A 1987 8th Grade Fantasy: Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner


Picture it....1987--Revere, Massachusetts. I was 12, it was a summer day. August 21st to be exact. I walked to the movie theater because back then that's what kids did. It was that or taking the bus, because I was also a city kid. I went with my best friend. The two of us were going to see a new movie called Dirty Dancing.
It was about a smart girl and a bad boy. At 12, we were intrigued. By the end, we both thought we would try to convince our parents to take us on a long boring vacation to a family resort where we would meet a boy just like Johnny Castle. 

He would come for you when you were seated at the wrong spot around the table during the end of year camp dance.  You would smile as he said, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." Your father would stare at him wondering who the hell Baby was. You would stand up knowing you were Baby. In fact, you had recently changed your nickname from Nikki to Baby for just such an occasion. 

You even started to ask the camp people and your brother to call you Baby, most didn't listen, but Johnny did. Okay, so his name is actually Ralph you discover and he actually teaches bowling, but if he wanted to he really could teach dance. It matters little that he stepped on your foot during the cha-cha and it was you who had to teach him, "this is your space, this is mine." So what? 

He's here and he's standing up for your honor. Why did your parents put you in the corner anyway? Is it merely because your mother needs access to the ladies room to check her face because the sweltering heat makes her makeup drip right down to her decolletage--her word, not yours. Hell, you don't even know what the word means, you're only 12.  Or maybe it's because your father can't handle his liquor and has to pee with the frequency of a man double his age, at least that's what your mother always says. 

Either way, you hate the seating arrangements. You hate the corner. No matter, Johnnny Frank is here to help you. You stand up and move toward him his hand waiting to hold yours. Maybe you'll even let him kiss you when all of this is over. What a great story this will be when you cruise into Mr. Andrews class in the fall as an 8th grader--junior high, bitches---2nd year!

Frank looks great tonight. While he may not be wearing a leather jacket, the blue bow tie sure does look nice with his eyes. It must have taken a ton of time to make it so perfect. As you reach for his hand you realize something--he may not have said Baby. In fact when you asked him to call you by it the other day, he didn't respond minus a long sigh. "Nobody puts boxes in that corner." You stare at him blankly with your still extended hand. His is still extended as well--reaching for the boxes...in the corner.

Your father gives you an odd look and hands Frank the boxes as you sit down, back in your corner, a place where you fear you will spend the rest of your life. Frank, what a dumb name not nearly as cool as Johnny. 

"I'm heading to the bathroom," your dad says. Your mother stands up to join him, "I need to fix my face." 

"This is why movies are awesome and real life sucks," you say to your brother. 

He smiles, his headgear shining in the glaring lights of the ballroom, "I'm telling Mom and Dad you swore." 

You want to tell him sucks isn't a swear, you want to punch Frank in his arm for making a fool of you, you want to claim you are in fact Baby, but  instead you sit and drink your Shirley Temple. At least they gave you an extra cherry. Wait, wasn't the bus boy's name Johnny?

If you'd like to read more about my obsession with Patrick Swayze (aka Johnny Castle) and what led to this nostalgic adolescent fantasy, please come check out my piece up at Club Mid by clicking on the link below. 

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