Photography by Petra Collins: The Teenage Gaze
The initial idea to go to Hoco stemmed from obligation. With my best friend on student council and our peers breathing down our necks about this being fundraising for our prom, though we were turned off by the idea at first, it seemed like the right thing to do. After coughing up $25 for tickets in the form of a hall pass (I am literally not kidding), my best friend, Anh, and I actually got uncharacteristically hype for this painfully cliche high school dance.
The most fun in homecoming is planning homecoming. The theme this year at my school was a “blackout”, in that everyone got to relive their emo days in the all dark ensembles of their choosing. Many, many, many outfit changes were made weeks before the dance and continued onto the night of. After much deliberation, I ended up going with a vintage slip top, a simple circle skirt, a thick velvet choker, the thrifted varsity jacket I wear every day, and a pair of Doc Marten maryjanes; the shoes were a big part of my entire stress for three major reasons:
1. I’m incredibly tall and though I’d love to achieve the beautiful, glowing, model status so many girls rocked, I always just seem to tower over everyone and generally just look like a giant. Not so fun.
2. I was super unsure how dressy was too dressy and this seemed to be the best middle ground.
3. God do my feet hurt in heels.
My aesthetic of the night was humorously called “80s Goth Gurl” and I mean I’ll take it because that seemed on the level I was trying to be on of “terminally cool”. In all honesty, I was incredibly clueless as to what everyone else would be wearing and went with something I felt comfortable in- almost like taking my normal style slightly a level up in dressiness.
As the night came, my enthusiasm dropped marginally. I’d woken up that Saturday morning incredibly stressed, anxious, and feeling pretty unpresentable- these feelings stayed constant as the day progressed. My morning and afternoon was actually quite nice; I visited a used bookstore and went to my favorite mexican place with my mom (a post 17th birthday celebration) yet I still couldn’t shake the presence looming over me. Now that I think about it, I should’ve just cancelled then, and almost did, but there kept being a voice of unsure regret in the back of my mind and it seemed like a valid enough choice to just see how it went instead of shutting something down when I’m apprehensive as I tend to make the mistake of doing.
Homecoming is usually pre cursed with multiple traditions: one of many being the pregame. Due to the dance being school sponsored, liquor wasn’t getting past the doors and therefor the most logical option is to get drunk before or after (or both) arriving. Though the idea of sitting in someone’s basement hiding beer bottles from parents was ever so appealing, Anh and I ended up going over to a friend’s house as he made mac n cheese; no one else at the house was attending Hoco and though we could only stay an hour or so (to arrive fashionably late but not too late), eating mac and cheese with the few people I’m still friends with from freshman year was no doubt the best part of that night.
Photography by Petra Collins: The Teenage Gaze
As we finally arrived to the focal point of our evening, we were greeted by a plethora of teacher chaperones, a silver streamer entrance, and an incredibly packed gym. Right as we entered, I immediately noticed how marginally underdressed I was. Not only did I look drastically out of place compared to the heels and cocktail dresses surrounding me, as Anh and I went to meet up with a group by the DJ stand, thus began my perpetual anxiety attack of feeling so oddly out of it from everyone occupying the gym. See, I hate social gatherings of any type but I also love pretending I love social gatherings and as I blindly threw my limbs around in awkward dance moves I shouldn’t be allowed to do, I felt the weighing feeling.
Weighing Feeling: (noun) the impression that there is a weight pressing on one’s lungs, constricting breathing, an anxiety attack tradition.
I’m not sure how else to describe this but my knees began locking up and the music all of a sudden got too loud and everything became far too overwhelming all at once. A general pattern of Homecoming was the circular status of everything. There was a set group of people in each circle and though they migrated around the room, they didn’t seem to change out much. There was no real sense of drifting and I began to slowly deteriorate more and more as the night went on.
My homecoming experience ended two hours early in the passenger’s seat of my mother’s Honda. After a solid hour and a half of constant panic, I headed out of the building, alone, and stood on a street corner for fifteen minutes just because I wanted to sit in the damn car instead of walk home. I guess that’s quite lame, my mom driving me home from a school dance at 10:00 pm and I guess that really shows how good at high school I am. I’m a highly anxious person and sometimes the situation is far too much to work through and this was a prime example. I kind of had to accept at the end of the night that I’m never going to be one of those people that can easily think of things within the present instead of a future full of endings. Standing in my high school gym, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fleeting my time there is and couldn’t stop asking questions such as,
“What the hell am I doing at school on a saturday night??” and having no answers as to why I’m supposed to have a good time and why I can’t be OK for a solid ten minutes and that’s partly the brain of a mentally ill person but also partially just my personality. I may be horrible at high school functions but am amazing at high school pettiness. The rest of my saturday night was spent crying in my attic bedroom, a mix of Spice Girls I’d made earlier blasting, my emotions as a teenager are very much on the mark.
Overall, my homecoming was a bit of a mess and like any high pressure event, ended in tears. Typical. I can’t fully decide whether or not I regret my decision to go but after that night, I definitely came to terms with how “out of it” I tend to be when it comes to not only high school but social situations. I’m kind of forever in a place of in between when it comes down to it and even though my high school career will eventually (and thankfully) come to an end, I’m slightly unaware how quick this will come and want to hold onto as much of my teenage self without staying in the void that is these four years of my life. Homecoming was kind of surreal and cheesy and I wish I could’ve enjoyed it to a high level. My friends kept insisting the reason I had such a hard time having fun was due to my level of expectations for the night and though that’s possibly true in some sort, I’m honestly just not about it. I’m far too pretentious to enjoy anything vividly but I also just need to watch my boundaries more and more I guess.