My husband showed me the text on his phone. I gasped in surprise. It was from the mother of a female player on my son’s freshman team. She hinted that her daughter needed a date to the Homecoming dance. Wouldn’t our son like to ask her?
Her request took me aback. But so did the realization that my son was now a freshman in high school. He could actually go to the Homecoming dance this year, even if it did seem like he was just playing with dump trucks in the sandbox.
Yet there was something that this mom and her daughter needed to know. In fact, there is something that all freshman girls needed to know about the Homecoming dance.
And I’m the one to tell them: lower your expectations.
My wisdom is borne of experience. When I was a freshman, I walked around with a Molly Ringwald-like, Sixteen Candles-esque hope that all high school boys were like Jake Ryan, a strapping young man looking for someone to love. I had no brothers to teach my otherwise. In reality, all freshman boys, most sophomore boys, and probably a good half of junior and senior boys are just, well, boys. Indeed, my own date to the Homecoming dance when I was a freshman was way more The Geek from Sixteen Candles than he was Jake Ryan.
So here’s what I want to tell the freshman girls waiting for my son, or any fourteen-year-old boy, to take them to the Homecoming dance.
- Your Homecoming date is probably not the love of your life. Where is my date from that Homecoming dance I attended? I heard he lives in Florida now. Whatever.
- Most fourteen-year-old boys can’t or don’t want to dance. When I went to Homecoming, I never made it onto the dance floor. That’s because my date said his leg hurt. All night.
- Don’t expect your date to be suave and debonair. My date, a sophomore, had his driver’s license for two days before the big night. He parked so close to the next car at the restaurant that I had to slide out the driver’s side in my semi-formal attire while he laughed. Good times.
- Most fourteen-year-old boys do not hold a well-paying job nor do their parents have unlimited cash to fund your dream date. I hear Homecoming rivals planning a wedding nowadays with expenses like fashion shows, picture packages, limos and more. I don’t think my son’s allowance is going to cover all that.
- Hoping for a romantic kiss? Remember these boys were in middle school last year, not some Bachelor in Paradise episode. When my date dropped me off at my house after the non-dance dance, I think we kissed each other on the cheek after exchanging a few stiff sentences.
- You might have fun at the Homecoming dance. You might not. It doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you go at all.
In sum, freshman girls, don’t walk around hoping your fourteen-year-old Homecoming date will be like the ones you see on movies and TV. Because he won’t be.
I’m here to tell you what he will be, as both the mother of a fourteen-year-old boy and the survivor of a freshman year Homecoming date. He will be a kid who might still drool on his pillow when he sleeps. Who plays video games on his phone. Who laughs at bodily function jokes. And who is kind and good, as well as handsome and funny, but is still just a kid.
So do what I didn’t know to do about the Homecoming dance: lower your expectations.
And to that mother who wants my son to ask her daughter to the dance? If he stops watching YouTube videos, playing Clash of Clans, or gets around to taking out the trash like I’ve asked him three times, then maybe he’ll consider it. But maybe not. He’s still just a boy after all.
This piece was originally published in Your Teen Magazine.