Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Winter Dance
Or, How to Get Ripped Off for $55 ($75 If You Count the Corsage-Thingy), Make a Complete Jackass Out of Yourself in Front of All Your Peers, Drink 5 Cups of Sugarless Carbonated Water, And Still Come Away with the Delusion That You Had a Good Time
By The Author

Prologue: A Funny Story That Unfortunately Did Not Happen
So there's this girl (let's call her "Mary-Kate", for the sake of confidentiality), whose friend, (let's call her "Heather", for the sake of confidentiality) is going to the Winter Semi-Formal with her almost-boyfriend (let's call him "Alex", for the sake of confidentiality). And Mary-Kate does not like being left out of the equation (most variables don't), so she implores Alex to find her a date. So Alex calls lots of guys, most of whom turn her down sight unseen, until he hits upon a certain Asian-conservative-rich-preppy-white kid who is a writer (let's call him "the Mark" for the sake of confidentiality). The dance is on Saturday night, and Alex contacts him via AIM on Thursday night. I have it from a very good source that their conversation went like this:

Alex: So, you want to go to the dance with one of my friends?
The Mark: Umm...
Alex: I mean, it's not like you're going with anyone else if you don't take me up on my offer.
Greek Chorus: OOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!!! You got SERVED!!!!
Alex: Call an ambulance, you just got burned!
The Mark: Damnit.
Alex: What, did I say that?

It happens that the Mark was rather shortsighted at the time and didn't understand the full implications of what he was getting into, so he agreed.
Alex, joyous at his success, attempted to IM Mary-Kate to tell her she has a date for the dance. Then he realizes that Mary-Kate is not on. He decides to call her.
This wouldn't be a problem, except he doesn't have Mary-Kate's number. So instead he IM's Mary-Kate's friend Heather, and asks her for Mary-Kate's number.
This wouldn't be a problem, except she doesn't have Mary-Kate's number either. So instead Heather goes through the laborious process of looking up Mary-Kate's number in the Ursuline Academy directory.
Finally, Alex calls Mary-Kate and tells her that she does in fact have a date to the dance, if not an attractive one. She is mildly ecstatic.
The next day, the Mark tells Alex that the dance tickets are all sold out.
Alex is placed with the Damoclean burden of breaking the news.

What Actually Happened (Sort of)
Unfortunately, that's not a true story. The Mark went to the office too early, and the ticket sellers arrived about five minutes.
Alex comes rushing over to tell the Mark to buy his ****ing ticket, and the Mark then proceeds to plunk down a simple majority of his life savings in order to do so.
Then the Mark went off to district Mock Trial competition, where, being the @$$hat that he is, he screwed the entire team by losing 10 points on his cross-examination, thus dooming his team to 3rd place (only the top 2 teams make it to state competition). An old black lady serving as the judge was the one who took away his points.
"Bloody seniors," the Mark mutters under his breath as the septuagenarian marks him down.
"Objection!" the attorney from CJ says. "Opposing counsel is attempting to introduce a very bad non-stipulated double pun from the KYW Reunion story in a completely irrelevant turn of phrase!"
"Your honor," the Mark says, "This makes no sense. Why would I be quoting a story about Leah's crutches and Chipotle I wrote for the KYW board and Nina in the middle of my cross-examination? This makes no sense at all. In fact, my entire plaintiff's argument makes no sense at all. In fact, this whole case makes no sense at all. And if this whole case makes no sense at all, you must acquit."
The Mark's legal advisor taps him on the shoulder, and politely informs him that the purpose of the case is to make the judge not acquit.
"Excuse me," the Mark says. He pulls out a small plush toy of a certain furry Star Wars character and presents it to the judge and jury. "This is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is an eight-foot-tall Wookie from the planet Kashyyk-"

Friday Night Lights
the Mark arrives home to realize that 1) he's supposed to go to a formal dance tomorrow, and 2) the heater in his house has apparently broken down, given the fact that there's more snow inside it then out.
The Mark then plops under three blankets and a heater, and falls asleep.

Saturday Morning Sun
So then the Mark wakes up at 5:00 in the morning, shivers, and falls back asleep, dreaming of deserts and hot sun.
Then he wakes up at 10:00, stretches, rubs the frost off his eyebrows, and takes a long shower in cold water.
At this point in time, he realizes that he has to go to a dance with a girl he's never before met. It might be prudent to contact her before he goes.
So then he pulls out the crinkled piece of paper, takes a deep breath, and calls.
Here is a transcript of the conversation:

the Mark: Hi, this is The Mark, may I speak to Mary-Kate?
Person at the Other End of the Line: **** you, there ain't no ****ing Mary-Kate here!
the Mark: Oh, erm, I guess I had the, um, wrong number.
Person at the Other End of the Line: Damn straight, mother****er!

