Dear 7th grade boys who had to dance with me at cotillion last week,
I had no idea that, for the first time in cotillion history, there would be a shortage of girls at the dance.
I tried valiantly to spare you the trauma of dancing with me, cheerfully recruiting other chaperones to be stand ins for the absent 13-year-old girls. But then the lady with the microphone declared an “all hands on deck” dancing emergency. I had no choice but to obey — she scared me.
I know the other moms were wearing dresses and heels, but since I thought I’d be sitting behind the registration table all night, I went with sensible shoes, black pants and a jacket. If you were into fashion, you might have recognized that it was a seriously kickass Rag and Bone jacket that I scored at the Nordstrom anniversary sale, but I’m sure you just felt like you were box stepping with Hillary Clinton. Sorry about that.
I’m also sorry for the sweaty palms (mine) and the stepped on toes (yours). I never took cotillion in middle school and I’ve have had the same dance partner for 24 years. Plus, he’s a lot taller than you are.
I also want to take this opportunity to ask one kid in particular to forgive me for shouting, “nailed it!” and offering a high five after we successfully navigated a tricky move. I thought it would be funny and break the tension. Your bright red face let me know I misjudged the moment.
Despite the weirdness, all of you were good-natured and so darn cute. I’ve never seen a more earnest one-two-cha-cha-cha in my life.
You survived. And not only did you survive, I hope you learned something from our missteps: everyone is still carrying around a small part of their 13-year-old selves with them, no matter their age.
During your teenage years, you begin to realize that your parents don’t know everything. I’d like to add to that idea. Your parents also probably still have an insecurity or two as well as a desire to feel accepted and liked, just like when they were in 7th grade.
These feelings are universal. Adults might be better at hiding them behind the emotional armor that builds up after many years, but our soft middles are still there, both literally and metaphorically.
I’m not trying to bum you out. A lot of it gets easier as you get older. Eventually you find a tribe of friends who love you for exactly who you are. There’s less posturing, more acceptance. You find your rhythm and begin to lead confidently.
The journey, however, is a long one. You’ll inevitably face embarrassing moments but you’ll survive, and maybe even laugh about them someday. Just remember to go easy on yourself and everyone else you meet along the way, because we’re all doing this awkward waltz together.
Thanks for the dance,