[Disclaimer: my sophomore has not only given his permission for me to write about our Homecoming prep experience, but encouraged my efforts, noting that he "doesn't star in enough blog posts."]
Attending a homecoming dance - any dance - any social event, period - in the age of Covid represents a triumph of returning high school rituals and tiny blooms of self-confidence. Many students were dealt body blows to confidence and self-acceptance by the torture of Zoom or hybrid school, going months without live peer interaction. We parents excitedly prepped for the return to in-person, or "regular" school, not realizing that the hustle and bustle, the 1,000x stimulation would cause great anxiety for many kids, grades pre-k through post-grad. And so Rob and I celebrate our son's Homecoming preparation rituals, even as we added a few gray hairs.
Four days before the dance, Daniel said to me: “I need to find a restaurant where we can eat, and it should be vegetarian, since my date is vegetarian.”
"Good, OK," I said. "I can help with that." No further words were exchanged, since my advice on virtually any subject is currently toxic.
On the afternoon of the dance, I asked innocently, “Did you decide on a place to eat?”
“The X Tavern. It’s near the school so we can walk to the dance after.”
Daniel waved me off as I Googled the place, a bar and grill specializing in burgers. I started to say something, then held my tongue under his ferocious side eye. I figured Daniel's date could eat a salad. But I did insist that they accept a ride from dinner to dance since a two-mile walk seemed slightly out of line for a young lady in (I suspected) high heels.
Dressing for the dance revealed heightened nerves and apprehension. Hair woes required use of special conditioner, gel, hair dryer, endless consolation, and finally our total silence on the subject. The buttons on the shirt were wrong, the tie too long, the shoes too tight. Daniel insisted on trying black Vans with his suit, we demanded he change back to one of his two pairs of dress shoes. Black shoes of various types were strewn around the living room: shoe-bomb shrapnel amidst the wreckage of dry-cleaning wraps and discarded ties and belts.
A confrontation over the suit jacket raised the volume on our arguments still higher. Daniel insisted the dance was “semi-formal, Mom! I only need the shirt and pants for a semi-formal, the jacket makes it fully formal!” We refused to drive him to his date’s house until he put on the jacket (it was cold and windy), insisting that at our seven previous Homecomings all the boys wore jackets.
Furious that we were chauffeuring him (his license over a year away) he cursed at us from the back seat and repeated his desire to go to boarding school, mostly to get away from us. Duly noted. Rob followed phone directions to the date's house and when we pulled up, Daniel was beset by uncertainty.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” he asked us suspiciously.
“This is the address you gave us, Daniel. Six – oh – one – six.”
He lit up, incandescent with rage, bleached blonde hair standing on end. “I said six – ZERO – one- six! This isn’t the right house! What are you doing?”
We couldn't help but chuckle (which heightened his anger) as we explained that – in this case – “oh” and “zero” were the same thing.
Fortunately, we were at the right house and Daniel’s cute date came down the stairs to meet him wearing a lovely short dress – and black high-top Converse sneakers. “Guess we should have let him wear the Vans,” Rob muttered to me behind his hand. The young lady's mom and grandma took a few photos in their front yard as Rob did the same. Both sophomores gritted their teeth and bore our interest for a few precious minutes.
In the car on the way to the restaurant we realized that Daniel had forgotten his school ID and mask, both required at the dance. Rob kindly promised to bring both when he returned to take the kids from the restaurant to the school, finally reconciling Daniel to last ride with parents. Rob left them at the dance a half-hour early but no complaints were made; who knows what they did between events. Rob and I went for the fridge door - a beer and a hard seltzer, respectively - and were in bed before 10pm, more exhausted than our young dance-goer, and more relieved that all went well.