Tonight my kids went to their first middle school dance. This had me remembering my first middle school dance – a dance I would like to forget.
I had a big crush on a girl in my class. Somehow I got the nerve to call her house and ask if she would consider going to the dance with me. Before I got to her though, I had to go through her mom. As a dad now I couldn’t imagine a boy calling my house asking to talk to one of my daughters. Fortunately for Mrs Doe, my voice was so high she likely did not even realize that a boy was calling for her daughter.
The daughter gets on the phone and my mouth goes dry. I can barely speak. Somehow I manage to blurt out, “Will you go to the dance with me?” This is what I remember the response being, “What, no.” Click. Dial tone.
I was shattered but I had played enough baseball to know that you didn’t always get a base hit every time you got up to the plate. What happened the next day will stay with me forever.
I walked into school and it was as if I was walking in slow motion. People who never said boo to me came up to me and asked how it was to, “Live life in the fast lane.” I was called a “ladies man,” and “Casanova.” These were not terms of endearment mind you; the young lady in question could not believe a nerd like me had the audacity to ask her out to the dance and decided to tell everyone about the horror of my phone call.
I don’t remember particularly liking middle school; I was bullied a little and didn’t do much to improve my social stature. At our school talent show my friend Chris and I got up and did a 2 person stand-up act using jokes we read in a Boys Life magazine. Talk about hearing a pins drop! My own parents denied that they knew me three times before the cock crowed.
No, it was not an easy time but as I look back on these two specific events now I am evaluating them through a different filter; through the eyes of an almost 40 year old man. I look back on that 7th grade version of me and am actually quite proud of myself. I didn’t know anyone else back then who had the courage to ask a girl to a dance. Subsequently in high school I didn’t have much trouble finding dates. Today, making cold calls/sales calls is almost second nature.
Additionally, when I was younger I would think back to my “stand-up” experience and cringe. Today, though, I laugh about it. My friend Chris and I had the guts to go on stage and take a risk. Sure, we bombed, but at least we tried. Today, I get up in front of hundreds of people on a regular basis to speak at conferences and am very comfortable making presentations to senior executives.
While middle school wasn’t easy at the time, I do believe the risks I took back then combined with the experiences I have had since have set me up to be the person I am today. I am not ashamed of them now. Rather, I embrace them as part of the building blocks of who I am (and I am very comfortable and proud of who I am).
My son called me multiple times from the dance tonight to tell me that he was bored. He wanted to be picked up early but I encouraged him to stick with it. He just might learn something tonight that he won’t figure out for another 28 years.