My 2nd Lt took off for a well deserved trip to Las Vegas this morning. He left me with piles of electronic equipment, kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies, toiletries, clothing, mysterious military gear, bed and bath linens, and enough shoes (size 13) to make Imelda Marcos wince. These heaps of his bachelor life are currently residing in his sister's old bedroom which, ordinarily, would not be a problem, except SHE is due home on Thursday and needs a place to sleep. So while Brent relaxes in his 1200 square foot suite with the wraparound terrace at The Cosmopolitan (slogan: Just the right amount of wrong), I am trying to sort through the mess and organize things for the second leg of his move to Louisiana (slogan: Just all kinds of wrong). It was during this process that I found an essay he wrote five years ago as a high school senior. I think it's supposed to be some sort of Band Last Will and Testament. I have no clue why he's hung onto it all this time, but I think it deserves a wider audience...
FROM: Brent, the Poster Child for Human Stupidity
Attending high school, I've picked up some folksy wisdom to which I have deemed necessary to apportion to the ignorant masses, namely the younger kids and freshmen (whom I feel very sorry for). For the sake of ease and relative consistency, I shall divulge with you the keys to make your life in band --- at the very least --- a mediocre venture.
Step 1: Nobody likes an attention whore. The attention whores in band during my tenure shall remain nameless, but there were a fair few who, day by day, made me want to gouge my eyes out and fill the sockets with cyanide. I'm talking about the people who can never seem to keep their traps shut, or the ones who always felt like they should make their presence noticed by the 200-some-odd members of the band. I honestly don't care about your Significant Other problems, or the myths about how much your life sucks. It's high school, people. If you can wake up in a nice warm house, take a shower every morning, and eat a hot meal every day, you're already better off than 90% of the people in the world. Why don't you try and realize that you are not the center of the universe, and that people have selective hearing. We really do not care if your boyfriend cheated on you. Once you recognize that any kind of social life in high school will mean absolutely nothing when you reach college, you may begin to understand the absurdity of your "problems".
Step 2: Don't yell loudly. This is really something that only I noticed throughout my years in band. If it's 7:00 in the morning and I've already started daydreaming, I'd prefer it if you keep the noise to a dull chatter. My ears started to bleed once because the hallways make the sound resonate.
Step 3: Don't be an idiot. It astounds me sometimes that the kids of my generation can be so stupid. Think before you act. If you are about to do something that you think might have undesirable consequences, then just don't do it. It's that simple. But if, for whatever reason, you still decide to go ahead, at least I have the joy of knowing that Social Darwinism has some kind of merit to it. It warms my heart to know that some of you fools will probably be working for me 20 years from now.
Step 4: Don't spend too long in your underwear in the dressing room. It's not exactly comforting knowing that your fireballs are dangling about, with only a thin layer of cotton shielding me from a lifetime of horror. It's just creepy, too.
Step 5: There seem to be a lot of grudges held in band. Don't be a person that makes enemies easily. Again, this isn't Communist Russia, it's high school. It's understandable if you don't relate well with one person, but don't make it a point to spread lies and rumors about others. We're supposed to be a family, but then again, many families argue about trivial things which I guess makes the whole "family" idea a valid point. But still, just don't be an a$$hole.
Step 6: Be funny. Everybody loves a comedian. It's especially funny when someone cracks a joke during one of those awkward silences that occur after an argument. You know what I'm talking about. When the air is so thick with tension that you swear you could cut it with a butter knife.
Step 7: Respect the Directors. It may be a "cool" thing to be a rebel and all, but the Directors are providing you with a free education. They do more work in one day than many of you have done in your entire life. Listen to them, too. Some of the stuff they say actually has some benefit in the real world.
Above all, just be yourself. There is nothing worse than someone who offers a fake personality just to fit in or be popular. Stop living idealistically and look at things realistically. Get out of the "ME! ME! ME!" mentality and think of others for once.
