Administrivia: my next economic post will be forthcoming in a couple of days. Or not. My aunt-in-law (is that a thing? Screw it, my aunt) provided me with an article that inadvertently activated a time machine, carrying me back to
THE TIME MACHINE: WESTMINSTER S.S., LONDON, ONTARIO, MAY 1989
Her name is Danielle, and right now she's the most enthralling thing in my universe.
I don't rank my crushes--I'm really not that good at the kind of advanced math that would take--but if I did, she'd be at the top of the second tier. That's to say, on days when Darlene hasn't favoured me with any attention at all, Danielle's among the first people my ever-restless brain turns to.
This particular crush is a little more...physical...than most of them. That's because Danielle is one of those misunderstood, thoroughly wonderful women who are free with their affections. She doesn't think twice about doling out hugs and pecks (and her hugs are the number-1 hugs of someone who means it, not the awful letter-A hugs that connote fear of disease). I've no doubt that some people thought of her as that word that starts with s and rhymes with lut...and nothing could be further from the truth. She has a devoted boyfriend, and she's sure to let everyone know it. But not in that way that high school girls the world over have perfected...you know, the "my boyfriend says it's nice outside today". No, there's just a line that you don't cross with her...call it the first base line...but you're free to come to the ballpark and she has this way of making you feel like you've caught a home run ball...every day. (2014 Ken intrudes: in all my life, I've met exactly one other person who has this mindset...it's rarer than albino unicorn tears.)
The lovelorn teenager I am can't help but take these hugs and the odd peck and throw them headlong into the fantasy fire, where they burn with a heat that melts mattresses. The adult struggling to birth himself recognizes Danielle's free-floating love for what it is (exactly the sort of love he feels himself and wishes everyone felt comfortable expressing) and what it isn't (the sort of love that melts mattresses)...and he's more than content to spend time in her company on her terms.
Now, a few months down the road, after I've moved away from Darlene, Danielle, and everybody else I ever cared about, I'll be asked what colour paint I want in my bedroom, and I will find a shade of paint called 'danielle', and it will be a lovely light blue, but it won't matter if it's pus-coloured, I'll take danielle for my bedroom, please and thanks. Teenage Ken won't be going away any time soon.
But that's the unknowable future. Tonight's all about the past.
It's nothing short of incredible what this school has turned into. Scores of teachers and students have worked long and hard to transform different rooms of the school into time portals. There's a 1950s sock hop in the cafeteria, complete with classic car show outside. One gym is now smack dab in the Middle Ages, with mosaics and troubadours and fencing duels; they're building a pyramid to Cheops in the other gym. My French classroom has become 1890s Paris. And I'm part of a smoking hot quartet in a 1920s speakeasy that was an auditorium yesterday.
It really is amazing: we've got smoke, imitation '20s spotlighting, a capicola sandwich vendor in the corner...and me at the piano, wearing a shirt that says "don't shoot the piano player". I'm just the accompaniment to Craig, smoking away on trumpet, our music teacher on spoons...and Danielle on clarinet, who is just plain hot in a red dress with a strategic slit up the side.
We're doing Chimes Blues, something I will believe for years that Mr. Hall wrote for us, until I stumble on it when YouTube becomes a thing. Regardless, Mr. Hall wrote the arrangement, and coached us a bit on jazz improv, telling me to just use the music as a rough guide except for the 'chime' measures in the middle.
I am in my freaking element. I've been playing piano since I was four and I've gotten as far as Grade 5 Conservatory before dropping out in disgust because I was never allowed to experiment with the music. Now here's a teacher not just telling me it's acceptable, but flat-out demanding it. "Take this music and improve on it", he says. "I know you can do it." That heady praise goes straight to my fingers: it's damned hot in this costume...and it's about to get a damned sight hotter.
Craig launches into a solo and Danielle sashays out into the middle of the room...and then, with a flick she'll later tell me she's practiced for weeks, her dress will swirl and...just for the barest instant...the slit up the side will part and I'll be vouchsafed a vision.
My fingers are on autopilot, tickling ivories and wishing they were tickling something else. I've found a way to get my eyes on porn by this age and I gotta say, heaving thrusting naked orgies have got nothing on this young woman in red. An entire song I'll call 'Danielle's Ditty' coruscates out of my mind and through my fingers when it comes time for my solo. I will never compose another jazzy song, even though 'composed' is entirely the wrong word for this one. It's born without thought: just a mindless, hedonistic musical ejaculation. It occurs to me that jazz is to music what Danielle herself is to love: free-flowing, grab-you-by-the-seat-of-the-pants and don't let go. It belongs in dark, hot, smoky secret spots, even if it's thoroughly respectable on the surface.
Several fellow students and more than a few adults will ooh and ahh and sigh in my vicinity over the next hours and days: in true Danielle fashion, that flick of the dress was repeated several times to various corners of the room. The words "impure thoughts" will be mentioned by one of the teachers, and be echoed by another. I doubt anyone here will forget her anytime soon.
Danielle came to mind as I read this.
A 17-year-old girl named Clare was booted, along with her friends, from her homeschool prom because her dress--which is shorter, but trust me, a good deal more conservative than that flaming number Danielle wore--was causing some chaperoning dads to think 'impure thoughts'. They actually stated they were concerned the 17-year-old boys were also thinking impure thoughts.
Well, duh. Any seventeen year old boy is a jittering jiving impure thought on legs (three of them) and any parent who believes otherwise has drowned in an Egyptian river.
Part of the problem here, I'm convinced, is in the first sentence. HOMESCHOOL PROM? I mean, good on the organizers for granting their charges this rite of passage, but pardon me for questioning whether a homeschool program in Virginia bothers to teach girls or boys anything about the facts of life. It also, quite evidently, imparts that peculiar Christian ethos that blames women for the conduct of men--we all know Eve tempted Adam with that fruit.
(It was not an apple, by the way. Apples are not native to the Middle East. The Latin words for "apple" and "evil" are identical. Just one of dozens and dozens of mistranslations in the Bible...some of them a good deal less trivial.)
The comments below this article contend the dads should have been kicked out instead. That's stupid. Not as stupid as kicking Clare and her friends out, mind you, but stupid. If we're to be punished for our very thoughts, there's no hope for any of us. I think of Danielle, and the bevy of impure thoughts she inspired, and how we all healthily sighed and giggled over them. Nobody kicked her out. Nobody was kicked out. And you know what? Nobody went after Danielle that night and assaulted her, either. In fact, all of us congratulated her, and she basked in the love we gave her, so similar really to the love she'd been giving herself.
Nobody deserves to lose her prom for clothing that met the dress code. We are not responsible for how our messages are received, only for how clearly we send them, and the message Clare was sending (to me. at least) was clearly inoffensive. Even granting some license for licentiousness--say, a subtle flick of a dress--and even as I acknowledge I had thoughts that would make a longshoreman blush confronted with that flick--I actually thought of Danielle at the time, I kid you not, as completely pure. An essence not of woman, but of Danielle. Is it really not possible to see Clare in that light?
Ever since that high school year, I have made it my life's mission to discover the essence of people. On some memorable occasions I've been responsible for people discovering parts of themselves they didn't know were there; on many, many others I've given them permission to be who they are. For me, that's purity, even if it yields the odd impure thought.