A Wallflower's Guide to Dancing

At school dances, I'm always the one on the outside looking in. I'm the one sitting out; holding someone else's Diet Coke, wondering when it'll all be over. I often wonder why I even bother going to the dances…if I don't go to dance, then why do I go at all?

The truth is—I want to dance. Unlike most wallflowers, I'm not there because someone forced me. I'm there because there's something fascinating about watching other people twirl and jump and laugh and lip sync. And I want ever so badly to kick my high heels off and join them.

But, of course, I don't. I'm too afraid of looking stupid, of doing something wrong, of being laughed at. All that fear balls up inside me and I find that I'm paralyzed at the table, Jenny Kinsley's soda in my hand, watching people having fun. I find that as I watch people on the basketball court-turned dance floor, I find myself with a sad realization that I'll never be able to join them. I'll always be the one sitting out.

I suppose the same principle can be applied to my actual life. I can think of more than one occasion where I was the one sitting out, wishing desperately that I wasn't so afraid or so unable to join the people participating.

In chemistry, for example, I never volunteer to balance an equation on the board. Why would I? If I mess it up, it's there—in three inch high numbers and letters—in front of everyone to see. Then the teacher would have to get up from her desk, take a yellow piece of chalk, and redo the entire thing. And it's just more trouble than it's worth. It's often easier to sit back and watch someone else do it perfectly.

"Why don't you ever dance?" a guy in my history class—Cody—asks me curiously. I'm sure everyone wonders the same thing. There's Leanne Harrison again, getting all dressed up and paying the $15 dollar entrance fee to sit by herself at a table while everyone else dances. Why does she even bother?

"I… I don't know," I manage to sputter stupidly, over the music.

"And don't say you don't know how, Leanne, that's the oldest excuse in the book."

I think about this for a moment. Do I know how to dance? Surely all the times I've observed everyone else taught me something.

"Do you want to dance?" he asks, throwing me completely off guard. I guess I don't respond right away or something, because he adds, "You have the concert shirt from this band's tour last summer. I know you like this song."

"I have to hold Jenny Kinsley's Coke," I say quickly.

Cody studies me with visible curiosity. The he shakes his head, grabs my free hand and says, "Jenny Kinsley can hold her own damn coke."

But somewhere between dropping Jenny's coke and stumbling off toward center court with Cody, I realize something. Cody did something I would never think of doing. He went up to someone he hardly knew and asked them if they wanted to dance. I could've easily shot him down. I could've easily laughed at him and giggled about it later with my friends. But I didn't. How many times in my life have I wanted to ask someone to do something but I was too afraid of what they'd say? How many people did I neglect to invite to a party just because I assumed they were too "cool" to come anyway?

And as I'm thinking these things, I realize something else. I realize that I'm dancing. I'm out on the basketball court like everyone else, looking stupid and not caring. I find that dancing is easier and more fun than I thought it would be. I wonder what I was so afraid of.

I realize—just like that—that all of that fear and stress was stupid and unnecessary… a waste of my time. I create a parallel from this school dance with Cody to my entire life. Things are going to change. Instead of being on the sidelines, taking care of other people, I'm going to get in on the action for myself. I'm going to start living the life I've always wanted.

Because after all, life is but a dance. And I'm not going to sit this one out.

Notes: This story was published in my school's literary magazine last year. Usually, I'm not happy enough with the short things I write to even submit them, but I generally like the way this one turned out. It's pretty different than most things I write... I tend to write really thought-provoking and semi-darker things, but I still like this.

By the way, go read my chapter-legnth story, That's So Abnormal, if you want to read another "not so dark" thing I've written.