The Daydream Believer and the Homecoming Queen

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‘A song sends me rocketing down Memory Lane, and reaching for my tiara’

The other morning I was in Starbucks, practicing my New Post-Election Niceness (‘After you’. No, ‘after you’. No no I insist! ‘After you‘) when I realized that the Monkees were playing on the sound system.

Yup, it was ‘Daydream Believer’, sung by the Actual Monkees, not some cover band. And not only were the Young Moms Wrestling with Strollers on the Way to School Drop-off and the Scrubs-Clad New York Hospital Med Students and Orderlies bopping to the beat, but so were the Starbucks baristas. One of them, a young man with a most impressive set of dreads tucked up under his requisite foodservice cap, was actually singing along. He knew the words to ‘Daydream Believer’, a song that was popular about a zillion years ago when I was in high school.

Speaking of popular, speaking of high school. Scroll down a bit for a photo of me from Way Back When. As you can see, looks-wise, I wouldn’t exactly scare the horses, but my kind of long-haired lankiness wasn’t exactly in fashion back then. At least not where I grew up. The really popular girls — the ones who went steady with the Guys on the Basketball Team (we had no football team) or the Guys in Bands (and I don’t mean bands with trombones in them) — were ‘cute’ and ‘perky’, and with, um, more 3-dimensional figures than mine. They were usually also cheerleaders.

Now, I did try out for cheerleading. Once. Let’s just say I am choreographically challenged, since I most definitely bombed. In later years, I couldn’t follow along with Richard Simmons or Jane Fonda, so it should come as no surprise that I couldn’t master the art of the cartwheel, even as a sixteen-year-old. I did love some of the actual cheers, though: “Go go! Where where? We want a basket — down there!” and “Get that bee-ball bee-ball bee-ball. Get that bee-ball, go go go!!” are two of my faves.

I did go out with a basketball player there for a while, though. (He was so good-looking, he scared my parents silly.) His dad was the principal of our high school, but only for a year or two, and then Handsome Boy and his whole family moved away. (Much to my parents’ relief, I’m sure.) I never knew why. But we teenagers were vastly uninterested in what grownups did and why.

The thing I remembered most about the time I was going steady with the basketball player did have something to do with his parents, though. It was the time we were all watching TV in the basement rec room and I had to, um, “use the ladies’ room”, which was located immediately to the right and behind the couch where Handsome Boy’s mom and dad and brothers were sitting.

Me, when I was dating Handsome Guy. His ring is hanging on a chain around my neck under that sweater

Me, when I was dating Handsome Boy. His ring is hanging on a chain around my neck under that sweater, which I bought with babysitting money from a ritzy store in Centralia

I was mortified to think that Handsome Boy’s whole family — including his dad, the principal — might hear me “powdering my nose”, so I sort of perched on the very edge of the seat so what I was doing wouldn’t make that telltale splashing sound. Everything was going (pun intended) just peachy when I noticed this little yellow river heading for the crack under the bathroom door. If I didn’t stop it, and stop it soon, it was going to trickle out and appear right next to the parental feet. So, what did I do? I grabbed a couple of towels hanging next to the sink and sort of tossed them, forming a makeshift dam.

I was saved, but at a cost. See, those towels were fancy little guest towels. I’m betting the mom got them as a wedding present. They were pristinely white, with her initials embroidered on them in gold. They had probably never even been washed, much less used — until then, when I rinsed them out in the sink, wrung them out, painstakingly smoothed out the wrinkles, then re-hung them neatly. (I was in that bathroom a long time.)

But let’s get back to Homecoming. So we can talk about real mortification.

When I was in high school, the girls who got to be in the Homecoming Court were decided, quite literally, by popular vote. Everybody in the whole school voted, and the ten girls from the junior and senior classes who got the most votes were the Queen Candidates.

To be honest, I can’t remember how the boys were picked. By height, maybe. But for we girls, I cannot stress to you enough what a big deal this was. For one thing, the winners were announced right during school, over the public address system. There was nowhere to hide as the names were read, slowly, loudly, your fixed smile tightening as the total got to ‘ten’, and yours wasn’t one of them.

There was the year when I wasn’t picked (when I was a junior), and the year I was (when I was a senior). And I have to tell you, as superficial as it sounds, that I much preferred the being-picked year. It’s a lot of work pretending that you don’t care.

I made it! Here I am, in all my Homecoming Court Glory, clutching the arm of my uncomfortable-looking tall escort. Oh and wearing my tiara with the crushed-velvet gown I sewed myself

Here I am, in all my tiara-topped Homecoming Glory, clutching a bouquet and the arm of my uncomfortable-looking escort. Oh and wearing the crushed-velvet gown I sewed myself

Of course I wasn’t elected the Queen. It was heady enough stuff being one of the ten and wearing a long dress and a tiara. Being the winner would have been gilding the popularity lily, at least for me. No, this really pretty super-nice girl, kind of the Julia Roberts of our school, was Queen. Her name was Barbie, and she was going steady with a Guy From Another School (the coolest thing of all, dating-wise). Barbie wore his class ring on her finger, wrapped in angora yarn so it wouldn’t be too loose, even over her white glove. Red angora, to match her gown. Oh, the guy’s last name was Doll, and they eventually married. Think about it.