So, there you have it, all you current and future band geeks. Basically, if you can be gregariously funny in a smart, quiet, non-whorish way; remaining true to yourself while considerately keeping your pants on as you pay attention to your directors, high school band will be a breeze and you will live to procreate the next generation. Capisce?
Prunella (aka Mom)
Texas A&M Band, circa 1902: http://repository.tamu.edu/handle/1969.1/114627
We may only be a week into February, but senior boys are already sweating bullets over how they are going to ask their dates to prom. Even those with bona fide girlfriends are not exempt from this rite of spring. As a mother to two boys and a girl, Auntie PRUNELLA has seen both sides of the equation and considers it her sacred duty to help poor, beleaguered boys everywhere. Here are some ideas on how to ask that special girl to that most important of high school dances: PROM.
Purchase one big beach ball and as many smaller beach balls as your budget can handle. The more, the better, as you are going for maximum impact. Blow them all up. Enlist friends to help you with the inflating process if you have asthma or are prone to passing out. With a permanent ink marker, on the big beach ball, write NOW THAT I HAVE THE BALLS TO ASK YOU, WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME? Arrange with the girl's mom to bring the beach balls over to her house at a time when your intended is going to be out.
If you have a reasonably good singing voice, serenade the girl at school, preferably at lunch when you can make a spectacle out of it. If you can't sing, ask a friend to do it, or a "Glee" type guy from your school's choir. If you get someone else to do the actual singing, you can be "waiting in the wings" with flowers and chocolates to seal the deal.
THE MAGIC SHIRT
You'll need a white tee-shirt in the girl's size, a box of washable markers in different colors, and some permanent ink markers, also in different colors. The idea is to camouflage the invitation in a hidden word puzzle. Use permanent ink for the words in the invitation; washable ink for the rest of the letters. On the back of the shirt, again in washable ink, write "WASH ME NOW" or enclose these directions with a card or note. When your intended washes the shirt, the random lettering will disappear leaving your "secret" message.
For the really lazy, Auntie PRUNELLA has a deal for you! There's a website that will create a personalized hidden word puzzle for you slackers. It's free, it's easy and it's called Discovery Education's Puzzlemaker. But wait! There's more! The program uses filters to prevent the random creation of vulgar words, so you Romeos out there don't have to worry that your puzzle might be saying more than you intended.
Get a large box, like the kind people use when moving. Go to your local party supplies store, purchase a bunch of pink balloons, and get them filled with helium. Draw a piggy face on each balloon and put the balloons in the box. This will be a bit like trying to stuff an angry octopus into a string bag, but man up and keep trying until you get all the balloons safely inside the box. (If you can find helium balloons shaped like pigs or pink balloons with pigs already stamped on them, so much the better.) Deliver the box to the girl's house with a note that says: THE DAY I ASK YOU TO PROM IS THE DAY PIGS FLY! Then, settle back and watch the action.
ALL TIED UP
This requires string, lots of it, some signs, a gift, and a girl with parents who are very accommodating. Arrange to be at your intended's house when she is going to be out. Fasten the end of your string to your starting point and hang a big sign on it that says START HERE, with an arrow pointing down the length of the string. Your starting point should be wherever the girl lands when she gets home. For example, if she parks (or is dropped off) in front of the house, a good starting point might be the curbside mailbox. Once you've fixed your starting point, meander all over the yard unraveling the string as you go. Anchor the string around trees, lawn furniture, garden gnomes, bicycles, the family dog, cars on blocks, wayward squirrels, passing joggers. At intervals, place signs or notes encouraging her to keep going. When you come to a stopping point (or are fed up with tripping over the string, whichever comes first), that's where you put your sign or note inviting her to prom. I HAD TO PULL A LOT OF STRINGS TO GET YOU HERE. WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME? Or maybe: I'M 'KNOT' JUST STRINGING YOU ALONG. WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME? Better yet, let the end of the string reveal YOU hiding and patiently waiting to pop the question. A small gift would be appropriate, too. If you are really rich, hire a string quartet (ha!) to play softly as you ask her out.
