It was the early 1970s, and I was at a junior school dance - we still called middle school junior high back then. It might have been my first dance - I don't remember. I was the new girl at a new school in a new town, hanging out with my new friends. When a slow song came on, the dance floor cleared, and everyone stood around trying to look cool and as if they didn't care whether they danced or not. A few girls would moan, "Oh, I love this song!" in a transparent attempt to get one of the boys - preferably a cute one - to rescue them from the perimeter of the dance floor and take them out to the center of the floor where they would dance, while all of her friends giggled and watched and his friends dispersed to the food table.
And on that night, someone did ask me to dance. I didn't even know his name at the time, but he was kind of cute and I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I said yes. Besides, being in the center of the dance floor was better than standing on the perimeter. Way better.
The song was Harry Nilsson's "Without You," a plaintive ballad about being unable to go on without the girl in the song who always smiled, but in her eyes her sorrow showed. I didn't know the song that night, but I soaked in the lyrics, trying to remember every detail of my first slow dance.
Tonight, my daughter and her friend were in the back seat of the car, her iPod sending music out through the car's stereo speakers. The song was "Without You," but this was David Guetta's version. Equally plaintive, despite the digitized sound that lacked the crackle of vinyl, both girls singing along as though there was someone that they, now the age I was that night at that school dance, could not live without. Someone secret, who occupied their thoughts, but whose name would not be shared with the likes of parents. A quiet crush, intense as middle school crushes are, and meant for songs with titles like "Without You."
The symmetry made me smile. My daughter is a year older than I was at that dance, with a good head on her shoulders. She loves to go to dances with her friends, and for her, it's less about the boys and more about hanging out with her friends. As her mom, I wish I could freeze her in that place, safe from broken hearts and broken promises, where the lyrics to a love song hold both hope and despair, but her life experience favors the first.
But she's growing up, and - so far, at least - doing so rather nicely. And someday, a boy will break her heart - or she will break his - but for now, it's all about music and friendship and basketball.
That's a pretty nice place to live.