The author on a date

Finding myself in History: Dumped Before the Dance

Fall is the season for sweaters, leaf watching, and football games. With football comes Homecoming.

With Homecoming comes the dance and memories of strapless chiffon dresses and lingering kisses and…getting dumped. This trip down memory lane is for all ladies going single to the homecoming dance. Rock on, sisters.

Dumped before the Dance

When Dave walked through the door, his black eyes darted to me. He nodded and looked away.

You nod at the postman or the old lady who lives across the street. You don’t nod at the girl you are taking to the homecoming dance.

Dave’s cheeks were apple red from the bitter wind that blew through the door of Pam’s house. He looked good in his letter jacket with those broad shoulders. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and lay my head on his granite chest. My brain felt fuzzy and warm from the can of beer I’d guzzled. I walked over to Dave and leaned my head on his arm, inhaling his musky Old Spice scent. I lifted my hand up to touch the back of his neck, but I moved too slowly. Or maybe Dave moved too quickly. He stepped back and my arm collapsed.

“Hey, Mike, hand me a beer, man,” Dave said. Mike tossed him a can of Pabst, and Dave headed to the couch where Paula sat regaling everyone with tales of what an asshole her father was.

I moved toward the couch, but when Dave continued to stare at Paula as though he hadn’t heard her whining about her dad a million times before, I dropped down on the floor next to the recliner where Pam sat. It felt safer there somehow. I opened another beer. It was warm and bitter, but I drank it anyway.

A little while later when I was headed to the bathroom, Mike cornered me.

“Come downstairs with me for a minute. I gotta tell you something,” he said.

“What is it?” I had to pee.

He steered me toward the basement steps. “Come one. It’s private.”

I’d stopped drinking after my second beer, but I stumbled as I walked down the steep steps. It wasn’t the alcohol. My legs must have known something was up before my brain did. I leaned against the wall outside Pam’s bedroom.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Mike jerked his head, flipping sandy bangs off his forehead. He studied me. “You sober?”

“Yeah. What’s going on? I really have to pee.”

“Dave doesn’t want to take you to homecoming anymore.” Mike spoke in a rush like he wanted to spit the words out.

My body reeled back as if he’d shoved me, and my head bounced against the wall. Homecoming was a week away! I was on court! My dress was burgundy with spaghetti straps and a high waist. For once I thought I looked good.

But no girl could look good when the entire student body found out that her date had dumped her only days before the dance. I might as well return the dress and wear a sandwich board with LOSER printed on both sides. Maybe kids would feel so sorry for me they’d elect me queen.

Mike put his hands on my shoulders. “He’s an asshole, Judy. I told him he’s an asshole.”

As if I’d opened a spigot in my head, tears started pouring out of my eyes. Then a strange thing happened. Even as I stood there bawling, I sort of mentally flew above my body and watched the scene below.

Mike hugged me and stroked my hair. He made me rub my sleeve across my nose to wipe away the snot. He was my best guy friend and an expert at babying girls with wounded pride.

“I’ll take you to prom, Judy,” he offered. Crybaby Judy looked at him through blurry eyes and wailed louder. Now I was a pity date.

Floating Judy chuckled at the farcical comedy playing out beneath her. She knew what was really going on.

I didn’t even really like Dave. He drank too much at parties. He smoked and his teeth showed it. He got shitty grades. But he was a football player, and he let me wear his jersey on Fridays.  I was a member of a club that only a few select girls were allowed to enter and that made me special. Now I’d been summarily booted out of that club. No more football jersey Fridays and no date to the dance.

Dave could probably hear me cry through the floor boards, but I didn’t care. Floating Judy told Crybaby Judy to sob louder. So I did. Channeling the spirit of one of those women from ancient times, I practically beat my chest and tore my hair.


Finally, I slumped down on the basement floor, all cried out. Pam came downstairs and talked me off the floor the way only a best friend can.

When I slunk upstairs, I was sober, humiliated, and mad as hell. Dave was sprawled out on the couch, a beer in his hand. He peeked at me under half-closed lids. I glared back. He shrank into the cushions, no longer looking big or strong or handsome. He looked like an oversized ferret. His dark eyes darted back and forth and his smoker’s teeth rested on his lower lip.

Being dumped sucked, but I had to accept the truth that Floating Judy had already grasped. Dave was the honest one. He didn’t like me that much and had the guts to admit it (although he got a surrogate to do his dirty work). I didn’t like him that much either and was really just using him to get into the Football Jersey Club.

At that moment, I took a little leap toward adulthood. I didn’t need a date for the Homecoming dance. I had friends. Lots of them. I’d go solo with my head held high. After all, it would be a shame to waste such a beautiful dress.



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