Back in the 80’s the school disco was defined by two key dances. First there was the fast pop songs; the wooden parquet floor cluttered with over-made up girls, swaying to the sound of Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran and Culture Club, the heat rising, the faint smell of sweat lingering in the air, like a slowly soaking invitation of adulthood. The boys, in the main, stood on the side lines – they were literally too cool for school.
Then came the slow dances, or 'slowies' as we all called them. The temperature rose a couple of degrees further. Our hearts pumped a little faster. The confident cool guys (the ones who a few years later I’d see in local pubs looking fat, worn-out and old before their time) would immediately swagger onto the dance floor and nestle themselves in with the pretty girls that we all secretly fancied. The rest of us would shuffle around awkwardly, unsure if to make eye contact with anyone, afraid of rejection but equally afraid of being left out.
Before I knew it, with a flash, a girl had stormed up to me. I had talked to her now and then in class, but never really taken that much notice of her. “Are you gonna ask me to dance, or do I have to do it myself?” she confidently questioned, her tall slim body, her slightly freckled face and long gingery blonde hair suddenly seeming very attractive.
Everything after that was just a delirious dream. Her arms were quickly draped around me, her body pressing heavily against mine, feeling her warm slightly sugary breath heavily against my ear. With teenage chemicals circling our bodies like an out of control ferris wheel, it took only seconds before our mouths were clamped vice like around each others – locked in a not-knowing-what-we're-really-doing-moment – just her, me and the music. Nothing else existed.
The song that soundtracked this moment and hundreds if not thousands of other 80’s teenage liaisons was Careless Whisper by George Michael. Right then it seemed perfect, even if now it seems like the biggest cliché in the world.
The next day on the long walk to school we spotted each other. Everything seemed awkward and embarrassing again. We tried to hold hands and walk together but somehow they slipped apart – maybe we were a little worried about people laughing at us.
We never really mustered more than an odd passing sentence to each other after that. Our school days passed and we moved on. Five years later I saw her stacking shelves in Tesco looking, well, a little bit drab and sad.
Over twenty five years on, dropping my daughter off and saying goodbye to her at her most recent school disco, the same wave of heat and sweat greeted us as we opened the hall door. These days there is no slow dance, but no doubt the likes of Katy Perry, Rihanna or One Direction will be the background to shy desperate moments of teenage experimentation.