by cheri block
May and June signal prom time in American high schools. You know, the Junior Prom and the Senior Ball, lavish dress-up galas where fully blossomed women wear tiny satin purple dresses and stiletto pumps and boys who look five years younger than they, dressed in patent leather dress shoes and purple paisley cummerbunds, bring them purple orchid corsages that need a sharp pin with a fake pearl on the end just to stay on a spaghetti strap or no strap at all.
Have you ever walked by an old pond full of algae and listened to the melodious croaking as male frogs compete for female attention?
I had the distinct privilege of being a part of this “scene” for at least 20 years, as juniors and seniors (and some lucky sophomores) vied for the best dates. Because the boys viewed the women with the hottest bodies and most sordid reputations as the best dates, and because so few women in high school met that description, the ratio of hot dates to awkward boys was small. Most boys ended up taking very sweet women.
Granted, things have changed since I left public school in 1998. The dresses, the shoes, the tattoos, and the after-prom activities come to mind, but one thing rarely changes: the angst that male frogs go through in making the right connection. You know, the fear of rejection and the worry that their date might drop them when the right request comes in, one that now ( I understand from my nieces and nephews), arrives sometimes via text. Booo! How unromantic!
During those hot and frenzied pond-days in my classroom when the din reached orgasmic proportions, many of the guys and the girls sought out my advice, privately, of course.
What I heard and what I said in response to OMG, what I heard, will remain confidential, in case any of my former students who are now in their mid-forties, happen to read this story.
During class time, especially for those in 5th or 6th period, a time in the afternoon when blood sugar dropped and the smell of freshly cut lawn wafted into Room N-9, I resorted to a different lesson plan. To soothe the ache and quell the urge, I used a strategy employed by my 4th grade teacher who used to read us Charlotte’s Web after lunch to calm us down: I would read a story to my high schoolers–one of the funniest stories on the planet–for three days leading up to the prom.
You have to understand that for an academic slave driver like me–who rarely showed a movie and whose students had to read 150 pages of a classic novel a week–to read for three straight days was not only shocking, but odd. My students tilted their heads and murmured how juvenile this activity seemed. That is, until the story got going…
I read them Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories by Jean Shepherd, the tale of three awkward young men in a frog pond, so to speak. This story I read my students for over 20 years, five times a day, for three days and it never got old for me.
On Monday after the Prom, for those who showed up and weren’t nursing a hangover, I feasted my eyes on some of the most exhausted green faces I had ever seen. But hey! It’s a Monday.
“How was your weekend? Did you all do your homework? Did you read those 150 pages of The Winter of Our Discontent? Or were you kissing your Frog Prince over the weekend?”
I almost croaked laughing.