I was a little shocked. I never expected to have to deal with Liv going to dances for a few more years. But, apparently, as part of the recruiting process, parochial high schools in our city put on dances during January and February every year for eighth graders only.
Punch is served and cookies. Invitations are sent to all incoming 8th graders who attend parochial grade schools. So, Liv received her first invite in the mail last week from Mother of Mercy High School. This school had been on Liv's "shadow list" (a list of schools that she would spend a day at shadowing another girl to see if she liked the school) but she had not been overly impressed with Mother of Mercy and it quickly was eliminated. It eventually came down to Peace Academy, Santa Maria's (both for girls only) and Talbott's, a private non denominational school which is only a block away from our house and convenient, but ultimately Liv tossed that one out on it's ear when, as we sat in the waiting area, witnessed a small child ask the secretary in a snotty voice to give him change for a 100 dollar bill that his father had given him for lunch money. Too entitled for our taste, so Liv didn't even go through with the shadowing scheduled for that day.
She eventually settled happily on Peace Academy, but of course, that hasn't stopped every parochial high school from courting her and her friends.
When I first saw the invite, I reacted in typical knee jerk reaction.
No. No. No. She was in 8th GRADE. She was WAY too young to go to a dance. Did she even really want to go? She surprised me by saying yes, that her friends had told her that according to their older siblings, that these dances were actually fun.
I carefully warned Liv not to say ONE FREAKING WORD to Bing about this while I called a few of her friend's parents or accosted them in the bleachers at Liv's basketball games.
Liv's idea was that she would go with 3 friends: Lei, Madeleine, and Cydney. So, since all three are on her basketball team, I talked to their parents.
Lei's parents are part of Doctors Without Borders and in Syria, so I couldn't consult them, but I spoke to her Aunt and Uncle, with whom she resides with her two younger brothers. They both told me while they, too, thought the idea of an 8th grader going to a dance was kind of silly, that they had given Lei permission to go and even offered to drive the girls to and from the dance. They said they'd be glad to take Liv.
Maddie's parents were fine with it too. Maddie has two older brothers who go to a Prep academy and they said that they both attended the dances in 8th grade and had lots of fun. That it was all very wholesome and while there was a DJ, the songs were typically boppy and not ones with explicit raps, etc.
Cydney's parents agreed. Cydney is the middle child of 7 children and her three older siblings had gone to these dances and it all went fine.
So, I thought about it for a few days and finally consented for Liv to be picked up by Lei's Aunt and taken home by her Uncle.
And then I had to tell Bing.
All hell broke loose, as I had feared.
She was dead set agin it. Could not believe that I was actually consenting to this. Although I don't like doing it, I had to pull the I am the MAMA card.
So, the dance was on Friday. Liv showed me what she planned on wearing and I approved. It was the dress that she wore on Christmas and she looks lovely in it.
Was not crazy about the Prague boots that she chose to wear with it but since when am I a fashion plate, so I kept my trap shut,
Liv doesn't wear makeup. Has never asked to wear it. But, she cautiously asked if she could wear some lip gloss, maybe some blush and mascara? She and I went into my bathroom and went though my makeup box. Which is skimpy, to be honest. She nixed the mascara (how can people wear this stuff, it's GLOPPY!) and thought the blush looked "funny." She eventually settled on Vaseline for her lips. Shiny. No color.
I suggested that she wear her hair back in a braid down her back as she usually does. She used to have hair down to her waist but cut it to shoulder length two months ago and donated the hair to The Childhood Leukemia foundation as her Christmas charity gift. She decided to go with wearing it down and pulled back to the side with a barrette.
Black tights to match her red and black dress.
And then, suddenly it was dance night and the doorbell was ringing. Cranky butt Bing stayed in her office and refused to come out in protest of me letting Liv go to a dance.
Lei, Maddie and Cyd came in, all dolled up too. They are nice looking girls. ALL on Liv's basketball team. Lei is the shortest, coming in around 5'2 (still 2 inches taller than me!) and is small boned, petite, but fast as lightning on the court. She has long shiny black hair and flashing black eyes. She and her parents are Hawaiian. Maddie is tall, almost as tall as Liv at 5'7. She has a womanly hour glass figure already, with large breasts and lips that are full and pouty. To my horror, she was done up in a rather tarty looking way in full makeup. Cyd, the trio tomboy looked exactly as she always does on the basketball court. Apricot colored hair, freckles and a lanky body, she looked ill at ease. I was glad to note that Maddie was the only one in full makeup. Lei had pink lipstick on but Cyd looked as if she had gone the Vaseline route as Liv did.
