Conversations aren’t always the easiest to strike up.
Well, that’s not true! According to my youngest child, I have a knack for chatting up fellow patrons in the line at the grocery store waiting to pay for their produce, fishing for unbiased feedback from strangers outside the changing rooms while hunting through second-hand haute couture, even alleviating awkward silences on the elevator while scaling urban high rises. But, when it REALLY matters…
My youngest child is at a new school this year, and is experiencing all the thrills that go with the territory: new teachers, new schedules, and a new terrain to navigate in record time each day. He’s not the only new face on campus, though – there’s an entire grade-level worth of “newcomers”: the 2016-2017 high school freshmen class! These individuals, stuck between adolescence and adulthood, trying to fumble and flail their way through the muddied waters of senior high school – no long the “upper classmen” of middle school, tight-knit and secure in their relative proximity to one another as ‘a pack’. Now, scattered across countless acres of mundane, mud-colored buildings, corridors humming with pounding feet and the crashing of exhausted metal locker doors barely clinging to their hinges and a veritable menagerie of shapes, heights, hair colors, widths, eye colors, voices, talents, laughters, snarls, social cliques and antisocial exiles representing all corners of the city, county, school district, and outer banks of consciousness possible. Tough enough task just to make it through each day during that first month. But that’s not enough for the soul-crushing monster that is High School…
Must. Inflict. More. Emotional. Scarring. Through. Social. Awkwardness.
Is it just me, or in retrospect, does that seem like the general mission statement of high school?
Two weeks in, and all of a sudden, there’s a social function that requires focused CONVERSATION. The Homecoming Dance. It’s become so much more than what it was when I was in high school – back before the fall of the Berlin Wall and fashion-forward Swatch watches. Now, it’s pre-sale tickets, suits, ties, evening gowns, pre-dance dinners – it’s pre-Prom, for all grade levels! But what do you do when you only know 6 people on campus – those six friends you had in Middle school, four of which are guys you band together with to terrorize online gaming servers and blast everything into oblivion by way of Steam-enabled games? Sure, talking with the person sitting next to you in Geometry or Video Tech class is easy if it’s just random chit-chat about classroom subject matter; however, when there’s a calculated risk underpinning a seemingly innocuous dialogue, casual and light-hearted antics give way to fear, anxiety, and trepidation. Compounding on the perceived pressures of unplanned conversations with a relative stranger, add to the mix the innate cloddish and provincial mannerisms of life as a teenager in general, with untimely voice cracks and unanticipated brain drain, how could it even be conceivable to drum up the courage to talk with a fellow classmate? The list of unknowns is far too overwhelming! I haven’t even mentioned the earth-shattering concept of (gasp!) rejection… (dun-dun-duuuuuun!)
Enter ‘Spirit Week’ dream concept: “Traffic Light Dress Code Day”.
Okay, picture this – there are those whose lives are truly uncomplicated; they know their path. Class schedules are always without a hitch, friends all live within shouting distance of their front porch, their dog and cat are snuggle buddies, and their bathtub never drains slowly. And questions about a date for the Homecoming Dance? Pish! That’s a no-brainer. Then there are those who wrestle with details: did ‘So-and-So’ get a parent’s approval? Does ‘Whos-a-Whats-It” have transportation? Maybe there’s a relationship that’s as predictable as a bee’s flight pattern during a wind storm, and it’s anybody’s guess until the 11th Hour… Lastly, there are those who are totally open to the idea of unpretentiously parading into the dance with a partying partner but who lack the “partnering” skills…
Red. Yellow. Green.
For one day during ‘Spirit Week’ (the week leading up to the Homecoming football game, and Homecoming Dance, where students are encouraged to partake in activities that show their ‘school spirit’), individuals dress in the color that corresponds to their dance-date situation. If your dance-floor moves are spoken for, then red’s your color. If ‘it’s complicated’ for any given reason, dress the color of sunshine. “Green light” indicates you’re open and available!
As I was describing this to a family member, the reaction was mixed. Direct quote: “The color thing almost sounds humiliating. Like, look at me, I’m single. No?” I went on to explain that participation was merely BY CHOICE, and in my humble opinion, I thought the concept was inspired! This was my interpretation of the theory:
If you’re too shy to ask someone for fear of rejection, or you’re not sure if they’re going with someone already, you’re reluctant to ask. However, if you see them wearing green – or, on the flip side, if they see you wearing green! – it opens the opportunity for conversations that otherwise might not have taken place. At fourteen, are they really going to be ‘humiliated’ about their singleness? (please, please, PLEASE, I need to hear a resounding “no!”)
Besides, it’s not really a “look at me, I’m humiliatingly single”, but more of a “look at me, I have the potential of being your new best friend – because apparently I’m gusty enough to play along and I’m honest with people”!
Family member’s response (direct quote again): “Ok. That perspective makes sense.”
…for the record, my son wore green pants AND a long sleeve green shirt… I haven’t heard if it started any conversations, though…