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Mean Boy

In the eighties, everything was extravagant. Big hair and makeup to shoulder pads; it was all INXS (see what I did there.) Ninth grade was an uncomfortable in-between sort of a stage. I'd left the cradle of middle school and hopelessly needed to establish myself as a grown-up high school parachute pants-wearing mullet-promoting kind of guy.

Somehow I had gotten elected class president that year. I'll never understand how that happened to this day. Halfway through my campaign speech, I forgot what to say. During the eternal pause, I contemplated exiting the spotlight and fleeing the country. I managed to conclude the address and figured I'd at least wait to drop out of high school at the end of the day.

Once the results were in and I'd learned triumph was mine, everything would change. I must have won over my fellow students with my immense charm and rugged good looks. From this day on, I would be one of the popular guys in school. Hallway romance and bro respect would never be an obstacle again.

One of the various responsibilities of the class president is organizing the ninth-grade dance. Making certain all of the balloons are inflated and securely knotted is no laughing matter. Amid my civic commitments, I still managed time to daydream. This event would surely catapult me into the MCHS popularity hall of fame, unlike any righteous dude before me. I imagined hundreds of Madonnas, Olivia Newton Johns, and a sprinkle of Cindy Lauper's all lined up to dance with the number one gnarly most bitchin' class president ever.

(Listen to the story here)

Nada, There was no eye contact, no connection, no slow-motion moment between two star-crossed lovers, nothing. The first hour into the dance, I knew it would be a long night. I awkwardly stood around attempting to act all presidential but once a dork, always a dork.

Finally, the evening was concluding, and in ten minutes, the lights would pop on, and I'd lead an expeditious clean-up so all of the volunteers could go home. Halfway through Endless Love, I would start picking up chairs so I could forget about this night. Then I felt the tap on my shoulder. I turned around without delay, thoroughly anticipating seeing Mrs. Dinsmore ready to discuss the custodial plan for a speedy exit. To my wonderment, it was Brittany, and she wanted to dance. She envisioned connecting in slow motion over Lionel Richie like two star-crossed sweethearts. Brittany was no Madonna. She certainly was not an Olivia. Not even a scanty reflection of Cindy Lauper; she wasn't popular at all. If I danced with her, I would lose any ground I had earned this year, desperately attempting to obtain immortality amongst my peers. I stared dead into her eyes and said no. I wandered off and commenced folding chairs.

This past Thanksgiving, after dinner, I sat around with family and friends. We played a game called what would you change. It's been thirty-five years, and the ninth-grade dance still disturbs me. I'd give anything to convince my teenage self to accept that last dance of the evening with Brittany. At the moment, I believed it would wreck some hollow reputation. Now I regret not simply saying yes. I had no idea if my dismissal even phased her. Regardless, I should have danced with you, Brittany, and if I could change my error, I would. Regretfully this is a lesson I've had to learn multiple times throughout my life. Sure, my mistakes have led me to my place in this world, but what I did to Brittany was cruel. I was a mean boy—shame on me for being selfish when life is too short for that nonsense.

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