True Life: I’ve Never Been to Homecoming
Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and get a do-over in life? If you do, what part would you like to do over? Here's a different question- if someone actually gave you the opportunity to do something over, would you take it?
For me, I had always wondered what it would be like to experience homecoming. Sitting in the stands with my friends at the game on Friday night, followed by a slumber party and late night phone calls to boys and then spending the entire next day curling hair, putting on make up, dressing up and dancing the night away. I wanted to do that just once.
It's always awkward explaining to people why I never went in the first place. My freshman and sophomore years in high school, I was the pimple faced, greasy haired new kid; by my junior and senior year I had transferred schools and was living out of my car. Participating in spirit week, going to games and getting pretty for dances wasn't really a priority. Survival was.
Fast forward 20 years and this weekend I finally got the opportunity to go to Homecoming. Thanks to the help from a listener and local DJ, Nick, I was able to attend a local high school's game and dance. He immediately reached out to school officials about the idea and they were more than accommodating and welcoming.
However, the experience wasn't exactly what I had hoped for, and that's nothing against the school; it was me. It started on Friday when I showed up for the game; I was greeted by two boys who were asked to chaperone me for the night; I thought that was very sweet, especially when one of them asked me to be his date. Adorable, right? That's what I thought, too. We spent the entire game in the rain, clapping along with the cheerleaders and standing around gossiping like normal teenagers. It was a great time and I was really looking forward to the dance the next day.
Saturday I woke up feeling like a giddy teenager. I spent the morning volunteering at Becca's Closet, who gave me a beautiful dress to wear, spent some time in the gym and had a complete makeover from Studio 316; I was ready.
But part of me was nervous. This wasn't some event where people were expecting me to show up; this wasn't the "Mandy James Show" or "Homecoming 2016 featuring Mandy James," this was just me, showing up at a dance, in hopes of having a night to remember...and it was. Just not how I planned. But maybe that was my fault?
Here's what happened: I got there fashionably late, about half an hour, and looked around for my "date." He was really the only person, aside from the DJ, that I knew. He was nowhere to be found, so with a little help from the DJ, we were finally able to connect; unfortunately, even though he asked me to be his date, he really didn't want me to be. That's how the night started, with him saying he wanted to hang out with his friends instead. No big deal, I mean, who wants to hangout with a grown up at homecoming? But part of me felt like I was right back in high school again. Instantly, that insecure 17 year old came right out. It didn't matter that I was Mandy James from the Steve Shannon Show, I'm still Mandy, you know?
A little embarrassed, I ran back up to the DJ stand and asked, well now what? Maybe an introduction? There was no plan for me to be the star of this show or intrude on the DJ's presence, that's now how this night was supposed to go, so I just had Nick introduce me. I said my thank yous for letting me crash the homecoming, said let's have some fun and offered to dance with anyone who was willing.
That's when things got more awkward. No one was willing to dance with me. I'd go up to someone and start dancing and they would immediately back away and their friends started laughing. Or boys would push their friends into me and they just looked at me with fear in their eyes and ran. Was it me? Did I smell? Am I ugly? What was going on here?
Thank goodness I met a group of girls the night before who went stag and let me hang with them; I just could not get this group of kids to warm up to me. I felt awkward and silly for thinking that I might be cool to these kids, but who the heck am I? Why did I think these kids would even care that I was there?
Then it hit me. Despite all that I've achieved since leaving high school, I was still that insecure, pimply faced, greasy haired 17-year-old on the inside. But I can't figure out why? I ended up sneaking out 45 minutes before the dance was over, thinking I failed these kids and embarrassed myself by trying to be cool in their eyes and I feel bad for that. Maybe I should've just stopped caring and danced by myself, in the middle of the dance floor. That's what Billy Idol would've done and people still think he's pretty bad ass.
Now I'm not saying that this was a horrible experience; it was a great experience. Everyone at this high school was so nice and I'm happy they let me be a part of their Homecoming, it was just very eye opening for me and made me realize a lot of things about myself that I still need to work on. Maybe I'll get a second chance for prom?