Square Dance

One of my favorite television shows of all time is The Wonder Years.  Few shows have the ability to make you laugh out loud one minute and cry the next.  The Wonder Years is one of them.  And one of the very best episodes is a Season Two gem called “Square Dance.”

The opening scene shows a pair of hands flipping through the pages  of a twenty-year-old junior-high-school yearbook.  The hands belong to the show’s narrator, the adult version of main character Kevin Arnold.  And we hear him say in a voice-over:

“Some people pass through your life, and you never think about them again.  Some you think about and wonder–what ever happened to them?  And then there are those you wish you never had to think about again.

“But you do.”

Now the scene shifts back two decades and we see the twelve-year-old Kevin, in seventh grade.

kevin

In gym class, it’s the first day of square dance.  The teacher is pairing up boys and girls to be dance partners for the week.  Kevin hopes for a popular girl.  But when he’s paired up, it’s with Margaret Farquhar, the class outcast.  Everyone thinks of her as the strangest student in the class.  Kevin groans, and wishes he could escape.  But he’s stuck.  He needs to dance with the seventh-grade pariah for the entire week.

sqdance

Maybe some viewers rush to judgment here.  Why should he be so concerned about what others think?  About how his classmates view him, and what they’ll say about him dancing with Margaret Farquhar?  But of course this is junior high.  Image, as Andre Agassi once said in a commercial, is everything.

Certainly, in The Eye-Dancers, this is something both Mitchell Brant and Ryan Swinton can relate to.  Mitchell continually puffs himself up with exaggerated tall tales and even cheats on tests sometimes to get better grades.  When he’s being honest with himself, he acknowledges that he’s jealous of the popular boys in his class.  He can tell all the stories about himself he wants.  He’ll never be popular like them.  And it hurts.

Ryan, on the other hand, desperately wants to be liked, and he pursues this desire by playing the role of the class clown.  He feels a tremendous amount of pressure to make people laugh, to always have jokes and punch lines on demand.  When he tells a joke and no one laughs, it’s the worst feeling in the world.

So when Kevin Arnold, in “Square Dance,” feels nauseated by his partnership with Margaret Farquhar, I’m sure Mitchell and Ryan would get it.  “We hear you, Kevin,” they’d say to him if they could at the start of The Eye-Dancers.  “We’d feel the same way.”

The thing is–throughout the week of square dancing, Margaret takes a liking to Kevin, and at one point she even comes over his house.  She shows him her pet bat.  She tells him she also has a pet tarantula and a pet lizard.  Kevin’s opinion of her is solidified.  She’s weird.  But, to his surprise, he kind of likes her company.  The adult Kevin, in his role as voice-over narrator, looking back on the scene from the chasm of twenty years, says, “The thing was, she was interesting.  In a weird way, of course.  But interesting . . .”

margaret

Nevertheless, he is still appalled at the prospect of dancing with or even talking to her at school.  So when, the next day, she approaches him in the hall, all smiles, happy to see him, he tells her they can’t talk anymore.  At least not in front of anyone.  “Maybe we can be . . . secret friends,” he tells her.

At this, she finally gets the message.  All week long, he had been sending her signals that he couldn’t be seen with her, didn’t really want to dance with her.  But she hadn’t taken the hint.  Now she at last sees the situation as it really is.

Secret friends?” she says, on the verge of tears.  “How can we be friends if you don’t want to talk to me?  What’s so bad about talking?”

This causes a scene.  Other students gather around, mock her, pick at her, as they always do.  Meanwhile, Kevin just stands there.

“I wanted to say something,” the adult Kevin says in a voice-over as we watch the scene unfold.  “But I didn’t.”

It was Margaret who did the talking.

“I thought you were different,” she says, and then walks away.

The closing sequence of the episode takes us back to the present day, twenty years later, as the adult Kevin looks at Margaret Farquhar’s picture in his old junior high yearbook.

“Maybe if I’d been a little braver,” he says, “I could’ve been her friend.  But the truth is, in seventh grade, who you are is what other seventh graders say you are.”

“The funny thing is,” he concludes,  “it’s hard to remember the names of the kids you spent so much time trying to impress.  But you don’t forget someone like Margaret Farquhar.  Professor of biology.  Mother of six.  Friend to bats.”

And here the episode ends . . .

This is something both Mitchell Brant and Ryan Swinton must face and wrestle with over the course of The Eye-Dancers.  True, the novel is a sci-fi adventure about parallel worlds and dreams and the interconnectedness of all things.  Hopefully it takes readers on a wild and imaginative ride.  But at its heart The Eye-Dancers is a story about growing up, about adolescence and confronting the struggles that accompany it.

