Monday, May 28, 2007

Dance for a Quarter?

Most teenagers look forward to turning 16 so they can drive, but for me 14 was the magic number. Turning fourteen made me old enough to start attending church dances. Most of these festivities were held 40 miles from our home. With a collection of 7 or 8 units from our church joining together, these large youth activities had the reputation for being a ton of fun.

My stomach was in knots that June Saturday evening Mom, Dad and I drove to my first youth dance. As there was no one in our congregation my age, I was on my own walking into the dimly lit gym. A D.J. flanked by a pair of black oversized Peavey speakers was playing a Lionel Richie ballad. Kids mingled on and around the dance floor as shots of light from a disco ball dotted people, walls, and the floor.

Suddenly feeling very lost, I ran out to the hallway, found my parents, and said simply, "Let's go." My parents were not going to let me off that easily, so with Mom by my side I was coerced to return to the gym where I stubbornly played the part of wall flower. After two songs I was ready, once again, to make the hour drive back home. Mom insisted we needed to stay a little longer. She pointed out a kid named Paul that I supposedly knew when I was a toddler. Her suggestion that I go ask him to dance was met with flat refusal. After two more songs, again, I assured her, it was time to go.

Before talking her into leaving, some guy asked me dance. We danced. Then grabbing my mom's arm, I dragged her out of the gym, found Dad by the refreshment table, and at my unusually adamant insistence, we all headed home.

Having left so early it was still light outside as I sulked in the back seat of the car all the way home. In my best martyr voice I told my parents I was sorry we drove so far for something so dumb, but not to worry, I'd never ask to go to one of those dances again.

A few days later I received a letter in the mail from the one boy that had asked me to dance that night. It turns out he was a friend of Paul, the kid my parents said we knew. I was flattered that he would write, and with my parents encouragement, I attended the July dance.

This dance was very unlike the first. Having exchanged a couple letters by this point, I had an acquaintance, as well as the supposed friend from pre-school. I spent much of the evening dancing with the letter-writer and Paul, and hanging with their crowd of friends.

On the way home, (in the dark this time) I excitedly leaned forward from the back seat to relay to my mom every detail of the evening. My dad then turned to her, "Can you believe on our way out tonight Paul tried to collect on his quarters?" Mom smiled, and Dad continued, "I told him, no way. That was a deal we made for last month, not this month."

Completely confused I asked what Dad was talking about. Matter of factly, Mom replied that since he was worried about my first dance in June, Dad had bargained with Paul early during the dance last month that he would pay him a quarter for every time he danced with me.

I was shocked! How humiliating to spend an entire evening with this guy, not knowing about the prior month's business arrangement. More upsetting was the incredible fact that my parents found nothing wrong with making that kind of agreement. And why hadn't Paul found a quarter price enough to ask me to dance in June?

As if I could not get someone to ask me to dance on my own, my father was walking the halls looking for anyone he remotely knew to strike a deal. And a quarter? Yes it was 1983, but still, a quarter?


  1. Hi Debbie,

    As a proud father who is known to have tears glisten in his eyes when he speaks proudly of his three children, I can (perhaps) see your father's viewpoint.

    Protection of the young 'uns, I know, is supposed to fall to the lioness, but sometimes the lion must arise and prowl the jungle to make sure his cubs are getting the right attention from the right people at the right time.

    If your dad had offered a dollar, he would have had a million-dollar payout on his hands.

    Still, like they say in the classics, ask no quarter, give no quarter.

    You take care now


  2. Linked in through Bart. I'm not yet married or a parent so I am not sure how I would've handled that situation if I was your dad. But it was interesting that the father could be found at the refreshment table while you sought him out. We men like our eats.

    Anyway, I think you should've taken that dance over by dancing b-boy style. Bust out those break dancing moves from the 80's.

  3. Debbie, that reminds me of my first dance I went to. I was very shy and had a crush on an older boy.(my first love). My Mom made me a pretty dress after I got home from school. I remember she made it in an hour and ahalf. It was beautiful for my first dance hoping I would get my dance with my first love. Well as I patiently awaited his enterence into the gym I saw him with his girl friend. I was so mad and hurt I just ran home. I guess my Dad never made any arrangements with the quarters. Joanne

  4. I can totally relate to the humiliation - my Dad never understood that sort of thing as well. Fortunately Mum prevented this sort of thing, but I can so totally related to this being an OMG *embarrassing* moment!!

  5. Ok Deb, posted the Archies video on my site, for you and Chewy. I can always dance to this tune!


  6. David,

    Thank you for trying to put this in perspective. I don't think Paul or I will ever forget the dances for a quarter my dad try to buy.


  7. Dan,

    I leave all the 80's break dancing to DH. He used to be a master 80's dancer. Probably still is, I just need to find that Talking Heads CD.

  8. Joanne,

    I love that story. A dress in an hour and a hlaf - that's awesome. All the guys I liked always had a girlfriend too, or so it seemed.


  9. Ozlady,

    On a scale of 1 to 10 for the things my dad did to embarass us girls, this is probably a 3. It got much worse! And this one at least had good intentions. Soemtimes he embarassed us only to embarass us and for no other apparent reason.

  10. Phaseout -

    Yeah The Archies!!!

    Sugar, sugar ba da dot da dot da, ah, honey honey.....

    You all know I should be too young to really remember that, but my babysitter gave me her old 45's when I was nine. This was one of them.

  11. The guy you did dance with didn't get paid, right? He chose to ask you on his own. Paul may have been too self concious to ask you to dance because of your Dad butting in.

  12. Chewy,

    You are correct, the letter writer asked of his own accord. I'm sure the quarters put added pressure on Paul, and my brief apperance at the dance didn't help him either.

    We were great friends for along time after that.

  13. Good that you remained friends.

    See, I'm not silly all the time.

    Quarters brings to mind a drinking game we used to play... There I go being silly again.

  14. Oh, Chewy, Chewy, Chewy, Chewy, Chewy, Chewy...

  15. 10 years later Dad's price didn't change.... I think I married the man he paid a quarter to!

    and you are right...only a 3 on the embarassment scale. I remember Dad picking me up from High School dances and instead of waiting in the parking lot (like all the OTHER parents) he would drive up with his high beams on and shine them into the cafeteria while honking the horn. I suppose he trained me to be out waiting 20 minutes BEFORE he was scheduled to pick me up!!!
    ~youngest sister Kim

  16. Kim,
    Your hubby only cost dad a quarter? And to think some men had to pay doweries of a much higher price. Sounds like you were a bargain!

  17. I bought a can of BIG RED today for two quarters . . .

    . . . Where I got the money from?

    Not dancing.

  18. Ak-man,

    Is this because you cannot dance? Or did the opportunity to dance for a quarter simply not present itself?

  19. Hillarious! Oh the indignity! Great story.

  20. Jennifer,

    1983 - Embarassing
    2007 - Hilarious

    Nothing like time to change our perspective on things.


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