I had promised Liv that I would not take photos, so I kept that promise. (Only because Lei's Aunt told us that she planned to line the girls up at the dance and take their picture with her phone and she actually did that because she texted it to me. SO cute!)
So...then...the wait was on. Bing and I filled the time with grocery shopping and going to the gym. We got home around 9, just as the dance was ending. About a half hour later, Liv came home. Her face looked tired as she walked in the door, but not really happytired.
I started to ask her how it went but stopped when I saw her ask no questions face. She just bid us goodnight, said she was tired and went up to bed.
Bing and I looked at each other. She had her I TOLD YOU SO look on her face.
We went up to bed soon after. After I slipped into my flannel nightgown (I tell you, I'm just a sexpot at bedtime), I noticed a soft light under Liv's door. I knocked softly but before she could say "Don't come in, please!" I opened the door. Liv was sitting on her bed, in her zippy monkey pjs, holding Socks in her lap, petting him.
I shut the door behind me.
She spoke before I did.
"Mother, I don't feel like talking. Can we do this tomorrow?"
I hesitated and then nodded. Headed back to the door. And then I heard her smaller voice.
I turned back. She held open her blanket for me and I sat down next to her on the bed.
Her eyes were shiny with tears.
She talked in such a whisper that I could barely hear her.
"Mama, nobody asked me to dance."
I took hold of one of her hands and Socks rearranged himself so that he was sprawling over both of us.
I took my other hand and pulled a lank of her hair behind her ear as I'd done since she was three. And then I gently scratched the inside of her arm, which has been her comfort zone since she was three too.
"Well, I guess I did dance. But....it wasn't til the very end."
I smiled. Asked her to tell me about that.
"Can I start at the beginning?"
I said yes, suggested that we tuck into her bed first. Turn on the electric mattress pad. We did.
Socks opted to avoid going under the covers, settled on Liv's feet, looking out the window at a near full moon.
Liv and I lay side by side in her new full sized bed that she's only had for a few weeks. I'm embarrassed to say that she had to ASK me for a full sized bed because she'd outgrown her grade school single bed long ago. The little bed with the canapy with the gauzy mesh hanging down from it that I loved and she did not. She now has a plain black walnut full sized bed that is much more to her Hermoine Granger style.
Liv took a deep breath and began.
When we got there, it was packed. It was in the gym and it had been decorated in this ridiculous disney like decorating theme of Cinderella. Lots of boys in nice shirts and us girls in our dresses. Girls on one side, boys on the other. And then the music started and Lei, Maddie and even Cyd got asked to dance RIGHT away and no one asked me. I wasn't the only, though, so I was kinda okay. I mean, Maddie and Cyd have brothers who go to Prep, so they know lots of the boys, so I figured that they would dance a lot. But, Lei and I had been a little nervous. Turns out Lei didn't have to be, she danced more than ALL of us. But, the songs just kept coming and NO ONE asked me. I sat in a chair and drank punch for a while and then I went to the bathroom and sat in the stall for a while. I almost called you to come get me, but then I figured that it would be chicken to do that, so I didn't. But, Mama, I felt embarrassed. I felt as if I was the ONLY ONE. I mean, I know I'm not all that pretty, but why didn't anyone ask me?
I told her that sometimes things work out that way. Maybe she looked too unapproachable, maybe the boys felt shy around her. It didn't matter, there would be so many more dances.
She went on.
