Jeremy Learns to Dance
by Mr. Information Please
Jeremy Skinner, a sixth grader at Central Middle School, sat beside his parents in the school cafeteria, munching on a solitary donut. It was 7:15 a.m. 39 other students, also with their parents, were doing the same thing. They were all there for the student of the month presentations, each picked by a teacher who would soon be telling everyone why.
Jeremy had been here once before, the semester before. He knew what was coming, felt a little embarrassed by it all, and was, frankly bored. But then his eyes noticed that Marcie Ruggles was there too. She had on jeans that seemed a little tight, bulging out to accommodate her tummy rather than being flat like most other girls. The seams of her blouse seemed to be tugging as well.
Jeremy smiled to himself, wishing he had some way to get her attention. But Marcie was a seventh grader --- and he thought she wouldn’t want to talk to a sixth grader. He noted, however, that she had taken two donuts --- right in front of her parents. Obviously she likes food, he thought. Unformed in his young mind was the obvious corollary, or getting plump either.
Two other plump girls were there as well, though not as chubby as Marcie was becoming. But they were sixth graders like himself. --- Cynthia Wittig and Jasmine Rutgers. He sort of wished he could get to know one, or both, of them. Jeremy, you see, liked plump girls, but hadn’t yet begun to date. He was still young, and felt awkward trying to be friends with someone who wasn’t a boy.
The ceremonies got underway, with Jeremy by now more interested in the three plumpers than in what was being said. But, like a good trooper, he walked up when the principal, Sharon White, called his name and dutifully received his certificate for helping with the school safety program. “I wonder what Marcie’s will be for?", he wondered.
A few moments later Mrs. White called on Claudine Brazier, the school activities advisor, to present her student of the month. She in turn called out Marcie’s name, plus those of Cynthia and Jeanine. “What’s going on?" Jeremy wondered.
"Marcie has virtually taken charge of the end of the year school dance, and, with her two friends, has done a simply wonderful job," Miss Brazier announced. "The entertainment, music, and refreshments have all been arranged, the tickets printed, and it is all very professional like --- a real accomplishment that entitles all three of these girls to the student of the month award.
Now, she remarked, if there was just some way of getting of our young male students to stoke up their courage and attend! Perhaps parents, she suggested, could offer some encouragement there."
Jeremy saw a number of the boys present wince. So did he --- for, like them, he didn’t know that much about dancing. That’s why he Wasn’t planning to get on the dance floor that night. If he even went. Or, at least, he Hadn’t been. But ......
An idea began to form. Maybe this was a way to get to break the ice with Marcie. After all, he was the president of his homeroom and a member of the school band that would be playing for part of the night. And his older brother was on the staff of the school paper. He could get the co-operation of some of the other male students if only ....
That day at lunch he took time to seek out Marcie. It Wasn’t hard. She was just sitting down at a table in the cafeteria with the other two girls as usual --- though Jeremy had never bothered to notice before. There was a fourth seat at the table so he paid for his meal and went over to their table. "Here goes nothing," he thought, taking a deep breath.
"Hey, congratulations you three," he said. “I saw you get your awards this morning."
"Thanks," said Marcie on behalf of the group. "Congratulations yourself."
"Yeah --- uh, something Mrs. Brazier said gave me an idea. Do you mind if I join you for lunch and tell you about it?"
Surprised, Marcie looked at her two friends, who just shrugged their shoulders in assent. "Sure, why not," she replied.
After being seated he continued. "Do you know why more boys don't come to the middle school dance?", he asked.
"Because they’re chicken to be with girls," volunteered Jeanine.
"Maybe some of them. But I think there’s a bigger reason. It also because they don't want anyone to know they can’t dance."
"So, if we could get Miss Brazier to find an after school dance instructor for a class maybe we could, between us, find enough students to fill it up. Its still ten weeks to the dance --- and I, for one, don't want to be playing trumpet to an empty room"
"That's right," Marcie noted, "as part of the band you are going to be there."
"Will you ask Miss Brazier?" he pressed.
"I think you could be right. What do you two think," she said to her friends.
Again they shrugged their shoulders in assent. Marcie was the leader and if she was in favor, they were.
"Good, its done then. Let me know as soon as you get the answer." And Jeremy got up and left.
"You knew Ms. Brazier has been looking for a way to do something like this," Jeanine commented. "Her brother, who teaches over at 2nd Avenue, has taught dance classes and has already told her he would do it."
"Of course," said Marcie. "And Jeremy and his brother can probably pull this off."
"Sure," said Cynthia, who had been silent up to this point. "And then with all the men there the girls will come as well and we will get to be wallflowers together."
"What?" said Jasmine, "What are you talking about?"
"I've helped put this dance together thinking there would only be 20-30 people there and that they would all be dancers. Some of us have learned how to dance at Church already. But if we make this the "in" thing to do all sorts of people will come and chubbies like us will be left on the sidelines! You just watch!"
"I really don't think so, " said Marcie. "I'm heavier right now than either of you and my sister is even heavier than me. But she has never been a wallflower and I don't expect to be either. But if you want we could use a little technique to get the men involved that will guarantee we each get at least six dances!"
"A lady's choice card with six slots for the evening --- we get to pick the men who will be our partners! Anyone who refuses an invitation has to pay a forfeit right in front of everyone! And, frankly, if we treat them right and don't complain when they have two left feet, the men we ask will probably want another of their own accord. I know because its worked that way for my sister."
"Let's give it a try Cynthia --- after all, its only a dance."
True to expectations Miss Brazier recruited her brother, Jeremy and Marcie spread the word, and ten days later nearly sixty students were crowding the gymnasium twice a week. Jeremy asked Marcie if she would be his partner for the class and she, despite being a seventh grader, agreed. Jasmine and Cynthia traded off among a number of men, quickly discovering that they could compete quite adequately.
Oh, you may wonder how I come to know all of this?
Well, I happen to be Jeremy's older brother and I wrote an article about the class for the school paper. Of course, there I left the remarks about weight out of the story.
But now you know the whole thing --- and, incidentally, Marcie and her friends got a little more plumper over the next few years. They all made it into high school by the time I was a Senior. But, in part, at least because of my brothers encouraging them to start the dance class, none of them has ever let their weight hold them back. In fact, with Jeremy's permission, I took Marcie to the prom (even though she is a Junior). She is probably 185-190 now --- and stunningly beautiful!