Squares, Dancing

It’s raining, it’s pouring, and I’m wondering if the snoring old man who bumped his head when he went to bed couldn’t get up in the morning because he’s dead. The singsong rhyme never revealed what became of him, did it?
So it’s raining. And my thoughts are turning to gym days at school. Gym days, which I dreaded with the same ferocity I had when I smelled eggs cooking on Sunday mornings and knew I’d be forced to regard them on a plate set in front of me and witness my dad drowning them in Heinz catsup/ketchup (your pick, but make sure it’s Heinz, all right? I can be only so liberal) and wolfing them down like there was no tomorrow. Which I was sure there would be if I actually choked the eggs down rather than just lifted them by forksful to my mouth, deposited them there briefly, and then brought my napkin up to my lips and spat them into it so eventually my lap became an eggy eggy mess.
So. Gym class. I hated it. I know that comes as a shock given how much time I spend gymming and pilating now. But it’s true. I loathed, abhorred, detested, and otherwise hated gym. When I actually made it to class and didn’t hide out somewhere instead (a story for another day, kidz), I was the last one picked, which of course is traumatic and life-shattering. It’s pretty bad when even the prissiest missiest of girls is chosen before you. But hey. ‘Twas quite all right, because when I chose to hang way out in the outoutoutfield for softball games, no one really cared if I sank down into the grass and examined buttercups. (P.S. Those things lie. I do not like butter.)
When it rained on days I had gym class, I was oh so happy indeed. While everyone else was all upset and whining that it sucked because now we couldn’t play softball, I was secretly thrilled to my very core because I knew this meant we were probably going to square dance.
Square dancing was hilarious and one of the only things I could do well in gym class. I know that that comes as a shock too — almost as much as the shock I provided above — given my distaste for most things even remotely rural and my disapproval of country-and-western clothing. But because we were in our gymsuits (stunning one-piece knit numbers for us girls, navy blue from the waist down and horizontal mini-stripes of navy and white from the waist up … matching tube socks below) I didn’t have to fret the fashion.
We had to line up in two rows, boys on one side and girls on the other, according to height. Each girl would be paired with the boy who occupied the same place in line as she did. You can imagine the mad scramble to quickly count from one end of the line to see who would be your partner. Every girl tried her hardest to look tall so she would be paired with a cool tall guy. I didn’t, though. I was more than happy to be somewhere in the middle so I could dance with my crush, Jeff (his real name! don’t tell him! oh god!). He was cool, that’s for sure, but he didn’t have the height. I figured I would definitely get him.
Somehow, though, I always miscounted or miscalculated, or someone would push her way into the line next to me (probably hoping to steal Jeff!), and I would wind up with the one boy that everyone else had jockeyed around trying to avoid. (I’ll just call him “B” to spare him international ridicule.)
“B” was definitely not cool. He was rather rotund, with dark hair that appeared darker than it really was thanks to its greasiness, white skin so pale you could see the blue veins, and hands so cold and wet you’d have to wonder where they’d just been but were only slightly comforted by the fact that if they were so cold it meant they couldn’t have just been down his pants, which was where everyone suspected they’d gotten wet. (In fact, most people claimed at some time to have actually seen “B” with his hands down his pants, usually at the back of Social Studies class.)
The first time I was confronted with “B”, I felt like screaming. I couldn’t believe my misfortune. I couldn’t believe some bitch thwarted my attempt to dance with Jeff. (Ptui on her, anyway, because who wound up making out with Jeff in a hammock by her parents’s pool the summer of 1977?!) I couldn’t believe I would have to do-si-do with “B” and his cold, wet hands that may or may not have been down his pants during Social Studies class.
He looked down at the gym floor. He couldn’t even look at me. He just sort of blinked behind his glasses (yes, of course he had glasses, which when you’re 12 years old don’t do anything to raise your cool quotient) and knew if he lifted his eyes to meet those of the person standing in front of him, the only acknowledgment afforded him would be a moan of disgust, a roll of her eyes, and an actual backing away.
“Hi, B,” I said. “Looks like you’re stuck with me.”
That square could dance!