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Thursday, March 31st To: AskAngela@MetroGirlZine From: Dateless&Defeated@Wazoo.com
Dear Ask Angela,
I need help. It's exactly six weeks and two days until prom. I'm still dateless and getting more desperate with each day. According to Metro Girl Zine u have all the answers. What advice can u give a klutzy, clumsy, socially backward senior who hates to miss her last chance to ever attend a high school prom? I'm attaching a photo so u can see that I don't have any obvious warts or missing front teeth. The red hair is natural. I'm five foot even and weigh 105 pounds-nothing out of the ordinary. I can't figure out what it is that makes me the perennial wallflower. Can u offer any pointers that'll help me catch a certain someone's eye?
Bailey hit the "send" button and closed the lid on her laptop. There. We'll see if I ever hear back from Ash Angela. She wondered if Angela really existed at all. Wouldn't it be weird if some old guy with hair growing out of his ears answered the e-mails? Who'd know? Oh well, it didn't matter. And just to be safe, she had used an e-mail alias as a return address. She felt better for having written, like she'd taken action instead of sitting around wringing her hands.
She opened her diary. There was the list of possible prom dates she started a few days ago. She had numbered one, two, and three, but couldn't bring herself to write in any names. Three numbered lines-blank. So much for an action list. She chewed on the end of her pencil. She knew precisely which name would go at the top of the list, but there was no sense kidding herself. Trevor would never ever ask her to the prom. Best leave the possibilities open for now. After all, it was her diary, and she could do what she wanted. If she actually penned the list, it would all be too depressing.
"Hey, Bay." Jenn opened the door without knocking. "Your mom said to come on up."
"Hi, Jenn." Bailey put her pencil down. "You're a welcome distraction." Jenn had been her best friend for years. She was the kind of friend who knew everything about you and still liked you.
"Writing in your journal again?"
Bailey nodded. "You know me, I always have to work things out in my journal. I barely even know what I'm thinking until I've started lining it out on paper."
Jenn leaned over Bailey's shoulder to look at the page. "Uh oh. You're obsessing about prom again."
"I wouldn't exactly call it obsessing."
Jenn snorted. No one could ever call her subtle.
"Okay. Maybe just a little." Bailey turned sideways in her chair and draped her arm over the back. "Mom keeps telling me to ask one of the guys from church." She gave an exaggerated shudder. "Yeah, right. Like it wouldn't be hard enough to go on a formal date, let alone take a stranger who knows not one solitary soul aside from me."
"Not quite. I'd know your date if you asked someone from church. So would Luke and Jace." She and Bailey both went to the same church-San Vincente Christian. "But you're right. If you go with someone from school they'll have their own group of friends at the prom in case things get awkward." Jenn flopped on the bed, stomach down. As always, her feet were near the headboard and her head toward the end of the bed, close to Bailey's desk. This had been her favorite position ever since she started coming over in fourth grade. She took one of Bailey's wisteria corduroy pillows and bent it in half to prop herself up.
"Why do they have to put this kind of pressure on us anyway?" Bailey asked, not expecting an answer. She really didn't even know who "they" were. "Like it's not hard enough to try to measure up." Bailey closed her diary. "No, they need to make getting a date another rite of passage."
"Rite of passage?" Jenn made a face. "You've been reading too many of Ms. Barnard's coming-of-age novels."
"What do you mean 'too many'? They happen to be assigned. How can you not read them?"
"Oh, stop," Jenn said. "Let's not get off track talking about English Lit instead of important stuff like dating and prom. Rite of passage or not, I know what you mean." Jenn rolled over onto her back and propped her feet up on the headboard. Her dark brown hair fanned out around her head. "A girl's social success or failure can be measured by this one test. It's like we're all being watched and sorted. If you don't get asked, you go into one pile. If you do get asked, but it's not a guy on the A-list, you go into another pile. If you end up asking someone outside of school, you go onto yet another heap. We won't even talk about those poor unfortunates who end up taking a brother or a cousin."
"Well, I'll tell you this," said Bailey crossing her arms, "if I get volunteered one more time for the prom decorating committee and end up on all fours, crawling around in filthy jeans when the first blissful couples began to arrive ..." She inhaled long and deeply. "Well, it doesn't even bear thinking."
