‘Initiative’ And Flirting With Boys

This was going to be one of the best days of my life. I could feel it! The excitement, anticipation, and fear — yes, fear. I could feel these things pulsing through my body, all the way down through my bones. I was going to a party, but not just any party. This was a party with BOYS!!

I was having the time of my life. I was in the 6th grade and my teacher was Mrs. Harris. She was my favorite teacher and it had already been a great year. One of my best friends, Shelley, was in my class. She and I had been friends since kindergarten and she lived down the street from me. She was the one who was having a birthday party (with boys!) and as her best friend, I was invited.

Shelley was one of the pretty, popular girls. You know the kind. She was in the ‘in’ crowd. While I wasn’t in the ‘in’ crowd per se, I wasn’t exactly ‘out’ either. I was on the fringe of the ‘in’ crowd and at the top of the ‘middle’ crowd where I would stay throughout the remainder of my school years. I had friends in both crowds and it served me well. Basically, I fit in everywhere.

Sixth grade was the year I started noticing boys. More importantly, I wanted them to notice me. I was considered an “early bloomer” because I was the first girl in my class to wear a bra. There was a boy named Matt. He was one of the cutest boys in our grade and he happened to be in my class. Our desks were arranged in rows and Matt sat in the row of desks along the wall next to the windows. Under the windows was a shelf of dictionaries. We were encouraged to use dictionaries and never even had to ask permission to get out of our seats to get one.

In my attempt to get boys to notice me, specifically, Matt, I would often go over to the row of dictionaries and conveniently choose one by Matt’s desk. Since they were on a shelf below the windows, it was necessary to squat down to get one. I would spend extra time picking one out with the hope that Matt would see my bra strap through the back of my shirt, thus making him aware of the fact I wore a bra and was more “mature” than the other girls. I thought this might make him like me. Since Matt was also invited to the party, I was looking forward to finding out if my little trick had worked!

Rushing home from school that Friday afternoon I was so excited! My parents had already agreed to let me go to Shelley’s party, but only because they knew her parents were going to be there. Their home had a huge attic that had just been cleaned out and it was going to be decorated for her party. Little did they know, her parents promised to stay downstairs.

I hurried and did my chores as fast as I could. Then I took my time getting ready for the party which was supposed to start at 7:00 pm. Her house was only six blocks from mine and in a town the size of ours, that was nothing. By the time 6:30 came around I was anxious and ready to go.

While I was in the living room, sitting and staring at the clock, anxiously waiting to leave, my dad walked in. He asked me why I had left my shoes on the stairs. I looked across the room and over to the open staircase and sure enough, a pair of my shoes were sitting on the fifth step.

“I don’t know, I just forgot,” I said.

“You forgot. You’ve been home for three hours and you’ve been up and down those stairs how many times?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“And you couldn’t be bothered to pick your shoes up on your way to your room? You just walked by them again and again. How many times have I told you your shoes don’t belong on the stairs? One of these days someone is going to trip over them and get hurt.”

He did have a point. Our staircase was very narrow. My dad is an orderly type of guy. Very Type A personality. He sounded more and more mad with each word. I should’ve known not to push his buttons, but I just couldn’t help myself.

“Mom’s shoes are sitting right there too, on the step above mine!” I argued.

“We’re not talking about your mother’s shoes. We’re talking about YOUR shoes. You could’ve taken some initiative and taken her shoes up with you when you took yours, but you didn’t, did you? It never even crossed your mind, did it?”

What was I supposed to say to that? Knowing I was busted and knowing it’s best not to talk back or lie to my dad, “No” I said.

“Do you even know what initiative is?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“Ummm…” I thought about it for a minute. “I’m not exactly sure,” I said as I looked at the clock which now read 6:37 pm.

“That’s what I thought. ‘Initiative’ is seeing something that needs to be done and doing it without having to be told. If you had initiative, you would’ve seen your shoes and your mom’s shoes and taken them upstairs without being told because you know they don’t belong there. I’m tired of having to tell you to do everything. It’s time you learned about ‘initiative’ then maybe you’ll start taking some initiative around here.”

I was listening, but I wished he’d hurry or I was going to be late. I didn’t want to be the last one to show up at the party. I wanted to be early.

Then, my dad did the unthinkable. He made me get out my dictionary and then he told me I had to write down the definition of the word ‘initiative’ 500 times.

I couldn’t believe it! He’d never done anything like this before. Why was he doing this to me? And tonight of all nights! I was never going to make it to the party! As I sat down at his desk, I couldn’t help the tears that ran down my cheeks as I began to copy the definition, word for word. I couldn’t believe I was going to miss my very first boy/girl party. And for what? A pair of shoes left on the stairs?

As I sat there, copying the definition of a word I instantly hated and numbering each definition through my tears, it didn’t take long for my sadness to became anger. I just knew this was a convenient way for my dad to keep me from going to the party.

