It was late January in 1987, the night of the Junior Prom. I had a date with a girl I really liked, and we were both enthusiastic. But for me the night would turn into a nightmare -- for no fault of my date -- because the moment we walked into Abravanel Hall (formerly known as Symphony Hall), where the dance was held every year, I was flooded with thoughts and emotions regarding the girl I took to the Junior Prom two years earlier. From the three Junior Proms of my high school experience I would have three different, yet interrelated stories, involving three different girls.
I would like to tell those stories in a series of threads; I have often thought about putting these stories into a book. The stories you will read are true, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent, for though we are all imperfect, we retain a certain innocence. I suspect that some who will read these stories may know the real names, and I would ask them not to reveal them. Each of these three girls would be a symbol which I would discover in later years. There was Julie, the Unicorn; Mary, the Heart breaker; and Evelyn, the Paragon.
The story actually begins almost two years before the first Junior Prom. When I was 14, a group of girls tried to play a joke on me. One day at school, one of them handed me a note, supposedly written by another girl. This note said that this girl loved me "lots and lots" and that she wanted me to ask her to go with me. The note also said that she thought I was a "hunk." I didn't really buy what the note was trying to sell as I was rather confident that this girl did not actually like me. In my next class that day, I sat near the front and as I waited for the class to start, it felt as if every eye in the room was watching me.
Even though I didn't fall for the note, it still had a big impact on me. I had always liked girls -- I had my first crush on a girl in the first grade -- but before the note the crushes had been innocent, and they seemed less so after the note. Perhaps more significantly, the first time a girl ever told me she loved me, I knew it was a lie, and as she also said that I was a "hunk", I was pretty sure that wasn't true, either.
Because I didn't give these girls the satisfaction of falling for their joke, they tried on several more occasions, via more notes and a few phone calls, to persuade me that the girl whose name had been signed at the bottom of the note did in fact like me. I still didn't buy it, but that didn't mean that I just forgot about the notes, or any of the other things they tried.
After several months had passed, I was still upset, and I wanted some kind of revenge. I wrote a few notes of my own, some of which I passed on, and others that I did not. At one point I started following this group of girls as they walked home from school, and I did this every day for several more months, earning from them the nickname "shadow."
Eventually I forgot about the notes, or just moved on. It was not the first time someone played a joke on me or bullied me, and it would not be the last. Yet the notes had an impact far out of proportion for what they actually were. In the years that followed I had such a negative self image that I could not see myself as anything other than plain and quiet, even boring. I wanted so much for people to accept me, and I wanted very much for a girl to like me as more than a friend.
About a month after I received the first note from these girls, I went to my first stake dance. One of the girls I danced with that night was Julie. We danced one slow and two fast dances -- a slow dance meant I got to put my hands on her waist while we dance slowly in a circle to a ballad, and at age 14 that was a pretty big deal. I thought Julie was very pretty that night with her long blonde hair, and she was very nice to me.
Julie was a girl in my ward, but she was a year older than me -- and of the girls who wrote the notes. I think that was significant because Julie was not a part of that group. I will not go so far as saying that night at the dance was an enchanted evening, but I really took notice of Julie in a way I never had before. Unlike a lot of the other kids in my ward, most of the time, she was very nice to me that night. I felt like an outcast growing up because I did not seem to fit in anywhere, but Julie never made me feel like an outcast.
In the next week or so I had an appointment with my orthodontist. Naturally, the tin grin I was sporting in those years was another reason for thinking that I was anything but a "hunk". Still, as I was leaving, Julie was arriving in the waiting room. I can still recall how her face lit up, and how she smiled as she said "Hi Doug!"
A few months later, during the summer, my stake had a youth activity which involved cleaning up a home that had suffered damage from a mudslide during the floods of 1983. After the service project we went back to the stake center for refreshments. There, outside in the sun, I talked for a bit with Julie, who I thought looked great in her t-shirt, jeans and pig tails. I do not know about Julie, but I was experiencing feelings of attraction. Later that evening there was another stake dance, and this time I had two slow dances with Julie, along with three fast dances. I really liked dancing with Julie.
There was another stake dance a month later, but soon summer would end, and Julie would be in high school while I was back in junior high, dealing with feelings about that group of girls and the joke they tried to play on me. This was when I started following them home from school each day. Since the route they took was a little bit out of my way, it was quickly obvious to all what I was up to. Finally, after several months, I called one of the girls and said that I would stop following them if she would agree to be my friend. So I stopped, but the friendship part didn't really happen.
There were still occasional stake dances, with fast and slow dances with Julie, but they were brief interludes during a difficult final year of junior high school. There were other girls at school that I would like, hoping that they would like me, too. That would lead to another story, and while it doesn't really fit the narrative of the Junior Prom stories, I think I shall tell it anyway, but on a different thread.