This Thought Catalog article on the “10 Most Crucial Middle School Dance Jams” has served as an inspiration for today’s post. While reading it, I started having flashbacks to my awkward/awesome pre-teen years.
I saw myself heading into the bathroom with friends after the bell rang to change out of our abercrombie kids’ graphic tees into our sparkly colored Limited Too cami’s. I remember not having to wear a bra with these “cami’s” because they had a built in one. If I ever tried to wear one of these tanks without a bra now, I certainly would not be in any place to leave my bedroom – never mind go to a middle school dance.
I then remember heading downstairs to the cafeteria where the lunch tables would be folded up against the walls and music by the likes of Usher, Nelly, Train, and Mystikal (remember him?) would start to fill up the open space. After hanging in the hallway right next to the cafeteria doors, people slowly started to come in because even back then it wasn’t cool to be early. Girls gathered together on one side of the room. Some moved their hips around while standing in circles of friends. Others sat against the wall (alone). Others giggled with friends while running around the dance floor, attempting to keep on an eye on their crushes.
The boys took up the other side of the room. Some stood in pacts (the cooler you were, the closer to the inside of the pact you would be). Some sat against the wall, waiting for their parents to pick them up because they forced them to go (and cell phones weren’t around yet to call for an early ride). Others stood behind the girls dancing in circles, sketchily watching them and waiting for that K.C. & Jo Jo song to come on so they could make their move.
Some of the older kids would stand in groups of both boys and girls… but this was only like one or two groups of people. The only other time you saw a gender-mixed circle would be later in the dance during a Ja Rule or Jay-Z song, when a gigantic circle would form and the awkward Spanish guy from your English class would get in the middle and start doing the worm. Wtf?
After the dance ended, the sun would still be shining and kids would head outside searching for their parent’s car in the endless line of mini vans.
The above memories come from the “after school dances” my school had on Fridays every few months. These dances ended at 4pm. Our parents probably had to leave work early to get us (or were still at work and had us go home with a friend), and some of us had already fulfilled our childhood fantasies of slow dancing with someone of the opposite sex or giving a peck to our significant other of the week. All of this done by 4pm. Talk about starting early.
This “after school dance” was not the only type of middle school dance, though. There was also the “evening dance.” And in comparison to the “after school dance,” which was like the nice girl who did her homework every night, the “evening dance” was like the person that copied it from her every morning. Yes, the bad seed. Some of my best pre-teen memories come from those hot and heavy dances that took place from 7-10 once a month on Friday.
When you walked into the Church (yes, Church. Nevermind the fact that I and a good number of other dance-goers were Jewish, the location always seemed a bit odd), it would be full of kids ready to get down and dirty. And I’m not exaggerating. One night, rumors spread like wildfire around the Church dance floor that one girl had given another guy head beneath a pile of jackets. This has bothered me to that day… and not just because we were at a Church… My jacket was in that pile.
Kids who once separated themselves from the opposite sex at the “after school dance” suddenly changed their ways at the “evening dance.” They no longer needed to act innocent because parent chaperones were limited, it was dark, and they didn’t have to worry about associating the place they eat lunch with the place they touch boys (or girls).
There was still a touch of innocence at this dance though. We danced to the Venga Boys chanting “we like to party.” We formed lines and danced the Cotton Eyed Joe (some of us did the new/”dirty version” which, if I remember correctly, wasn’t too dirty). We danced the modern day Electric Slide – The Cha Cha Slide– which was modern because the commands were rapped by a sounding middle-aged man. We constantly chanted “who let the dogs out?” – a question I still ask myself to this day – while jumping up and down. And we swooned over the opposite sex, asking friends of friends of friends to set us up during the next slow song (where girls would experience the casual ass grab and boys would be ignored while their dance partner mingled with her friends who covered your spaced-out embrace from every angle).
However, our innocence started to fade when our favorite songs came on. We downloaded the in-explicit version of all of these songs on Napster, so we knew all the words and weren’t afraid to shout them. This was especially inappropriate during songs such as 1. Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” when we ensured everyone that the person who got caught having sex with ___ was not us, 2. Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie,” when we let everyone know we were only dating our boyfriends and girlfriends for the sex, 3. The Bloodhound Gang’s “The Bad Touch,” when we not only sang about f*cking our partner like crazy – we made hand gestures, and 3. Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady,” when we screamed the word “clitoris,” not knowing what it meant, in a Church.
In addition to being oblivious of the inappropriate lyrics we were singing, we also felt the urge to dance inappropriately. The evening dance was all about mastering how to grind. We grinded with boys. We grinded with girls. We grinded against the f*cking wall we loved it so much. Before the middle school dance, the only intimacy we ever felt was between our hands and our body. But at these life-changing dances, our bodies became very close with other bodies. Some of us had already gone through puberty, and some of us hadn’t. So our hormones were raging at different times and different speeds. It was all so new. But thanks to the middle school dance, our urges were let out of the closet and on to the dance floor.
The middle school dance played a major role in our lives. Whether it was right after school or at night… in a cafeteria or in a church… it taught us how to dance with the opposite sex, how to manipulate people (into dancing with you), and (for the girls) how to give a guy a boner. Experiencing the middle school dance is like experiencing underage drinking. You would most likely have a lot of trouble experiencing the next chapter of your life without it.
Now, in 2012, the music and the style has changed – but the middle school dance themes still remain the same. I’m sure the inappropriateness is at an all time high (not only are popular music lyrics worse, but kids actually know what the words mean… oh, and they’re probably more sexually advanced than we were)… but it’s still a middle school dance. Meaning it’s awkward, it’s awesome, and it’s necessary. Long live the middle school dance.