Maybe he thought he’d make me so late I’d decide not to go.
Maybe he never really planned on letting me go in the first place!

Anger suddenly fueled my pencil and before I knew it, I was almost done. The clock read 7:42 pm. The party was supposed to go from 7:00 pm-10:00 pm. If I hurried, I still might make it. I’d be really late, but I still wanted to go and see what it was like. I wanted to know what was going on and what had happened.

Who liked who?

Who danced with who?

What had I missed?

When I finally finished, I showed my dad and asked if I could go. He looked at me, confused. “Go where?” he asked.

“To Shelley’s birthday party, remember? You already said I could go, but it started at 7:00 pm.” I felt my face heat with shame. I hated disappointing my dad, but I had put myself in this position.

“That’s tonight?”

He looked genuinely surprised. Somehow, it hadn’t occurred to him that I was going anywhere, despite all my effort in getting ready.

“Yes, it’s tonight. It’s almost over now.” I said.

“Why didn’t you say anything? If I had known, I would’ve let you write the definitions tomorrow. You didn’t say anything about a party. I knew you were upset, but I didn’t realize that was the reason.”

I couldn’t believe it! I had wasted all that time for nothing! Why hadn’t I just said something? I was so sure he knew about the party and he just didn’t want me to go. Well, I wasn’t going to waste any more time thinking about it. I still had to walk to the party!

It was way past dark by the time I got there and I could see light coming from the attic window. When Shelley’s mom opened the door, I was so embarrassed that I was late that I didn’t take the time I normally did to talk to her. Instead, I said a quick hello as I ran through the house and up the stairs to the attic where I knew the party was taking place.

When I rounded the corner at the top of the stairs, I saw that Shelley’s parents did a great job decorating for the party. The previously bare light bulbs were covered with sheer fabrics of different colors that gave the room a dark ambiance. Several strands of white Christmas lights bordered the room giving it a magical glow. A stereo system and speakers had been brought up from downstairs. Colorful bowls of chips and snacks covered several tables throughout the room. Lastly, chairs had been placed against the wall on either side of the room. Empty plates, dirty napkins, and half empty cups of pink punch were scattered everywhere.

On the right side of the room stood a group of unusually well-dressed boys with their hair slicked back, huddled in a circle. I noticed Matt among them. He looked even cuter than usual with his hair gelled in place. The boys were talking and laughing. Every so often, they’d surreptitiously glance over at the circle of girls on the opposite side of the room doing the same thing. They too were huddled in a circle, dressed to impress, make-up applied, hair styled big and poofy with teased bangs. The smell of cheap cologne and flowery perfume permeated the room.

I had pictured this scene much different in my mind. I thought everyone would be paired off and dancing to slow music. I imagined myself walking in and being the only one without a dance partner. I guess I always did have an over-active imagination.

Fortunately, no one noticed me as I walked in and made my way over to the group of girls. For a few minutes we stood around talking and whispering about the boys. Suddenly, something came flying at us from the boys side of the room. As we turned in their direction, they all started laughing. Luckily, whatever they threw didn’t hit any of us, but one of my friends, Laura, decided to be brave. She walked over and started talking to Jason, one of Matt’s friends. Before I knew it, we were no longer two separate groups of boys and girls, but one big group, laughing, joking, and trying, but failing miserably, to flirt with each other.

It seemed like only minutes passed when Shelley’s mom came upstairs and told us it was time for cake. We were just starting to have a good time and the fun was about to be over. We made our way down the steep attic stairs to the dining room. In the center of the table was a beautiful birthday cake. To Shelley’s complete and utter horror, her mom made us sing “Happy Birthday” before she blew out the candles. We thought we were too old for the silly tradition and we couldn’t get through it without cracking up. When it was over, we all had cake and ice cream as Shelley opened her presents. We hoped there’d still be time for us to go back upstairs before we had to leave, especially me since I’d only been there a short while. Unfortunately, by the time she was done it was time to go home.

I was so disappointed. My dad caused me to miss almost the entire party! If I’d gotten to the party early like I planned, we would’ve been talking to the boys from the moment they arrived. Instead, I let my embarrassment over being late cause me to feel self-conscious, something I wasn’t familiar with at the time. Instead of the friendly, outgoing person who could talk to anyone, I became shy and insecure. I never even tried to talk to Matt, let alone find out of he liked me or if my “trick” had worked (at least not that night!).

It was all for nothing!

Or so it seemed,

but little did I know. . .

That night changed my life.

Instead of a party, it was a single word that changed my life. A word I would never forget. From that night on and for the rest of my life, I would be known for my initiative. Every teacher I ever had, every position I ever held, every performance review and every recommendation I ever received would all have one thing in common. They would emphasize that I lead by example and stress the fact that I never hesitate to take the initiative to get things done.

I guess I learned more that night than how to flirt with boys!

  • Note: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

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