The Mark hangs up, redials, and tries again.

The Mark: Hi, this is Harrison, may I speak to Mary-Kate?
Person at the Other End of the Line: Why not.
The Mark: [Waits]
Mary-Kate: Who the hell is this, and why are you calling me at 10:00 in the morning!??!
The Mark: Umm, this is Harrison, and I-erm- am, uh, apparently the guy that, y'know, you're going to the dance with.
Mary-Kate: Oh.
[Sound of screaming in the background]
The Mark: What's that noise?
Mary-Kate: Oh, that's just my brother.
The Mark: Ohhhhhhhkaaaaaayyyy.

Five hours (and Dantooine and Nar Shaddaa, for those of you who've played KOTOR 2) later, The Mark goes to go pick up the corsage. He drives his father's convertible with his mother gripping the dash tightly in the passenger's seat.
 Imagine an endless Eisenhower-esque sprawl of warehouses and one-story offices, a military-industrial-complex's dream. Smack dab in the middle of it is a Flower Shop, housed in what seems to be a warehouse.
Inside are the trappings of any normal flower shop, including that incredibly annoying little bell that goes off when you open the door, but beyond the black curtain is an endless, Communist-like workshop full of enslaved florists who work day and night. He imagine barbed wire, furnaces, and numbers tattooed on arms, but don't stay long enough to see since it's all ready ("it" being the corsage-thingy, which he always thought was a pin, but apparently is a wrist ornament) him to place the corsage in the fridge."It will WILT if you don't chill it!"

[At this point in time the Mark decides to switch to first-person narrative, and I don't know why]

Given the fact that I have about ten minutes before I have to go meet Mary-Kate, I assume she's joking, but then she opens up the refrigerator (I've never noticed how weirdly that word is spelled) and beckons frantically.
Then I smell the stench from the kimchi my mother is chilling, and make a smart@$$ remark to the effect that offering my date rotted-cabbage-scented flowers may not be the smartest way to win endearment.
Then I go inside, toss the corsage in its clear plastic container onto the kitchen counter, and go to get dressed for the dance.
Of course, since I wore a full charcoal-gray-conservative-dorky-lawyer-suit for Mock Trial yesterday, my parents insist that I can't just wear the same thing, and force me to try on Mr. Armani's entire wardrobe before they decide on just throwing a sport coat on me and saying hell with it.
I then get into the car, and using the power vested in me by the State of Ohio, via a temporary learner's permit driver's liscense, drive out to Alex's house.
Then my dad stops me and tells me I can't go with white socks.

Dinner and World Domination
Having been socked by my father, I drive up to Alex's house.
The arrangements for tonight's dinner are such: originally, Alex, his girlfriend Heather, Stephen (who I keep calling Dave), and his girlfriend Lisa were all going to go to dinner together, but things fell apart, so Alex's mom very graciously agreed to host Alex's friends at his house, and make dinner for all of us. Then there was the whole near-fiasco with Mary-Kate, and so now there is a third couple that will dine with the group.
The thing is, Mary-Kate is at Heather's house, so Alex's dad drives us to Loveland to go pick them up.
I am so ****ing glad I get to go ring the doorbell in a group, and not alone as tradition dictates.
Putting on our best strip-poker faces, Alex and I gingerly ring the buzzer.
The girl from "Tooltime" on "Home Improvement" opens the door, complete with the little logo of the show on her shirt. This is Rosie, Heather's older sister, who apparently is going to the dance in full costume.
[Quick note: our student body council, in an attempt to "spice things up", made this particular winter dance a Halloween-costume-themed dance called "Febtoberfest", although nobody except the *ahem* bloody seniors *ahem* eldest of our school are going in costume]
Then Alex goes over and greets his date, Heather. She's wearing a purple one-strapped dress thingy with her hair up, and the two make a very cute couple. Alex hands her her corsage, and she straps it around the wrist.
My date, Mary-Kate, is probably about as Irish-Catholic as you get, although Erin will probably contest that, given that she doesn't have an "O" in her name. She and Heather are apparently very good friends, given the way that they chatter.
Chattering, it seems, is much of what tonight's activity will consist of.
When we get back to Alex's house, dinner is almost-but-not-quite prepared, so Alex ushers Dave- I mean Stephen- and Lisa and Heather and Mary-Kate into the basement in order to force them to watch the trailer for "Chupacabra", the movie that Alex, TJ, and I made for Alex's Spanish III class. This partly to get them out of the way of Alex's parents, who alternately attempt to photodocument their son and his date, and also to establish the fact that I am a total geek (I wrote and edited the film).
Afterwards, we go upstairs to eat our formal dinner.
Halfway through, Alex notes that while we're all sitting around in ties and dresses and corsage-thingies, his brother and his brother's girlfriends are dining on burritos at Chipotle.
He punctuates the point by biting through the cocktail shrimp his mother just served us.
Awkward silence greets his comment.
Then Heather says something perverse about how her dog thinks that the pillow is another dog, and we all laugh and move on.
Stephen is monologuing rapidly about "Fairly Oddparents", this great cartoon on Nickelodeon; then we both explain to a very confused Lisa the merits of "Samurai Jack" (which is a great cartoon, although 50% of it is ripped off from Frank Miller's "Ronin", not that anyone understands the reference).
Halfway through, I turn to look at Mary-Kate and Heather and Alex giggling about some inside joke (the three of them were very close at a retreat he went to a few weeks ago).
"Are they having an actual inside joke WITHOUT us?" I demand of Stephen. He nods.
I shake my head. "Coagulated frosh."
After dinner, in accordance with the traditional schedule of events at a semi-formal dance, we go into the basement again to watch an episode of "Family Guy", and cackle over Stewie's plans for world domination.

