It was my Cinderella moment. I had even had my “ugly stepsisters” moment earlier in the day. In a moment of unparalleled stupidity, standing in front of my open locker while Reg, the daughter of my ride home impatiently tapped her foot, I blurted it out.
“I’m going to go to the dance tomorrow night!”
Reg and her frienemy Elaine hooted with laughter. “You? At the school dance? No way!”
Elaine turned mock sad eyes on me. “Nobody will dance with you, you know.”
“You don’t belong. You know you shouldn’t go,” Reg added.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I did know that I didn’t belong. Of course I knew that nobody would dance with me. I had a mirror, and a sky-high I.Q. It was easy for me to figure out that my tragic appearance and complete lack of social skills were not going to get me to “belle of the ball” status. The best and worst possibility was that I would be utterly ignored. That didn’t matter. Just seeing the school dance, being there, would be good enough.
Reg and Elaine kept the conversation firmly tuned to why I shouldn’t go to the school dance most of the way home. They enlisted Reg’s mom into their cause. She pursed her lips and said that perhaps I was a little young. Perhaps I could wait. Reg and Elaine giggled and snorted and poked each other, very pleased with this pronouncement. They knew I adored Reg’s mother. They were sure I was routed, but they had forgotten someone very important in the equation. My mother.
I told her all about the school dance, about Reg and Elaine, about wanting to go and not belonging. She stuffed me into the most inappropriate outfit for a mid-70s casual school dance ever– an a-line peach polyester skirt with matching lumpy sweater, my hair ruthlessly combed and secured back from my face with plastic barrettes the exact shade of lima beans. She let me off at the curb (quelling my dread fear that she would walk me to the door). Afterwards, she would be waiting in her approximation of a pumpkin, the gargantuan blue Oldsmobile that she loved like a second child.
The gym lights were low. There was no crepe paper decorations, because this was an “informal” dance. In the back was the largest jukebox I’d ever seen. “Diamond Girl” started blasting as the gym doors closed behind me. I’d never heard it before, never heard most of the songs that were played that night. (My mother kept me on a strict musical diet of Classical masterpieces, Patsy Cline, and Englebert Humperdink.)
It was a moment of pure magic and possibility. Even Reg and Elaine appearing to “compliment” my hair and clothes didn’t lessen my joy at being there. I joined the wallflowers and embraced the night. I even got to dance one dance with the boy who danced so badly that no girl would dance with him twice. He wouldn’t turn into my prince, but at least I could truthfully tell my mother that I had danced that night. Perfection. Diamond Girl, indeed.