My Return to Animal Planet
With short notice (like at 2:47 yesterday afternoon), I agreed to help chaperone last night's Neon Dance. "Neon Dance" does not imply that the students were festooned in neon signs. Rather, it means to indicate that there were black lights in the gym so that the illuminated students appeared as if they'd spent some time at Chernobyl.
Of course, I rather like the whole concept of black-lit events. It reminds me of the times that I've gone "laser bowling" with friends: the florescent paint that has been applied to various surfaces becomes eerily luminescent under the black light, transforming the normal bowling alley into a glowing frenzy of balls, pins, and beer.
What made last night unique, however, is not that there were decorations strewn about the gym that had been pre-treated in order to give off an eery glow. Instead, it was the students who thought to pre-treat themselves:
- Some arrived having poured the contents of glo-sticks all over their clothes. With shirts spattered with a glowing fluid, they thought they looked cool. To my eyes, they looked like walking crime scene from a CSI episode when they use the ultraviolet lights to look for evidence of spilled bodily fluids.
- Some took the liberty of using special crayons to draw on their bodies. Fortunately for them, under normal light the markings were barely perceptible. Under the black-light, though, they looked like warrior-ghosts conjured up from Braveheart, with various lines and mysterious markings all over their faces and arms.
- Some of the students, either flouting or ignorant of the whole concept of the black-light, opted to wear the darkest clothes they owned, so they didn't "glow" at all. These (generally guys) were the ones who roved in packs around the perimeter of the dancing throng.
- Finally, someone needs to tell Jane Fonda that here wardrobe has been pilfered. Several of the guys, having thrown themselves totally into the theme of the dance, came in neon-colored spandex tights, leg warmers, leotard-like outfits, and wild-colored tank-tops. I felt like I had been transported back to an 80's commercial for the "Jane Fonda Workout" but with a sweat boy rather than a lovely woman wearing the workout apparel.
As is the custom, I took my turns at criss-crossing the dancing horde, breaking up students who were grinding and dancing inappropriately. With each pass, I felt more like the Grim Reaper. Those students who noticed me gave me wide berth, for they did not want me to rest my eyes for too long upon them. Others, so engrossed in their "activity" of grinding, were rudely recalled into the world of decent behavior by several jabs with my pencil and the command to "turn around and look at your date." To be fair, I can't blame the guys in every case for the salacious dancing, either: at various times I saw young women thrust themselves into semi-unaware guys. Watching some of the freshmen amused me: they were caught completely off guard and didn't know what to do. Watching some of the seniors, on the other hand, I became alarmed as I interpreted this as part of some primal mating ritual.
My first post as chaperone (from 7:00 - 8:30) was to monitor a little-used hallway. I loved this: I read an entire issue of Commonweal. At 8:30, I entered the gym for the first time. The air was humid, gamy, and stagnant. The odors of Axe, Juicy, and utter failure lingered in the air, assaulted my nostrils, and clung to my skin. At 10:00 sharp, we ushered the mass of students out to the legions of mini-vans and sedans that were lined up outside to take them home. As they departed, I fled to the residence where I used the Neti-Pot to flush away the scent of the evening from my nostrils and I took a shower to be cleansed of the stank of hundreds of writhing, dancing, unwashed, teenagers.
Today, I will sit quietly in my room and read, grateful that I no longer have to watch Animal Planet to feel connected with the rawness of Mother Nature. To accomplish this, I need only chaperone a dance.