And I’d like to think that, by novel’s end, if either Mitchell or Ryan saw Margaret Farquhar standing across the room, they would go up to her and ask, “May I have this dance?”

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

35 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mandyevebarnett
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 19:54:57

    It was innocence coupled with peer pressure that molded us as children. I count myself very lucky not having been bullied at school by class mates only a teacher (who got hers!) Anyway thank you for reminding me of childhood games and wondering about lost friends. I did manage to organize a couple of reunions! Now as I live on another continent I wonder how they are doing.
    I always told my children to be individual, which is hard in practice I know but with support and self belief it can be done.

    Reply

  2. Charron's Chatter
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 20:36:37

    great correlation–and who doesn’t love the Wonder Years…:) You have a great writing flav-ah!

    Reply

  3. kelihasablog
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 21:33:35

    😀 Who didn’t love watching the Wonder Years? LOL Good analogy… 😀

    Reply

  4. ramblingsofabipolarwoman
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 21:45:02

    I was not quite Margaret, but I was close, the kid most didn’t want to be seen talking to and was often the target of pranks and hurled insults. I wonder sometimes, does anyone remember picking on me, hurting me, or have I been completely forgotten?

    My foster mom once said, “kids can be the cruelest things on two feet.” and she was right. Middle and high school are the worst it seems as hormones begin to rage and the popularity contests ensue. Not much has changed, kids are still the same. I try to encourage my son to treat people differently, hoping he won’t be the jock with the wicked sense of humor that taunts others, but instead just makes people laugh with his silly jokes and wit. I don’t want him to make anyone feel like a Margaret….

    This was definitely a good way to talk about this and as Charron and Keli said, who didn’t love watching Wonder Years? 😉 It was a great show, many of the episodes I could relate to in on way or another. It was a good coming of age show. 🙂 It teaches us a lot of lessons…perhaps I should find reruns and have my son watch them.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 13, 2013 @ 18:29:24

      Thanks so much for your comments. I can relate a bit to Margaret as well. I was far from popular in junior high and high school. And I hope your son can watch The Wonder Years. I’m sure he’d enjoy the show!

      Reply

      • ramblingsofabipolarwoman
        Feb 13, 2013 @ 18:58:26

        I hope so too, think he’d enjoy it and perhaps learn a few things about growing up. He’s reaching those adolescence years soon….will be eleven in the fall.

  5. Scribelife
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 23:07:50

    I love that show…

    Reply

  6. indytony
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 00:16:28

    “The Wonder Years” was definitely a great show. You do a wonderful job of describing this episode.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply

  7. Lakeshia Artis
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 02:21:40

    Oh my!!! I absolutely loved the Wonder Years. I watched every single episode. I’m no prude by I miss good feel shows like the Wonder Years and Seventh Heaven. Loved the article.

    Reply

  8. petit4chocolatier
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 02:22:31

    I loved the Wonder Years! Thank you for the great memories 🙂

    Reply

  9. Sheslosingit.net
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 05:19:05

    That was really moving. Thanks for writing it. I think we can all relate to having moments we’re not proud of, but perhaps have learned from after a bit of reflection.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 13, 2013 @ 18:33:48

      Thanks.:) And I agree–hopefully we can learn from the moments we’re not proud of. The Wonder Years was great with that . . . looking back on things and reflecting on them years later . . .

      Reply

  10. elkeeb
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 09:40:55

    Great post!!! I loved thewonder years! So true that one second your laughing then crying the next.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 13, 2013 @ 18:36:02

      Yes–it was an amazing show the way it could take you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions in such a short span of time–it was only a half-hour show. They certainly made the most of their screen time.

      Reply

  11. mcwoman
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 14:12:23

    Why can’t television writers seem to put their energies into great writing like “The Wonder Years” any more? It seems everything is death, forensics (which is the part of dying that I like) and killing to get to the forensics. Wouldn’t it be better to have shows like the “Wonder Years” that still make us think so many years later? I think so.Great post, Mike. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

    Reply

  12. Liz
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 01:21:49

    heya–thanks for stopping by foodforfun’s almost-there lava cakes. Fun to wander through your blog. Wonder Years was indeed a Gem. Good gosh, they don’t make TV like they used to:-)

    Reply

  13. cynthiadumarin
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 02:00:48

    Great post. It really brought back those awkward years with a vengeance. I was one of those weird smart kids that stuck out like a sore thumb, never popular, but someone you hoped you could sit behind in class to cheat off of when a tough exam was scheduled. I learned to thumb my nose at them and in truth, I’m probably the better for it. