The last dance was always a slow dance. Something by Chicago or Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” or the latest R&B hit.
For those with girlfriends it was an opportunity to end the evening on a good note — to recapture emotional intimacy no matter how pissed you were that she had spen the whole time talking with her friends or how in the doghouse you were for too obviously checking out the cute, blond rich girl from Danville.
For those who were players (to use the term incredibly loosely or rather in a narrow Mormon sense), who were popular and bold and had danced with a dozen girls or more throughout the evening, it was a chance to either bestow your favors on the one you like most or test how much she liked you. Maybe get a phone number or enough encouragement to sit next to her every day in seminary that week.
For the rest of us, it was our one last shot at redemption.
Sure we may have only danced a fast dance (or two). We may not have danced at all. But the last dance was our chance to prove we weren’t total wallflowers. Even if we had spent the entire evening standing around with our friends trying to look casual, our hands glued to our pockets, uncomfortably aware that our skinny ties and boat shoes should be in motion but unable to arouse ourselves out of our stupor of (dis?)comfort.
And it almost always worked.
the girls who had been running in packs the whole night — dancing together, going to the ladies room every five minutes, hovering near the dessert table — would break into individual units, we would ratchet up our internal peer pressure generators till they hummed and somehow the barriers would shatter and we would find ourselves walking over to a girl and asking her to dance.
Deals were sometimes made in order to spark one’s courage. “Okay — I’ll ask the blond one if you ask the brunette.” On rare occasions you’d hesitate a second too long and someone else would swoop in and aske her or she’d give up and head for the hallway.
But it almost always worked.
Although the dancing was often awkward (insert obligatory Mormons/rhythm joke), sometimes the conversation flowed and you left on an amazing high — the evening’s anxieties having keyed you up to such a degree that even the smallest victory felt amazing. Sometimes all it took was a glance and a smile at the end to make you feel like the entire trip (often it was a 30-40 minute drive) had been worth it.
And sometimes, it just didn’t go well. For whatever reason, it was just painful, and you couldn’t wait for the song to end. But even then — you had danced the last dance.
No matter how it went you were a sweaty mess afterwards. The cool night air — and in the Bay Area the night air is always cool — chilling your skin as you casually crossed the parking lot. And no matter what the temperature, you never rushed and you never wore a coat.
1. There’s a lot to be said (and that I left unsaid) about LDS youth dances and gender roles/relations. Clearly this post is from a male point of view. I’m not sure what more to say other than I especially welcome thoughts from T&S’s female commenters.
2. I’m not sure about the skinny tie and boat shoes detail. I remember wearing both, but I can’t remember how often I wore them together. I seem to recall that penny loafers were still worn by some guys, but I believe that either narrow black dress shoes with thin soles and boat shoes were the in thing for my crowd.
3. From what I remember one of the big topics of dicussion was what you were going to do/what you did after the dance. The answer said a lot about your home situation and/or the type of Mormon you were.
4. My heavy involvement in the LDS youth scene is comprised of a brief span (about five months) that began shortly after my family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area (from Provo). I grew tired of it (and didn’t totally understand it — what with all the gender games and social politics) and hung out mainly with my non-LDS honors student friends. I confined my involvement to ward YM/YW activities and youth conferences.