Let me bring you back to a time engraved in all our hearts. During a time when we didn’t have to worry about picking a major and staying up late meant that we were allowed to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. You know what I’m talking about. Back in the day when the teachers were walking around with rulers making sure everyone was at least six inches apart. Going out meant you would hold hands in the hallway. And hooking up was just something you did to your stereo speakers. The good old days where relationships were in baseball terms and asking for a date was followed by that ever-so-much harder question, “So, your parents or mine?”

Seventh grade was a time of innocence. We couldn’t wait to play on the monkey bars during recess and Stealing the Bacon had nothing to do with the cafeteria. We all long to be able to go back to seventh grade. Life was so much easier, and if we had the chance most people would. Who wouldn’t want to forget about finding a job during the summer? And you could finally embrace your obsession with Harry Potter!

The essence of seventh grade was the dance. Your whole school would be filed into the dark gym between the hours of 7pm and 10pm, with music so loud your ears would ring for the next three days.

The songs of the time were priceless. I remember listening to Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio while hanging out on the wall with my friends. I didn’t dance, I was happy hanging out against the padded gym walls in the dark room laughing with my friends about how stupid Bobby Nelson looked because his mom made him wear a suit. No one left the wall. The Electric Slide was always able to snag a few weak-minded individuals away but they always returned after the fourth or fifth “boogey woogey oogey.” Anything could have happened from a person breaking their arm, to the wall being on fire no one would budge because a quality wall space was something not to be given away because you were afraid of a few “third degree burns.”

No one left, that was, until the music slowed down. It was like the bell at a race track when a slow song would come on. All the guys would race towards the girls asking them to dance. There was only a thirty second window and you didn’t want to be one of the guys who had to make the lonely walk back to the wall after not finding someone to dance with. But when you were out on the dance floor it was so dark, it was hard to tell the difference from Ashley Zabrowski, head cheerleader, and Ashley Lewis, “Miss Head Gear 1997.”

Not being able to find a dance partner was a definite kick in the jimmy, but girls would unfairly stack the odds against us by using a tactic known as “dance circles.” Everyone knows what I’m talking about and odds are that you have been involved in one of these dance circles at one time or another. A group of three to five girls decide that instead of dancing one-on-one with me, they’re going to throw their arms around each other and sway back and forth with the music. All the while, I’m standing on the wall next to the smelly kid.

When you heard the first notes to KC and JoJo’s “All My Life” you were out on that floor, and if you were lucky had yourself a partner. Every so often the hot girl would drop her standards and agree to dance with me. That’s where I learned the lesson that it’s a lot harder for a person to say no when I’m standing there and they will be able to see my world come crashing down and crumble into rubble if the answer they give is the dreaded “N” word. But I had to be careful with the popular girls because they normally had a list longer than Santa Clause to get through; sadly my name was on the bottom, right under Bobby Nelson.

In 7th grade my concept of music wasn’t the keen sense of Kazaa stealing talent it is now, so looking back on the people that actually made those songs I danced to, it makes me cringe. Celiene Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” and Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last,” were the highlights. They were the songs you weren’t going to leave until you heard. And the night would be a total wash if Boys II Men did not make an appearance at least twice! And who could forget Boys II Men’s ugly unwanted cousin All 4 One with “I Swear?” The queen of the 7th Grade Dance Hall of Fame is Mariah Carey. With such hits as “Always Be My Baby,” and “Hero,” we would all be lost without that eight scale screech right before the bridge of every song.

Somehow we all managed to make it through that awkward time of cracked voices and pimples, where four inches was rebellious, and nobody knew what they were doing except for The Tony Rich Project.

I’m glad I could be your tour guide through this visit to the past. If you’re looking for me you can find me on the wall, between Bobby Nelson and the smelly kid, third panel from the left.