Memories of a matric dance

2011-10-10 00:00

AT this time of year many schools have their matric dance. For me this is a time of painful memories. It should be a celebration of the end of school, and the beginning of adulthood.

But for some of us it is a time when peer pressure and teenage angst come together.


My mother said I could go to the matric dance in a new designer gown only if I had a partner. This posed a few potential problems for me, a wallflower of note. Undeterred I decided to make a shortlist of boys who I thought would go with me to the ball.

This was 20 years ago and I still bear the emotional scars of this bruising encounter. My

posse of pals gathered around me one break and we came up with a shortlist of five potential candidates. In a co-ed high school I was not short of candidates; the problem was that I was not one of the “in-crowd”.

I was one of the nerdy girls who guys went to when they wanted their homework done or when they wanted to borrow money for tuck. Quite frankly, if my mother had asked me to climb Mount Everest it would have been easier. But I was as always optimistic and strategic.

First, I slipped a note to Candidate A — he was a red- head with freckles and had no known girlfriend. The note was slipped into his biology book. The answer was an apparent negative later that day when his friends roared with laughter as they walked past me. Okay, that went well. I guessed it was a negative.

Candidate B — was an athlete who was slightly shy. He was tall, lanky and had beautiful chocolate-brown eyes. I asked a girl in his class if she would find out if he was going and who he was going with. The next day I found out he was going with a crowd from the class. He also rushed past me with eyes averted whenever he saw me. I was beginning to get a complex.

I waited a few weeks before zooming in on Candidate C. A Greek guy who was far from Prince Charming. He was hyper-active, short and perverted. “Hey man, I can’t go. I am going with my cousin’s friend from the other class. She’s got great bazookas — bargain.” Damn.

My mother was getting anxious. I was developing a nervous tic. The fabric had been purchased, a pattern had been selected and I was waiting for a date — oh the pressure.

Candidate D saw me coming a mile away and said he was already taken.

I was beginning to feel like the plague. A guy in my class nudged me in biology and said: “Hey, you’re looking for a date, so let’s do this.” I did not have the heart to say no. I smiled weakly and said: “Okay, cool.”

A few days before the dance, I heard in the passages of the school, that my date had a girlfriend. I cornered him and told him casually that he could wriggle off the hook, if he liked. “No,” he said. “I promised you I would go with you.”

On the big night I got the obligatory corsage. But it was not my imagination that his suit matched his new girlfriend’s dress. The minute after we had our photo taken he vanished into the night to meet his lady love. I felt miserable and abandoned.

My single friends danced and giggled, and I joined them. I cursed my mother for forcing me into this charade. I watched as my “partner” cosied up with his girlfriend. I observed as Candidate B danced like a frenzied grasshopper on acid — eeuw.

Candidate A was kicked out of the dance at 10.30 pm for drunk behaviour. He was drinking neat vodka from some supplies he and his friends had stashed in the toilet cisterns of the town hall. Oh, what a dreamboat. Candidate C slow-danced with his cousin’s friend — his face deeply embedded in her enormous bosoms.

On the other hand, my hair was shining and golden, a mass of curls falling around my shoulders. And my mermaid dress was very fashionable at the time, figure hugging and then swooshing out mid-calf into a swirl of purple silk and netting.

That night I was transformed from an ugly duckling into a graceful swan, but sadly — for my mother — no one was looking.

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