I eventually started talking to this really nice woman serving punch. She told me that she went to Mother of Mercy when she was a girl and now was the lunch lady there. She had hoped that her daughters would go to Mother of Mercy too, but she'd only had two sons. She sort of saved me by asking me questions and keeping us talking so I didn't just have to SIT there. Then her son came to pick her up because THANK YOU GOD the dance only had a half hour left. I'd barely seen Lei, Maddie or Cyd. They danced nearly every dance. Cyd told me later that she'd felt bad for me, almost asked one of the boys dancing with her to ask me. I'm so glad that she didn't do that, Mama! How awful that would have been! Anyway, the punch lady's son came in. She introduced us and he got us punch, although truthfully, I was so sick of drinking punch by that time, and we sat down at a table. He told me his name was Joseph and that he went to the high school where Bing teaches, that he's a sophomore. He told me that his mother works as a janitor at Bing's school at night, her name is Maisy. Maybe she knows her? Anyway, he said that his mom had always hoped for a daughter to go to Mother or Mercy, but that it was just him and his brother who was in college in Minnesota now. His dad left when he was only two, so he doesn't really remember him. So, he asked me why I wasn't dancing and I said that no one had asked me. I was embarrassed, but I mean, why lie? And he was so nice, Mama. Anyway, he got up and talked to one of the nuns and then came back and told me that she told him that it was ok for him to ask me to dance even though he wasn't an 8th grader and it was okay as long as he didn't ask for my number or flirt with me! We kind of laughed about that. So, he got up and held out his hand and said, "Miss Liv, may I have this dance?" and I said ok and when we were walking to the dance floor, he whispered that his mother had made him take dancing classes in grade school so he didn't think he'd mess up too much. So, we were laughing and started dancing and it was nice. So nice of him, Mama! Everyone was looking at us, probably because he was older and one of the about three African American kids there. And he was a good dancer. And then the DJ put on this sort of weird song and called it the "last dance waltz" and Mama, it REALLY was a waltz! So, Joseph whispered to me that he actually DID know how to waltz from all of his dancing lessons and I said that I did too since Uncle Vince taught me long ago and so...we waltzed! There were only a few of us really waltzing, the rest of the kids were just sort of holding each other and gliding around. But, Joseph and me...we were waltzing. And then it was over and the lights came up. Lei, Maddie and Cyd came and found me and it was time to go. Joseph secretly handed me a paper with his digits on it and said to call anytime I needed a friend....."
She stopped there, choked. Nestled into my shoulder for a short bit. When she spoke again, her voice was sad. So sad.
"Joseph reminded me of Sven, Mama. Back when he wasn't all messed up...."
I didn't know what to say. She'd had a tough night. I wanted to soothe her, not make her sadder, but I spoke up anyway.
I told her that she's had to learn early that sometimes the people we love the most can be the ones who disappoint us the most too. That we mustn't lose hope for Sven. He may or may not come back to us.
Liv sort of snorted then. Said she could care less if he ever came back, that she thought he was just an asshole, (sorry, Mama, I mean a creep!) for hurting his Mother that way. That she had put up a Christmas tree for him and everything and then he'd just ditched her. How creepy was THAT?
I let it go. Liv needs to feel this anger. And sometimes when we can't stand the pain, anger is the only substitute that works. I know this.
I told her that I was glad that she had found Joseph or that he had found her. I also told her that I hoped she didn't think of him as boyfriend material because 8th grade was WAY TOO YOUNG. The little smart ass said WAY TOO YOUNG right along with me. She knows me well. She said that no, it hadn't been like that...that he had been like a nice big brother, well....like Sven used to be. She said that she was dreading the next dance.
"So, do you want to skip them now?" I asked her.
She thought for a moment. And then said, "No. But, at least now I know what to expect. Maybe I'll find a bigger group of girls to go with so that I'm not alone. I'm not a coward, Mama. I just wish...I just wish I was a little prettier, I guess...."
Now it was MY turn to choke up. I stroked her hair. Told her that she WAS beautiful. That I didn't know why she hadn't been asked to dance, but that it was THEIR loss.
She snuggled into me. "You have to say that because you're my Mother."
"I say that because I know your soul, Livvy. And trust me, you are beautiful, inside and out. Joseph saw that. Maisy saw that."
Her breath was already deepening, she'd fallen asleep. I gingerly slid out of the covers and then tucked them around her. I reached down to pet Socks, kiss the top of his head. And went back to my bedroom.
Bing was fast asleep.
I woke her up to tell her about Liv. She listened, holding my hand as I relayed everything. She didn't answer right away and with real surprise, I heard her small gasp. She was crying. Bing rarely cries.
"Oh, honey," I said.
"I just can't stand it that she was hurt tonight," she said. "She's our baby. Our sweet baby Liv. I want to go smash all those dumb ass boy's faces in. God, she must have felt so alone. When you said she'd sat in a stall in the bathroom contemplating calling us, I just....GOD...I would have gone and got her in a second! In a second!"
I said I knew how she felt. Agreed. But, that I was somehow proud that she hadn't called. She'd gotten through it. On her own. And with the help of one very remarkable boy named Joseph.
I could hear Bing grit her teeth. "I'm grateful to him, yes. And I actually do know his Mother. She's the night janitor at my school. I know Joseph a little bit, not in any of my classes, but a nice kid. Good looking. Not into the drug crowd. But. That doesn't mean I want him CALLING her. She's only in 8th GRADE!"
I had said along with her, "She's only in 8th GRADE!"
We both laughed softly, held each other.
And fell asleep.
So, one dance down. More to go. Give me strength. Give me strength. This mothering business is not for sissies.