My Fairytale Night Gone Wrong (Again)

October 6, 2013
Lunchtime chatter on the Monday after my junior Homecoming dance followed textbook format. “He danced with HER? Did you see her? She was on the ground!! I think they got kicked out,” are all usual comments spoken in hushed tones the following Monday at lunch. Girls whisper the names of other girls who, to put it kindly, weren’t wearing much of a dress and exchange field notes with each other.
“So do you think it’s better to go with or without a date?” I asked my friend Jackie inquisitively.

“Homecoming’s definitely better with a date because then you always have someone to dance with and don’t look like a loser,” she responded almost without thinking.

Upon hearing my friend’s answer to this simple question, I was stunned silent. While I attempted to follow along with what my table was talking about, I couldn’t help but reflect on my friend’s statement and what it really meant. Her statement kept bouncing and echoing in my head until I could no longer ignore it! Then it hit me:

Is it better to “look like a loser” or lose my dignity?
If you are an adult with no children, or children under the age of 14, you probably won’t understand why Jackie’s reply was so egregious to me. You’re probably wondering, why does this girl care so much? It’s because teens don’t exactly “dance” at Homecoming. We take part in this strange type of “dancing” in co-ed pairs where hips gyrate to the rhythm of an upbeat rap or pop song. This extremely sexual and usually very sweat phenomenon is called “grinding.” The main issue with grinding is that it’s extremely inappropriate, especially in the good ol’ gymnasium of your high school. Gone are the days of fad-dances and well-paced waltzes in the wake of “grinding.”
I remember going to my freshmen year Homecoming. The excitement everyone’s pretty dresses, curled heads of hair, the colored lips: it was delightfully overwhelming! I was so excited to see what a high school dance was like. Plus, I had a date for the very first time in my life! Of course I was expecting a fairytale night, beautiful and carefree. But what did I get instead? I got a bunch of ninth grade boys trying to pressure me into “dancing” with my date. I really didn’t want to. I stuck to my guns and, after some awkwardness at the dance, felt better in the long run for doing so. I thought to myself, doesn’t anyone else feel this way?
Unfortunately, I was proven silly to think this grinding thing would be a one-time issue! Over the years, grinding has become such an obvious problem at my schools’ dances that our administrators have had to take drastic action to stop it! When I first heard the news spring of my sophomore year, I couldn’t help but feel relieved of all the pressure. However, I, along with rest of the student body, was extremely skeptical as to how any chaperone could enforce a no-grinding rule amongst an entire population of sweaty, tightly packed teenagers in the dark. And to be honest, no one really can.
You may be asking yourself, what’s so appealing about grinding? How and when did this become a standard? Do these girls even know that this is not how they should be treated? Do boys get that they aren’t pimps for grinding at their high school dance? Do teenagers, in general, understand that no one wants to see this? Honestly, I would love for someone to give me some answers, because I just don’t get it. I often find myself feeling like an adult character in an old musical, shaking my finger and the youths, fundamentally disagreeing with teen trends. I swear I’m not trying to shut down the party! In fact, ending Homecoming would be one of the worst things my school could do for the students. The dance raises morale and school spirit…but why does the dancing have to be so disgusting?

From my point of view as a sixteen year old girl, the average girl’s train of thought at Homecoming will go as follows: If I don’t grind at the dance, I’ll look like a loser and if I look like a loser, no guys will like me. Though these feelings can obviously feel isolating, I think it is extremely natural for teen girls to feel this way. Regardless, no one wants to look like loser, and that’s when we get the treat of suppressing vomit as we watch girls feign a smile and try to laugh as they awkwardly shake their hips, dripping in sweat, until their thighs hurt so bad they have to stop…Fun times? I don’t think so!

So whom do we have to blame for the “grinding” epidemic? We could immediately assume the media has poisoned the brains of the youth. Singers like Miley Cyrus (of late) have been shamelessly advertising their bodies in ways that start as rebellious and become mind-numbingly vulgar. The fact that girls like Miley are the most popular singers, making them subsequently some of the most worshipped woman on the planet, is frightening. But obviously, it can’t all be Miley Cyrus’ fault! It’s everywhere. Advertisements, magazines, TV shows, the Internet, social media. All of these mediums drill teenage ideals today.

There is still a factor to this equation I feel I must mention though I can’t explore it very deeply: teenage boys. Sure, they are clueless and confused in most situations, but they know girls their age are not likely to stop them or try to dance differently if asked to grind. That is exploitation, whether they know it or not. I suppose their hormones are raging more in high school than any other time, but is that even a good excuse? I don’t want to portray boys as villains here, but they really do hold all the power in this situation. They could easily change the entire dynamic! But I can almost guarantee they won’t. However, they have also been influenced by media just as much as the girls have. For example, Robin Thicke’s song Blurred Lines has been topping the music charts since its release, much to the dismay of women everywhere. Some of the most hated lines are, “I know you want it,” “you’re a good girl,” and “just let me liberate you.” Songs with lyrics like these give the message to young men that it is OK to treat girls like animals that need to be “liberated.”

Don’t get me wrong: If you want to grind, fantastic, go ahead. But if you’ve never enjoyed it or have found yourself feeling uncomfortable, do not do it! Go to Homecoming. Buy the pretty dress, help plan the pictures and dinner, savor the magic of it all while you can, but don’t let anyone pressure you into any sort of dancing you don’t like. Twenty years from now no one will remember if you grinded at your Homecoming dance. Well, at least I hope not.

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