Compose a short prom invite, like (NAME), HOW ABOUT PROM? Construct the invite on poster board, with one board for every letter. Round up as many friends as you have letters, and assemble where you know your intended will be. The more public, the better.
DIY LITE-BRITE You'll need plywood, a drill, Christmas lights rated for outdoor use, and an extension cord. Drill small holes in the plywood to read PROM? or some other short invite. Working from the back, insert a light into each hole. Secure the lights to the board with black duct tape so they stay put. Prop the sign up against a tree or the girl's house and plug the sucker in. If you have some building skills, add supports to the sign so it can be free-standing.
THE OLD STANDBYS
Decorate her locker inside and out.
Deliver flowers to her house.
Have cupcakes, a cake or a large cookie decorated to spell out the invite. Have the goodies waiting for her on her desk before she arrives to class.
Decorate her car. Just be careful you don't damage the finish.
A sidewalk or driveway and chalk. Check the weather first. You don't want your invite washed away in the rain.
Feel free to leave your ideas in the 'comments' below.
Best of luck, boys!
Pink balloons (piggy faces added): http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ngould
Prom lights (cropped photo): http://blog.kevineikenberry.com/leadership/a-creative-way-of-asking-a-common-question/?doing_wp_cron=1362202577.3100109100341796875000
I was stalking my daughter's Facebook the other day and came across this picture she took last year of her senior prom invite, or the Ask, as the kids call it. You don't see them in the photo, but there were dozens of blown up beach balls covering every square inch of her bedroom floor, the bed, and her closet. I don't know if John did the lung work by himself, or if he had help from friends, but I hope he had help. Otherwise, he would have come seriously close to passing out from hyperventilation. I know this from personal experience trying to inflate air mattresses, swimming pool toys, and balloons for kiddie parties. Anyway, that photo is what prompted me to write this blog.
These days, asking a girl to a school dance can rival the biggest Ask of any red-blooded male's life, to wit: requesting the hand of the woman he loves. What used to be a simple phone call in my day has morphed into a major deal that can require much planning, organization, and sometimes a cast of tens.
Some do what amounts to the oldest trick in the book: they get white shoe polish and invite their date to the dance by writing the invitation all over her car windows. Girls who get Asked in this manner, I'm told, are looked down on by their peers because their dates didn't care enough to put any real effort into the Ask. Other guys strive to keep it simple with a few roses, a teddy bear or maybe a box of chocolates. I know of one boy who Asked his date to homecoming with a platter of sushi, her favorite, arranged to say HC?.
Obviously, the more complicated/expensive/daring/creative the Ask, the harder the boy is going to fall if his intended rejects his invitation. But he can typically get around this obstacle by finding out first if the girl is even interested in going with him. Usually, he'll broach the subject with the girl's BFF. If he gets the green light, he'll proceed with his plans, fairly secure that he won't get shot down. You really have to feel sorry for guys these days.
The photo above was taken at a pep rally the fall of my daughter's junior year. Her boyfriend at the time, one of the senior football captains, Asked her to homecoming in front of the entire school. He's the one carrying the blue question mark. It was certainly one of the highlights of her high school years, and something she will never forget. Several months later, things ended badly between them, opening the way to what was the most surprising, and probably ballsy, Ask ever.
The break up occurred just weeks before the 2010 senior prom. When the dust had settled a bit and the two of them were able to speak civilly to each other again, it was agreed that they would attend prom as planned, but as friends.
One night, less than three weeks before prom, Richard and I were settled comfortably in the den watching television, when the door bell rang. Richard answered the bell, hollered at Paige to come to the door, and returned to the den with a funny look on his face. When I asked who it was, he inclined his head in the general direction of the door and told me to go peek for myself.
Paige was standing there talking with someone I couldn't see, but as I got closer and the angle got better, I was able to make out a pair feet, the rest of the body obscured by the biggest bunch of helium balloons I had ever seen, no hyperventilation problems there. Getting closer, I saw that one of the balloons was actually somebody's head, a young man she was very good friends with and a senior at her school. I said a quick hello, suggested that she invite Connor into the house, and raced back to the den, burning with curiosity. Richard, who could hear snatches of the conversation from the doorway, said it sounded like Connor was asking our daughter to prom. He got this impression from hearing her say, "Oh, my God...are you asking me to prom?" I immediately felt terrible for Connor, knowing he was going to get turned down since she had an understanding with the ex-BF.
