Pacing through the middle school hallway reverberates with eerie echoes of middle school boys in shoes two sizes too big and girls stumbling in heels. But as eager students inch closer towards the auditorium for one of the many school dances, the music begins to propagate with each and every step, drowning out any background noise. This procession, in one’s best outfit for the occasion, often spurs anxiety and thoughts of uncertainty, but also of lingering excitement, for boys and girls alike. It seems uncertain because all middle school dances began with a patented awkwardness that exemplifies middle school life in general, but it also is a fairly robust example of the bar room effect. The bar room effect – just as the name describes – is the phenomenon where both women and men alike begin to find others exponentially more attractive as the night goes on, up until closing time in a bar or club venue. Although there is no alcohol involved, the effects seen in this context essentially echo the same situation one would experience in a bar or club setting as an adult. The following paragraphs embody my life as a 12-year-old at my catholic school’s Halloween dance.
I began to inch towards the main hallway at my middle school, donning my best Justin Timberlake interpretation (Sexy Back had just come out at the time), with my ticket of admission in hand. As I strode down the pitch-black hallway, my heart began to thump, with both excitement and anticipation. I promptly gave my ticket of admission to my then Science teacher, who was standing beside a podium, and opened the door to the auditorium. To my utter lack of a surprise, the dance did very little to live up to its title: the boys congregated alongside the punch bowl at the far corner of the auditorium and the girls stood towards the opposite side, applying final touches to their makeup and costumes. I discreetly waved at the girls and paced towards the punch bowl, grabbing a seat alongside my friends and acquaintances. The first thirty minutes of the dance involved the boys’ subjective opinions of which girls looked best in their costume, while merely denouncing the others, and the girls sizing-up which boy would be their dancing partner for the night. As middle school ought to be, once the boys had determined which girls looked the best, all the boys had to clamor for their attention. The boys’ perception of who was most attractive (at around 7:30-8:00) consisted of about three girls, and the most confident dancers had made the first move, while the rest were figuratively hitting themselves for not being able to make that first move. I had my eyes fixed on one particular girl, whom I had a crush on at the time, and was relatively stubborn about it. As I was sitting next to my friends, her best friend had approached me with her arm extended, asking me to dance.
I politely declined, under the guise that I had just got here and was still talking to my friends, but that was not necessarily the case. She looked visibly upset, but went back to her group of friends and danced along with them. Nearly an hour or so later, the DJ announced that it was time for group dancing, which coerced our awkward middle school selves to cooperate in a group setting. The Cha Cha Slide and the Cupid Shuffle were absolute staples that everyone participated in, and to be honest, they worked. Most, if not all, the students began to dance and finally enjoy themselves, until my Science teacher announced through the speaker that there was only thirty minutes left. Thirty minutes meant six or seven songs were left, and the last (at least in our school) was a song meant for a slow dance. Despite little verbal communication, everyone knew what his warning meant: everyone had to be able to find a partner for the last dance or else you were deemed a loser and would definitely be talked about the following day. Thus, boys and girls alike began to perceive others they would previously not have danced with to be more attractive than before, and began to partner up and dance in anticipation of that last dance. Although I had not ultimately been able to partner up with who had become every boy’s crush, I did reach out to her best friend, and began to dance with her. Finally, the last song was played and almost everyone was paired up, including myself, slow dancing in only the most awkward way an auditorium full of hormonal catholic students could. As the clock struck eleven, our Science teacher pulled the plug (literally) on the amplifiers and ended yet another stereotypical middle school dance.