Stairway to Heaven: A Middle School Drama
I'll always remember those awkward eight minutes on the dance floor that defined every DMS relationship.
Lately my days off from school and work have been consumed with two things: lying on the coach and listening to vintage vinyls. Accordingly, last week saw the purchase of Led Zeppelin IV, perhaps the definition of "good music." However one song in particular ignited a memory that I’ve tried to forget since eighth grade, a memory tied to the milestone of my first kiss.
Middle school relationships are a confusing time for everyone involved. As an eighth grader I saw it all, from the couples who just held hands to those who freely made out in the hallways to those who couldn't even look each other in the eye without blushing.
The worst part was everyone knew exactly where you were in your relationship during one song, one eight-minute stretch of middle school history that happened every single month at the end of each Davisville Middle School dance: "Stairwayto Heaven." Each time Mr. T. dimmed the lights and started that song, every couple was under the microscope.
I was the guy who stood around 15 feet from his girlfriend, put my hands on her hips and wanted to go home. Sixth and seventh grade saw three different relationships that ended without one kiss. I was shy, old fashioned and most of all, afraid of failure. How was I supposed to know how to kiss a girl? I played sports and watched Rugrats when I went home. I ate dinner with my mom and went to bed before nine.
Of course the guy had to initiate contact, that five-inch move with your head towards her head that signified an attempt at lip lock, an attempt I purposely avoided through two years of dancing through "Stairway."
But, time was running out. Eighth grade started and I was gaining a reputation for not "closing the deal." Luckily I found new life in a girlfriend that I really liked. One that made me feel comfortable and calm, who dragged the “L” bomb out of me for the first time.
(But that’s a different column.)
After two months of summer dating, I had barely mustered a hug. Promising myself I would kiss her at the first dance, I backed out at the last second. Second dance: same story.
The third dance was go time. Things were getting weird and the longer I waited the more nervous I got. I bought my millionth pair of tickets and faced the dilemma of either being a man or changing schools.
I ironed my pants, picked out a fruity pastel polo, shaved for no reason at all and put deodorant under my hairless arms. I entered the Davisville Middle School gym, bought a Twix bar at the back and found my girlfriend. I knew exactly how long the dance would be and how much time before "Stairway" came on. The clock started.
I honestly don’t remember most of that night, probably because my mind was far too focused on my thoughts than making memories. After a barrage of terrible hip-hop and pop hits alike, the time had come. That quiet guitar riff finally began.
I was sweating and my stomach hurt. My entire body was the definition of uncomfortable. The song progressed and I only got worse. I remember my hands trembling and my knees shaking.
Then it happened. The apex of nervousness, a signal from my brain that told my stomach something bad was about to happen. I excused myself, walked briskly through the lobby to the bathroom and threw up.
Luckily Led Zeppelin had me in mind when they decided to make their famous ballad 45 minutes long. I got some gum, splashed water on my face and the rest is history. She was confused, no doubt about it, but the fact that I finally kissed her overshadowed my untimely exit.
If you ever have the chance to chaperone a middle school dance, I suggest you take it. I guarantee those final eight minutes are better than any soap opera ever made.