The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Dirty Dancing
Janill Briones

At its best, dancing’s like floating for me. The music possesses me and I can’t help but move to the beat. It’s a happy feeling, and it’s even nicer when I have a dancing partner—one who can dance at least a foot away, or get close without trying anything funny.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any dancing like that at my school’s Valentine’s Day dance this past February.

I wasn’t too excited about the dance when I heard about it. The friends I usually hang out with weren’t going, and I didn’t want to go all by myself. A ticket cost five bucks, and besides, I figured they’d be playing rap and hip-hop and reggae and none of the type of music that I like to dance to, like salsa and merengue. Why bother to go?

But my friend Jermaine was going and he convinced me to go. “I’ll tell you what,” he said. “If you don’t have fun, I’ll personally refund your money.”

“All right, I’ll go,” I said, “but seriously, I want my money back if I don’t have fun.”

I went home to get ready. My friend from junior high school, Yachira, called and became very excited when I told her that I needed to get ready for the dance. “Have you thought about what you’re going to wear?” she asked. “How are you going to do your hair? How are you going to do your makeup?”

The only makeup I usually wear is lip gloss. Yachira asked if she could help out, and I welcomed her to. She came over to my house and helped me pick out an outfit: red shirt, dark blue jeans, and black boots. Then she clipped my hair and curled it down, and shimmered me up with something shiny from the Gap.

Even though it was completely different from the way I usually dress for school, I felt really nice—pretty, if I may say so myself. I began to feel a bit better about going to the dance.

When I arrived at school at 6:15, everyone was at the far end of the gym, away from the dance floor. I took off my coat, spotted my friends and walked toward them. I liked their reaction to the way I was dressed (their mouths dropped), but I was kind of disappointed to see that I was the only one who’d dressed up.

Some people were dancing not too far away from everyone else, but it was hard to tell since everyone was bunched up against the wall. Then I realized that the people on the wall were dancing—just not the way that I dance.

The girls had their backs against the guys’ fronts, pushing themselves together and making weird faces. I’d seen people dance like that at my junior high prom and too many times in music videos, but I was still shocked that their dancing was so suggestive. “If that’s how everyone’s dancing,” I thought, “count me out.”

Then, my friends tried to make me do it. “Are you out of your mind?” I yelled out over the loud music. “I do not dance like that.”

image by Amir Soliman

“It’s easy, though,” my friend said. “Just do it like this.” She demonstrated on our friend Anthony (not his real name). It was like Anthony was a car and she was using her butt to clean him, in a circular motion.

Yeah, it seemed simple enough, but I still didn’t like the idea of rubbing myself on a guy’s—front. I asked my friends what they thought about dancing like that, and they said that it was just fun for them. It was as if it were no big deal to display sexual activity.

I think it’s OK to show off that you like someone, and maybe even flirt and kiss in public, but that’s about it. Everything else should be done in private, not where everyone else can see it. That kind of stuff is supposed to be intimate.

Without warning, my friends pushed me up against Anthony and encouraged me to “dance.” I didn’t last two seconds before I had to step away. I just couldn’t do it. It was gross.

I went over to Jermaine to complain about his guarantee on my having fun. “That isn’t dancing,” I said. “That’s just people smooshing themselves together and rolling around—coincidentally with music in the background. I should have brought my book.” He laughed.

Over the evening, the dancing became more outrageous. I stood there intrigued and appalled at the same time. Some of the girls were on the floor, with the guy on top of them. Others weren’t even touching ground as they hung on to their dancing partner like a monkey clinging to its owner. One girl was upside-down, on her hands, while a guy held her legs—wide open—while he pushed on her. “That’s not dancing,” I kept telling myself. “That’s sex with clothes on.”

I hardly danced, and when I did, it was either by myself or with my female friends. I danced (my way) with just two guys, Anthony and Jermaine. The rest of the guys I knew wouldn’t dance with me if I didn’t push myself all up on them.

Anthony preferred to dance with “easier-going” girls. Only Jermaine seemed to not mind. (Maybe it was the guilt of convincing me to go.) But when I was dancing with him, a girl swooped in and pushed her back up on him, stealing my dancing partner.

It was such a relief when I got home. It felt nice to get away. The horror of what I had just experienced still loomed. I thought maybe those girls felt so comfortable engaging in public sexual display because they had already had sex. “Are they so proud of being sexually active that they have to show it off to everyone?” I wondered.

I’d heard girls at my school talk about losing their virginity as if it were no big deal. It made me feel awkward, because that’s not how I see it. But I know that we also see public displays of sex all the time in movies and TV shows, and especially music videos. We teens are being deluded into believing that life is all about sex. I can’t help but wonder why we would want to grow up so quickly.

Jermaine gave me my $5 back when we got to school the next day, but I know he won’t always be there to refund my money. Now I worry that the prom will be just like the Valentine’s Day dance, or worse. At least the friends I usually hang out with will be there, so maybe I’ll feel more comfortable.

I’m not giving in to what everyone else is doing, though. And if no one wants to dance with me because I won’t dance dirty, then there is nothing wrong with floating alone.

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