A quick note about dating when I was in high school. Basically, boys and girls ‘went with’ each other, one guy/girl pairing at a time. You wouldn’t, say, go with Tommy to the movies one night, then Jimmy to a dance the next. While ‘going with’ a guy, you usually wore his class ring to signify your ‘taken-ness’. ‘Going with’ someone lasted sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes a whole semester — sometimes, even, till you got married. Like Barbie and the guy named Doll.

The thing that was the saddest part of this whole social arrangement, though, was that if you smiled at a boy or — gasp — talked to him, it meant that you ‘liked’ him and wanted to go out with him. Basically, boys and girls couldn’t be friends. When The Child reached high school age and had actual friends who were boys — and not boyfriends — I found this both marvelous and strange. Just goes to show you that sometimes things weren’t better in the Good Old Days.

The Child at the same age as me in this story, wearing a medal instead of a tiara. She was on stage, too, but for Awards Night. And she didn't have to sew her dress

The Child, at about the same age as me in this story, wearing a medal instead of a tiara. She was on stage, too, but for Awards Night. And she didn’t have to sew her dress

But let’s end on a sparkly note. I actually have a tiara now, though it’s not the same one. I’m pretty sure we didn’t to keep those; that they went back into a closely-guarded Queen Candidate Cabinet or something. My sister gave me my current tiara, and it makes its first appearance in my story ‘All Saints’ (Birth)day’.

I wear it every chance I get. (It’s a little-known fact that a tiara goes with everything.) I dusted it off just a couple of weeks ago, when I celebrated a birthday with a frighteningly large number attached to it. Here I am, with two members of my court of lovely attendants. Oh, and that night I was most definitely a winner.

No, I wasn't up on stage. But I did get to clutch a glass of champagne instead of a bouquet

No, I wasn’t up on stage. But I did get to clutch a glass of champagne instead of a bouquet — and I did get to be Queen

New York City. December 2016

20 thoughts on “The Daydream Believer and the Homecoming Queen

  1. I do love your posts, they always make me smile, thank you. You were absolutely stunning, what’s more you still are only you have now also nailed glamourous! Barbie Doll absolutely hilarious!!! #weekendblogshare xxx

    • Thank you, Astrid! You are vastly better off not being familiar with cheerleading (!) Please come back for more stories. (I promise not to include stick-in-your-head cheers, or at least not most of the time)

  2. Peaches Reynolds

    I so enjoyed this and thought of your dad all through it, He was a great tease and a fun guy. The world needs more Dales in it.

  3. mike newkirk

    That picture captured the highest grade point holder as well as the lowest. Thanks Alice, while a long time ago I still remember the day it was taken. As far as being uncomfortable, I suspected that Dale was watching and I was trying to be on my best behavior.

  4. Ok Alice, I am trying to figure out here why Ms. Barbie Doll went forward with her life adventure. I hope that the foundation was enduring love, but what if it was just a cynical tactic driven by ambitious motives? Just thinking here of the attention that her married name would draw (college applications, job applications, etc.). (Was his name Ken?) I hope that there was a happy ending with the Dolls.

    What a bathroom disaster. I don’t know how you could have enjoyed that ABC sitcom or the like once you finished powdering your nose. It seems like a good time to pay attention to the homework that was calling you back home.

    We played basketball down at Centralia once. That was a long, long time ago. Just a Daydream now. They didn’t ask the players from the visiting teams to vote on the home team school’s Homecoming Queen. Had they done so, I would have cast my vote for you. Book it.

    • Thank you, Bruce, for your faithful and thorough readership. Yes, high school was a trip, the good bits and the, um, embarrassing. Not sure what happened to Mrs. Doll, but she really was one of the nicest people ever, and just not for high school(!) Too bad we didn’t meet when you came ‘downstate’ for basketball games. I think we could have been friends

      • Comforted with the note that Ms. D was one of the nicest people ever. I like those kind of people. Shame on me for wondering about cynical motivations. I guess I was caught up win the story and started writing back stories and subplots as if the folks were fictional, not honest-to-goodness classmates.

        I remember a few things about that trip downstate. It snowed, we piled out of the yellow bus and plowed through a buffet/smorgasbord restaurant and generally had a pleasant time. I don’t remember how we fared in the tournament, but I suspect pretty well. We had it going that season. I don’t remember seeing you and your friends, but of course paths crossed.

        The poor guy at the restaurant must have had a heck of a time making up his losses after a bunch of big, healthy and growing teenage boys filled their bellies. He was probably hoping for the next three buses to be filled with senior citizens and their toddler grandchildren. He dug himself into a hole by letting us in the door.

  5. Alice, you will always be Queen in my book, so hang onto that tiara. High school was just so full of drama and angst, wasn’t it? Loved the bathroom scene – that could go in a movie or book.

    • Thank you, Judy. Yes, when I’m feeling nostalgic about the Good Old Days, I just throw my mind back to high school. So much of it was fun — but oh (!) the drama and the angst. You called it. BTW, you can come over and borrow my tiara any ole time.

    • Mykal Banta

      Jeez, you’ve sent me screeching down memory\humiliation lane. Ah, high school. Loved it (your post – not high school). <3

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