Saturday, December 06, 2008

How Legends are Made

I once told my Anonymous Male Cousin how the family legends grew around him. "When you were a kid, you did all sorts of cute-but-crazy stuff. You climbed up and subsequently fell off kitchen counters. You left the family Thanksgiving dinner, only to show up minutes later with your pants and underwear around your ankles, asking someone to help you snap up. You climbed out of your room window and ran away from the babysitter.

"Everyone told these stories about you. And when you grew up, people only told stories that aligned themselves with the earlier stories. No one knows you have a philosophy degree. No one knows how involved you were in student government. All we know is that you fell 50 ft. off the side of a mountain because you also fell off the kitchen counter tops when you were three. You already set up the legends that would define the rest of your life before you started kindergarten."

I say this because, in some real respects, he didn't know what he was doing when he was a kid starting family legends about him. Just like I had no idea what I was doing when I started a legend about myself.

Thanks to the power of Facebook, I am reconnecting with several people from my high school. And every once in awhile I get the same question. Sometime the person doesn't remember me very well, they can't quite place the face, but they remember the one big thing I did that no one else dared to do.

Sometimes I wish the questions were about other areas of my high school experience. "Aren't you the guy who placed second in the State Journalism Contest?" Or "Aren't you the guy who gave that speech at the National Honor Society where you said, 'No one wants to have good character because at an early age we are told good character comes from eating Brussels sprouts?'"

No. They all ask the same thing.

"Weren't you the guy who took a mop to prom?"

Yes. I took a mop to prom.

In keeping with a long personal tradition of putting faith into completely faithless women (a tradition shattered by my loving wife), I asked a young lady to prom. A young lady who promptly forgot about the commitment and made nebulous other plans for the same evening. And then this forgetful soul decided not to really communicate this forgetfulness to me until mere hours before I was to pick her up.

Left in the lurch like this, I did what any sane person would do. Put a dress on a mop and ask my brother to draw a face on a piece of paper that I could tape to the mop.

And then I went to prom, danced until my heart was content, and got my date home by 10.

One of the reasons we were home by 10 was because the two post-prom parties I had been invited to suddenly decided to un-invite me as soon as they saw my date for the evening. I mean, it is totally cool to dance next to a guy and his mop while "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" blasts in your ears, but to be seen with the same guy and his mop in a party afterwords... that crosses a line.

I know I am a strange guy. And I know it takes a lot of bravery to be friends with the strange guy, especially in high school. That night was one of the few times I have seen my strangeness outpace other people's bravery. I learned that people, even your close friends, can tolerate eccentricity up to a point and then after that, you are on your own. Like all lasting wisdom, this has helped me in the long run, but at the time... man, it hurt.

That night is a little bittersweet for me. I was handed lemons, made lemonade, and then came away from the experience feeling like I had been kicked in the teeth.

Until a few weeks after prom, when we had our senior assembly. All of the Seniors got to go to the auditorium and be entertained with a slideshow of our Senior year set to the timeless music of Garth Brooks. And there - smack dab in the middle of it all - was a picture of me dancing with a mop.

And the crowd cheered.

And the legend began.

Part of me wants to set the record straight - this was nothing more than a bold and audacious move by a lonely guy with nothing who couldn't catch a break on an important night.

But another part of me just wants to let the story stand as is - this one time, this dude took a mop to prom and it was totally awesome.

So, yeah, I did something legendary. And for the rest of my days, a certain group of people will know me only as That Guy Who Took a Mop to Prom. I don't mind. I'm just glad I didn't have to fall 50 ft. off the side of a mountain to get there.


NoRegrets said...

ARG! I just wrote a big long message and blogger chomped it and ate it up, vomiting an error message.

Anyway, I think it's cool you brought a mop. What would have been great is if you have the capability to have a photo of the woman that stood you up and you blew it up and taped it on the mop.

M. Robert Turnage said...

NoR, sorry about the error message. I don't think I have any photos of the young lady. I know some photos of me and the mop exist out there, but I don't have any. Last night, I spent about three hours at my folk's house looking through old albums for a picture of this to include in this blog post. Sadly, we could not find one.

Susan said...

See, I thought being known at the girl who hit a guy with a piccolo when he wouldn't quit following her around saying "and one band camp" was interesting.

I have nothing on mop dancing. Now every time I see those swiffer commercials (baby comeee back) I'll think of you.

NoRegrets said...

I meant more when you actually went to the prom - taping her face to the mop so there was shame on her part.

M. Robert Turnage said...

Susan, I aim to please.

NoR, honestly, that evening was emotionally charged because my parents wanted to kill the poor lady and I spent a lot of the time defending her against them. I would say stuff like, "I am sure she has a very good reason," and "I am sure she didn't mean any harm," and "Once she realizes what a mess she caused, I am sure she will apologize."

So honoring her with a picture would have caused more problem than it would have solved. She did not attend my high school, so the social shame thing wouldn't have really worked; her peer group was far far away.

Interestingly enough, she has never apologized to me for doing this, although, once, when pressed, she admitted that it was, and I quote, "a shitty thing to do." She is now a published poet, so draw your own conclusions.

Cyber D said...

I'm sorry I missed the initial rounds of comments on this post. What a story, I am both sorry and proud of you all at the same time. Don't get me wrong, when I mean sorry I don't mean it in a condecending way... just that I know how great a guy you are and that experiance had to S-U-C-K at the time. It is nice to know that the greater consensus of the masses found it bold and legendary. Because it is genius. Perhaps this is why so many people see college as the best time in their lives. It's perhaps the first and only time in ones life where you can completely re-invent yourself.

heather said...

you've got one hell of a set don't ya? kudos to you. what a crap ass thing to do on her part. what a brilliant thing to do on yours.

InvisibleMarketing said...

I married well. Very, very well. IJS

(Thank goodness the little poet failed to recognize quality!)

- CT