The figure-disrespecting unitard on my sister Teresa
Not that the ballroom dance costumes were beautiful or anything. They were hot-magenta dresses and if that wasn't bad enough, on the day of the big performance, the leaders - get this - stapled giant sequins all over the skirt. It was a hot day, too, so all us girls had shiny bright pink faces to match our shiny, bright pink dresses.
On a local level, before the big performance, we learned the dance steps from volunteer teachers in groups of eight couples. As for our dancing partners, they were more or less assigned to us. Somehow, I ended up with a guy (who I'll call Jose only because his real name is unusual enough to give away his identity immediately) who must have been something like 6'6". For those of you who don't know me in real life, I am 5'2" - and I was probably even a little bit shorter at the time. I don't know what the dance teachers saw in Jose and me that led them to put us together, but I did my best to stand on my tiptoes to be able to reach his shoulder with my arm fully stretched out. I was 15 and awkward, and having a dance partner twice as tall as me just made things worse.
You see, I was participating in this dance festival against my will. Honestly, my mom made me do it. Like many other things in life, I eventually ended up having fun and being glad I did it, but it was touch and go there for a while. I remember plenty of Saturday morning practices where my friend Kristen and I just dozed on the couches in the lobby of the church building wishing we were somewhere else - anywhere else.
And yet, I did learn the dance well enough to be ready for the big performance, to be held at a local high school. All the groups of dancers from our area would be performing there, so our set of eight couples would combine with many other sets of eight couples for one big, impressive display of parental-enforced-participation ballroom dancing.
I've never been clear on the details, but somehow when we got to the performance venue, there was a change of plans and I was no longer in my original group of eight couples. Instead, one other couple, as well as Jose and me, had been moved to our own square. Just by ourselves. Just us two couples. Everyone else would be dancing in the relative oblivion of being one of dozens of people dancing in a small area. We would have just four in a wide open space.
I was good friends with the other girl in our situation, and I guess we just decided to be good sports about it. I can't speak to her abilities, but my dancing skills were certainly not up to being featured in a major performance. Still, we danced in our little piece of center stage and I think we did OK.
After the performance was over, I remember trying to convince myself that maybe there had been so many dancers after all that nobody noticed us four in our own little square. No such luck - a friend of ours said something like, "So were you guys the featured dancers? I noticed you dancing all by yourselves right in front." D'oh!
A month or two later, we had the regional performance (with 10,000 total youth participating in all different kinds of dances) and it ended up being tons of fun. At that performance, my friend and I did end up back in a set of eight couples, so there was no more special featured dancing. But while I did manage to hang on to Jose as my partner, we were reassigned to a group of older (non-teen) dancers who seemed kind of professional. My friend ended up dancing with an older man (if I recall correctly, Jennifer).
Did anyone else experience forced fun in their teenage years?