How many times since she'd started at San Vincente High had Dad arrived to pick her up from a long day of turning a giant room into a winter wonderland, a vernal meadow, or a starry night? She'd always hurry into the car and slink down into the front seat next to Dad, wishing she were invisible. As they pulled out of the parking lot, they'd invariably pass car after car filled with happy couples dressed for the "evening to remember." How often she wished hers was an "evening to forget," but somehow she could always play back the details of those promless nights like a slow-mo movie.
"You can come with lace and me-we're cool. You know lace and I are mostly friends. We'd have fun."
"Thanks, but that would be way too weird." Sometimes a group of girls decided to go together without dates, but going as a threesome was not what she planned for her senior year. Besides, lace might be more friend than boyfriend to Jenn at this point, but Bailey knew her friend was open to growing the relationship.
"Well, don't despair yet," Jenn said hopefully.
Apparently Jenn figured there would be plenty of time to despair later. Bailey hated this helpless feeling. Who ever decided that boys needed to ask girls anyway? Face it, most of the boys in her school were far less capable than the girls when it came to making plans, asking someone, and working out the details.
"I mean lots of guys wait until the last minute," Jenn said.
"Yeah. Well, I'm not going to panic." Who was she kidding? She was already in mid-panic. Her friends talked of little else than prom these days. Besides, she knew that the later you waited to look for a dress, the more picked-over the racks. Her school was one of the last ones in the area to hold their prom. By the time she looked for a dress she'd be lucky to find one without the telltale sweat stains that meant it had been worn and returned. Yuck.
"Good attitude, not panicking," Jenn said in her most encouraging voice. "Besides, guys can spot desperation a mile away. They can smell it."
"Thank you for sharing that." Bailey wished she could just change the subject, but these days, prom was the subject. "I don't know why I'm even stressing. It's probably all for the best anyway. I'm such a klutz. What makes me think I could go on a real date without tripping over my own hem, spilling my drink down the front of my dress, and saying nothing but stupid things?"
Jenn threw the wisteria pillow at Bailey's head. "You stop. That kind of talk is dangerous. Words have power, y'know. If you don't watch out, you'll have yourself believing that." Jenn worked as a peer counselor at school. Self-deprecating talk had become one of her pet peeves. She believed a connection existed between self putdowns and poor performance.
"I know you're right about the negative talk, but you've seen how tongue-tied I get around guys. It's like I start to stammer and all kinds of dumb things get blurted out." Bailey chewed on a fingernail.
"You just need practice."
"No duh." Bailey got up from her desk and plopped down on the bed next to her friend. "So tell me, wise one, when one cannot seem to get a date, how does one practice dating?"
"I mean you need to practice talking to boys. It's about getting comfortable-about familiarity. It's tough since you don't even have a brother. It's no wonder you have trouble."
Jenn was right. Except for Dad, theirs was a female household. The ladies had consisted of Mom and her for the longest time. Mallory was three years old and Madeline was two. Bailey called them her M&Ms. Not a trace of boy genes in the whole family.
Jenn sat up, nearly knocking Bailey off the bed. "I know what we'll do."
"Do? About what?"
"About solving your problem," Jenn said. "I mean you need to become date-worthy before we can expect some guy to bite. We totally need to fix you."
"Bite, huh? I think you're mixing your metaphors. Is this a fishing expedition or am I to be on someone's menu?"
"Don't try to distract me with terminology." Jenn pressed her lips together.
Bailey recognized the look-her friend was on a mission. When she got that look, there would be no stopping her. "Okay, how do you propose to fix me?"
"Maybe fix is the wrong word. It's too mild." Jenn spread her arms wide. "We are going to reinvent you, girlfriend."
Bailey groaned. The last time Jenn initiated a Bailey-project, they'd both ended up grounded for two weeks. To be fair, it was in fifth grade, and the horses hadn't been injured and ...
Jenn lowered her head and looked at Bailey through squinted eyes. "If you are going to bring up that circus incident, I don't want to hear it." The two girls had known each other for so long that it seemed as if Jenn could read Bailey's mind. "Besides, this plan does not involve live animals."
Bailey laughed. "So you're promising that no animals will be harmed in the reinvention of Bailey Tollefson?"
