girls and talking to each other like they didn’t want to be at prom. Their hair was slicked back with gel and the girls were disguised by make up and hair spray.
“You weren’t supposed to take the cards, guys. They were for decoration,” Mr. Chabon, the dean of student life, said, hovering above our table like a helicopter. We all let out a collective sigh. He frowned in our direction, debating on whether to stop our game or not. He must have been in a good mood because he stood there, thought it over, and left without another word. The moment he left, I took my turn.
Third act of rebellion. There was no stopping me tonight.