The prompt for this week's writing group is: "An occasion when you experienced rejection." I could have just submitted my journal but that would have been cheating. A high school memory came immediately to mind:
It is the late 1960's. The scene is a spring high school dance held at the local union hall in a small mining town in northern Idaho. I had just performed all the compulsory moves for a maladroit 16 year old boy. I had enthusiastically shaken hands with my few friends as if I hadn't seen them in years, though we were all playing baseball together just a couple of hours prior. Sometime, during the course of the evening; I would shake hands with the same guys each time we came in contact, as if one of us was a returning POW. It was all we knew to do. I think eye contact without shaking hands would have been too awkward to bear. We would sometimes attempt to talk, but the band was playing "Gloria" so loud that communication was impossible.
Those of us without dates were then required by ritual to stand in front of the stage and watch the band (composed of some of my classmates), standing as close to the speakers as possible. This activity showed any girl that may have been looking in our direction that we possessed great musical knowledge and might be called upon at any time to sit in with the band, Though I, myself, possess slightly less musical skills than the wind-up monkey with cymbals and the closest I would come to joining the band was to fetch an errant drumstick.. A casual stance and the bopping of my head, though undoubtedly totally out of sync with the beat, was the closest I could come to looking cool. And, believe me, I was the polar opposite of cool. I am not certain, but I may have invented the "air guitar".
The drunker or more confident girls would dance with each other. No teenage boy would be caught dead dancing early in the evening. Well, except one guy who was a northern Idaho LSD pioneer. He danced in the halls at school. Even guys that came with dates would hang out in front of the stage with the rest of us handshaking, speaker hugging, losers, while their dates danced.
The dance floor was huge. Though it really only needed to be the size of a jail cell. For a self-conscious teen, like myself, walking across the room to where the eligible girls were compressed against the far wall was every bit as terrifying as crossing a minefield. Everyone in the place could see you crossing the room. There may as well have been a spotlight on you.
For most of us, no floor crossing would happen until "last dance." It was important (for other than the most hopeless dork) to pair up with a girl for the last dance. It was always a slow song, such as "Something" by the Beatles. Of course, I couldn't actually dance. My idea of dancing was to put my arms around the girls waist and lurch around in no particular pattern, trying unsuccessfully not to step on her feat. Since most of the girls were several inches shorter than me, there was an uncomfortable bend necessary that increased the degree of difficulty and made me look like a staggering scoliosis victim. The sole objective of "last dance" was to find a girl that I could give a ride "home".
My lack of dancing prowess was moot if I failed to cull a consort from the bouquet of wallflowers. I had been covertly scouring the line-up all evening for a possible candidate. My strategy was to never approach "A"-listers. It was improbable that a girl who would not acknowledge my existence in the classroom would want to be seen with me, let alone experience my haphazard embrace. "A"-list girls liked good-looking, popular guys. I had the facial features of a young Gandhi. "A"-list girls liked star athletes. I played baseball. Our high school didn't even have a baseball team. Soccer hadn't been introduced yet. If it had been, my studliness factor would have been somewhere between a soccer player and the guy that played the clarinet in the pep band. "A"-list girls liked guys that drove cool cars. In the parking lot was my dad's ten year-old pick-up. The one we drove to the dump.
So I focused on the "B"-team, who were still out of my league, but it was possible that one of them may have drastically lowered her standards by that time of the night, so that an invite from me would be marginally less objectionable to slow-dancing with one of her girlfriends. There was the added barrier in that the "B"-team believed themselves to be "A"-listers due to the stampede of supplicants they could expect at "last dance". This significantly increased the probability of a rebuff.
The truth was that I would go as far down the alphabet as necessary. Bee-lining to a less desirable girl would not only increase the chances of acceptance but also the probability that I was the only guy that would be looking into her lazy eye that evening.
The band had announced that after "Satisfaction" would be the "last dance". I joined the other oddballs on the Bataan Death March to rejection.