• Jim Pfiffer

Whatever happened to school dances?

Weekly humor column by Jim Pfiffer, Elmira NY


Do kids dance anymore?

When I was a kid, schools and churches held teenage dances almost every weekend, featuring live bands, chaperones and underage kids puking from drinking Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine.


If you are a Boomer, you remember Boone’s Farm wines, or maybe not, because Boone’s Farm wines contained formaldehyde, for real. If you drank it, you’re lucky if you can remember your name. Fortunately, I only drank enough to forget my last name (I have it sewn into tags on all my clothes).


Anyway, what the hell was I talking about? Oh, yeah, dances.


Dances were as much a part of growing up as pimples, skipping class and after-school detention.


We never had DJs at our dances. Hell no. We grooved to live music by local bands with totally hip and cool names like Ma’s Apple Pie, The Puzzle and The Boone’s Farm Boomers. (I made up the last one, but wouldn’t that have been a great name for a groovy Boomer band?)


Dances provided us the opportunities to work on our social skills, meet girls and get beat up. Every dance, in every grade, had at least one oversize bully who had flunked so many times he was dating the female teachers. Every dance also had at least one big mouth wiseass who got punched by the bully.


That wiseass was me.


My friends and I didn’t go to dances to actually dance. Hell no. “Dancin’ was for nerds” was our motto. It was a great motto because we didn’t know how to dance. Even though some of us, after our second or third bottle of Boone’s Farm, tried to dance, but we always ended up looking like nerds stricken with a neurological disorder that made us jerk about like fish flopping around on shore.


There were always a couple of guys who were good dancers. One of my close friends, Tony, was one such guy. All the girls wanted to dance with him. Of course, we made fun of him, for it, to compensate for our dancing disabilities and to make us feel better because we knew he would be holding hands with a pretty girl as he walked her home after the dance, while we would be stuck holding hands with a National Geographic magazine.


So, if we didn’t dance, what did we do at a dance, you may ask?


I’ll tell you what we did. We practiced dance segregation. We spent the entire dance standing around on one side of the gym, punching one another in the arms and making farting noises with our armpits, while secretly watching the girls, on the other side of the gym, and wondering why it was cool for them to dance together and go to the bathroom together. I still don’t get it.


One time, I tried dancing with a guy, as a joke.


Got punched in the mouth.


Slow dancing was a different story. Every guy can slow dance. Put your arms around a girl and move from side to side, hopefully in time with the beat and without kicking her ankles.


“Hey Jude” by the Beatles, was my favorite slow dance because it lasted nearly as long as eighth grade (the first time). I was never sure where to put my arms around a girl while slow dancing -- her neck or waist, hold her hands or grab her by the shoulders like she was in for a good shaking. So, I stood there with my arms limp at my side and let the girl position them (usually tied behind my back).


It was during these slow dances that I realized I was the closest I was going to get to kissing a girl for a long, long time and I wanted the song to last a long, long time. I tried to impress the girl by softly singing along, in her ear, to “Hey Jude:” “Remember to let her into your heart, then you can start to make it better, better AAAHHH!”


I know I impressed her, because she whispered back, “Your singing voice sucks, you’re spitting in my ear and if you don’t get your hands off my butt, I’m going to retie them behind your back.”


In sixth grade, when everything in life was awkward, I thought girls were icky. We had to dance with them in gym class. I think we did the foxtrot, cha-cha or some other lame dance we would never again do in our lives. I didn’t hold my dance partner close back then. Nope. I held her so far away that I was in the locker room and she was on the gym floor.


In seventh grade, most girls had a growth spurt and were taller than the boys. When I slow-danced, my head was at just the right height to rest on my partner’s bosoms.


Got slapped in the face.


One time, on a dare, I asked our really hot junior high French teacher if she wanted to dance. She didn’t have time to answer before I got punched in the face.


How was I to know she was engaged to the class bully?


Que diable?


Now that I think about it, I know why kids today don’t go to dances, because those dances make memories that will last a lifetime, no matter how much counseling you undergo trying to erase them.

Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page West Elmira Neighborhood and ElmiraTelegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.

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