High school dances have always been hyped up by television shows, movies and the people who attend them. Women are shown entering a magnificent ballroom and astounding everyone with their gorgeous, full-length dresses and finding their true love. It also meant that they were finally grown-up and prepared to live in the “adult world.” That’s why my first high school homecoming was so important to me and every other 9th grader who would be attending the dance; we thought it would be a life-changing experience.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. But it did teach me a whole lot about self-love and friendship.
As a young woman who was entering into the brand-new world of high-schoolers and cute boys, I wanted to look my best at homecoming. In previous years, I’d seen many of the “popular girls” at my middle school get in trouble for wearing skimpy skirts and high heels to chorus concerts, and though I didn’t aspire to dress inappropriately for the dance, I thought that a pair of medium-sized heels might do the trick and boost my confidence. However, I soon discovered that wearing heels was way too hard for me and my undiagnosed muscle disability.
From an early age, my parents saw that I had difficulties crawling, walking and lifting things as simple as a cup. Fast forward through many inconclusive blood tests, procedures and doctor’s appointments to 5th grade, when I was diagnosed with a hypoplastic cerebellum — which means that the part of my brain that controls my motor skills is slightly smaller than the average person’s. This wasn’t a true diagnosis and only explained some parts of the difficulties I have in maintaining my balance, and to this day, no one really knows what’s going on with my body. All we know is that it’s not getting worse, and I’m good with that. I just fall a lot.
I had been determined to walk into homecoming in a nice pair of heels and impress all the high-schoolers, but I had to give up this dream when I realized doing so meant that I would likely break my neck falling. Some of you may be thinking “it’s only a pair of heels,” but to me, wearing heels meant overcoming previous struggles I’d faced in trying to find shoes that I could walk in that didn’t sparkle or glow in the dark. It also meant fitting in with the rest of the girls — something I’d been trying to do for my entire life. I could never play on a sports team or run around with the other girls at recess, and I couldn’t wear heels.
However, my close friends and family soon convinced me that I didn’t need heels to be beautiful, and I found a pretty pair of golden flats to wear with my dress. I got all dolled up with make-up, but as I left with my high-heeled friends to go to the dance, I felt left out again and self-conscious.
Upon entering the school, I saw something strange; every girl was taking her shoes off so she could dance! No one was even paying attention to them. There wasn’t a shoe police at the door keeping tally of who was wearing flats and who was wearing heels, and I had been worried about nothing. In fact, I was pretty happy with myself, because I could dance with my flats on and not have to worry about stepping on the gross PE floor. I think a lot of people were actually wishing that they had been wearing shoes similar to mine.
I didn’t meet my true love at the dance, but I did have a blast. I danced without caring about what was on my feet and so did everyone else.
Preparing for more recent dances has been easier for me, because I’ve learned that my personality makes me beautiful, no matter what shoes I wear. And let’s face it, those shoes probably hurt Cinderella’s feet really badly anyways.