This past Saturday was the prom at my high school. What I remember about my three rounds of prom attendance are: when I was a sophomore, I had a pity date, because the guy I'd been seeing since the previous summer decided to dump me a week before- a senior boy from my church stepped up and took me so the dress my folks had bought wouldn't be "wasted"; my junior year, my date, a boy I'd been dating since the preceding summer (there's a pattern here) hit on several of my friends, talked a little trash about me within earshot of some of the guys from the band and got threatened for it, and was only there because my mother refused to let me break the date in January when I was sure I was over the guy; and, last but not least, my senior year the guy I had been dating for almost a year at that point (see that pattern?) broke up with me at the prom breakfast so he would be free and clear to take a different girl to his own prom.
Prom is the last night of Ballyhoo for some of us. College formals don't involve the level of preparation or dress, and then, if you don't get married, you will never attend another occasion quite like it again as long as you live. Best enjoy it while you can.
Thirty years out, I'm the class spinster, having figured out very early on that I'm not good at compromise- that is to say, I have a breaking point about putting up with being lied to and cheated on. The guy I was dating my sophomore year eventually came out of the closet, but I still remember when his butch female friend stood behind him interjecting brutal put-downs as he broke up with me one morning before first bell. The fact that he's gay, and I know it really was not my fault in any way, shape, or form, took some of the sting out of it in hindsight...but holy crap, it hurt at the time.
As we were driving back from the city on Saturday night, I said something to Hopkins about the kids heading to the after-prom party at the bowling alley in the next town over, and then something in the back of my mind just snapped. I was so shell-shocked that I blew right past his apartment building and had to turn around to take him back. I couldn't even articulate it, but what flashed through my mind was, "Oh, my God, I'm still making the same mistakes thirty years later. I've never learned anything. Men still pull the same crap on me that teenage boys were back then, and I'm still waiting for Hopkins to notice me. WTF?!? I don't have much longer to live my life and I really, really want to get unstuck."
Is "close" the best I'm ever going to do? Why do I have to go through all these also-rans and close-but-no-cigar auditions for real life? Why do I always fall short? I was waxing nostalgic to Hopkins about a handful of very bad dates I'd gone on, and as I concluded, I said, "But that was all such a long time ago, when I still had hope, you know? Back when I believed that those things might actually work. I don't have the luxury of that self-deception anymore."
Someday I'm going to have to get up on that stage and do my soliloquy, if I don't get cast in a play. Even if I have to deliver my lines and run my scenes alone, I have to leave the rehearsal and move on to the performance. Too bad that I have stage fright...