Some 40 minutes later, Paige walked into the den looking bemused. Still feeling horrible for the young man, I said, "I hope you turned him down gently." She shocked us both by replying, "I haven't turned him down."
"But I thought you had an understanding with Mason."
"Are you seriously considering ditching one for the other?"
"Who would you rather go with?"
She didn't even hesitate. "Connor."
At this point, my husband mumbled, "I'm outta here", and dashed for the safety of the bedroom. Chicken.
To make a long story short, Connor had swept her off her feet. He had just broken up with his GF, someone he had dated for well over a year. He wanted to take Paige to prom and despite the odds and extremely short notice, he was determined to try. What girl can resist the grand gesture? As she put it, "He really wants to take me. Mason and I are just going to be going." I encouraged her to sleep on it, pointing out that she might feel differently in the morning. Instead, she made up her mind that night and texted Connor to tell him she would go to prom with him. Immediately, I felt horrible for Mason.
I don't condone my daughter's actions. Regardless of the problems between her and her ex, she did have an understanding with him. In case you are wondering, Mason was able to find a date. When one is a varsity football captain and varsity baseball captain, it's easy to find girls.
With prom season looming, maybe I will write a future blog with suggestions and ideas for that all-important Ask. Consider it a public service for beleaguered boys everywhere.
My high school class is holding an informal reunion with six other classes. This covers some 1,000 people and to date, only four have RSVPed to say they will come, including the lady who is organizing this bash. I suppose it would be bad form if the hostess didn't care to come to her own party.
I have been to two class reunions: the fifth and the twenty-fifth. The fifth reunion was a formal affair at a nice hotel in Houston. I bought a black strapless cocktail dress and a pair of black pumps with not-quite-stiletto heels. If car dealers will let customers test drive their merchandise, department stores should do the same with formal wear. I spent the entire evening hoisting up that damn dress because it kept wanting to settle down around my waist. To add insult to injury, a classmate's floozy of a wife had the gall to wear the exact same dress in a shade of baby blue. We were probably the only ones who even noticed, but as is customary in these situations, we glared at each other good and proper, and then spent the rest of the night trying to keep at least 30 paces apart.
Jump ahead 20 years and it's our silver anniversary. You'd think they'd make a big production out of this one, but no. This reunion was held in a honky-tonk that had been rented for the occasion and the dress code was casual. Still, most of the attendees made a stab at wearing something besides blue jeans and tee shirts.
Two friends picked me up at my parents' home in Houston: one was a long-time married lady, like me, with children; the other a divorced gal with no kids. I did pretty well recognizing female classmates, but many of the men stumped me. Truth is, guys change more than the ladies as they get older. They can do things the ladies can't do like go bald and grow facial hair. (Actually, ladies can do those things, too, once their estrogen levels start to drop.) A few male classmates had managed to stay pretty much the same over the past quarter-century, but it was embarrassing to have a guy walk up to me clearly knowing who I was when I had no clue who he was. And somehow it seemed insulting to take a quick glance at the name tag. I would try to time the name tag glance when Whatshisface wouldn't notice. (Look! isn't that So-and-So? <quick glance>)
Post reunion, a group of mostly single people decided to carry on the merriment and drinking at another dive. My married friend and I just wanted to go home, but unfortunately, we were at the mercy of our divorcee driver, so off we go to the post reunion party. The divorcee, anxious to find husband #3, disappeared in the crush of people, leaving the two of us to sit there and scream at each other over the noise. We were both fish out of water and knew it.
My husband never cared to attend any of his high school reunions, which shows more sense than I would have thought.
I would love to attend this one, but have sent my regrets. I still picture everyone as I remember them in high school and for now, I prefer to keep it that way.
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