Saturday Night Fever
The Winter Dance itself is held at Music Hall, this huge, Gothic building that looks like it was taken straight from Frank Miller's and Tim Burton's nightmares. I've been there only once, to see a production of "Carmen", which was easily the most operatically draining thing I've had to do since I had to see a production of "Pulp Fiction", except it was boring because in the latter case I speak the Invective dialect of Ebonics, whereas for Carmen I don't speak French. Or Spanish. Whatever.
So anyways, Music Hall has a huge 30s Art Deco-style ballroom in which the dance is held. A central dancing area with appropriately grinding bodies is set up, as well as a stage where the DJ sits with his voluminous music.
I walk in, in awe, before Mary-Kate impatiently tugs at my hand to go sit down. We drift over to where the two couples have placed down their stuff. Heather abruptly tugs Alex away and they disappear into the Blue crush.
Mary-Kate sits down and takes off her shoes. That, the Mark knows, is just begging for trouble.
He sighs, turns, and watches the crowd.

Back to our normally scheduled programming...

It is a specific rule of any event requiring "dance" (with certain exceptions) that the music much be sucky and undanceable for at least 80% of the time. Thus, Mary-Kate having very specific sensibilities about music, I ended up sitting on the sidelines for much of the time.

Now let me explain to those of you who know anything about Final Fantasy about dancing.
Some of you may recall this guy named the Mark who had some sembalance of dancing talent (defined as "wasn't humiliated by his constant flailing around") at the KYW dance, but that was only for two very specific reasons: one, there was a catalyst, and two, he was so utterly pumped up with adrenaline and sugar that his "Humility Point" counter was so low that he could engage in what is commonly known as a Limit Break by experienced FFVIII players. Amazing things can happen...you'd never know that some skinny Asian kid can flex himself with that much Tai Chi, or Mojo, depending on what side of the world you're from.

Unfortunately, the Mark's sense of self-preservation and the desire NOT to be completely humiliated in front of the jackals who go to his school were not overridden by the desire to dance, and there was really no catalyst there, so he ended up sitting on the sidelines trying to make awkward small talk and drink ever-decreasingly sweet soda.

The first time the Mark got a soda from the open bar he thought that it was perhaps a bit tasteless...by his fifth Sprite he realized something was seriously wrong with the damn nozzle. He hands the drink to Mary-Kate.
"Taste this, will you?"
She looks at him, considers what her mother told her about date rape, then realizes who's asking, and gulps it down.
"It doesn't have any taste," she comments.
So it's not just the Mark who thinks it's tasteless.
He goes back up, and takes a Coke.

Finally, the "Let's Go Back In Time" string of music begins. It starts with "Toxic", by Britney Spears (circa 1999), and continues back through the 90s with pop crap, and then hits a higher note with Michael Jackson (back when Michael Jackson was a black man), and continuing with "Come Eileen".
"My dad listens to that song!" the Mark notes idly. Next to him, Alex has given Heather his tie, among other things.
Mary-Kate is keeping up a running commentary on the music, and eventually finds another halfway "danceable" song: "I'm A Believer". The two go up into the crowd.The Mark begins to move from one foot to the other, every slowly, and speeds up to catch up with the beat. He takes Mary-Kate's hands.
For a single moment, he's back in 8th Grade. "Look at me, Nina! I can SWING!"
Then he tries to spin her, and it vanishes. But he's having a little bit of fun, even if he can't get in tune or step with his partner, so no harm done. It's turning out to be a nice night here with Mary-Kate.
That is, until he steps on her characteristically bare feet.

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