Bailey didn't mind the idea of reinventing herself. If it works, I'm there. She envied the ease Jenn enjoyed in her friendships with guys. And it wasn't just that Jenn was pretty. Growing up with a twin brother meant Jenn spent most of her waking hours with the opposite sex. "You are lucky having Luke. You started hanging with a boy before you were even born."
"You're right. Having a boy for a womb mate totally dismantled the male mystique for me." It gave Jenn plenty of practice talking to the opposite sex. Of course anyone could talk to Luke. He was the best listener. Everyone loved him.
"I need to go home." Jenn stood up.
"But you just got here. I thought you were going to help reinvent me."
"I know, but I'm serious about this project. I want to go home and map out our plan. We're going to take this one step at a time."
Bailey groaned. "So when will I find out the details?"
"Let's meet in the cafeteria before school. I'll buy you a bagel, and we'll get started right away." Jenn headed out the door and down the stairs before Bailey could ask any more questions.
"Bye," Bailey said to the empty room.
Mom stuck her head into the room. "Were you talking to me?"
"No. I was just waving good-bye to Jenn's vapor trail," Bailey said.
"That was a quick visit."
"Jenn's on a mission to make me popular in time for the prom."
"Have you decided to go?" Mom asked.
Bailey hardly knew how to answer. As if deciding could get her a date. "I haven't exactly been invited, Mom."
"Well, surely if your friends knew you wanted to go, someone would invite you, right?" Mom picked up a gum wrapper that had missed the waste can. "Or you can ask one of the kids from church."
"That doesn't work for a lot of reasons." Bailey didn't want to go into detail with her mom. "I'd really like to go with someone from school."
"I hope you decide soon so we have time to shop."
Sometimes it seemed as if her mom didn't get it. No, that wasn't fair. Nobody loved her as much as her parents, but sometimes ...
"Okay, Mom. As soon as I know something I'll let you know." Even as she said it, she knew her mom would make the dress and shoes happen no matter how late.
"I need to run out and pick up milk. I can't believe I forgot to check the fridge before your dad left his office." Mom stepped out into the hall. "Will you watch your sisters and keep an eye on the sauce? I turned the burner down so it should be fine without your having to do anything."
"Sure." Her sisters would provide a much-needed distraction. She followed her mom downstairs.
She heard the high voices of "let's pretend" coming from the family room. As she came into the room she saw that both girls had their toys and crayons spread out around the coffee table. "How are my sweet M&Ms?" She picked up Madeline's hand and planted a smoochie kiss on her palm.
Mallory giggled at the word M&Ms. It was one of her favorite candies and her favorite pet name. The same tired joke never got old when you were three years old.
Madeline wore a net tutu pulled crookedly over her jeans. "Dance, Bay-we." She put her hands up and stepped onto Bailey's feet.
"Mallory, can you put on the music for us?" Bailey waltzed with short steps so she wouldn't knock her sister off. After they'd danced halfway across the family room, Mallory finally got the cassette player going. The music started midway through "The Three Little Kittens."
"My turn now," Mallory said, following them as they danced. "Pick me. Pick me," she repeated in a singsong voice.
"Your turn will come," Bailey said, watching her impatient little sister hop from foot to foot. Bailey had to smile. Is that how I look to guys? Pick me. Pick me. Somehow she knew exactly how Mallory felt. "Come here." She stopped dancing. "Madeline, squeeze both feet here." She pointed to her left foot. "Hold on to my waist. We'll put Mallory over here so we can all dance together." Mallory put both her feet on Bailey's right foot. As the first bars of "Farmer in the Dell" played, the threesome lurched into the dance.
They danced until the tops of Bailey's feet tingled with the weight of her sisters. Why couldn't she stop wondering about the plan Jenn was hatching? As she tumbled onto the couch with her two laughing partners, she wondered if a prom threesome might not be a lot safer in the long run than whatever her friend had in mind.
Excerpted from DATING DO-OVER by WENDY LAWTON Copyright © 2005 by Wendy Lawton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Dateless & Defeated
3. Blinded but Beautiful
4. Chatter Challenged
No Runs, No Hits, Just Errors
6. Trapped in Tinseltown
8. Rescued from Oblivion
9. Dating Disaster
10. Picking Up the Pieces
11. From Owner to Busboy
12. Humiliated at High School
13. Primed for Prom
14. Getting Real
15. Triumph in Tinseltown
Posted March 28, 2011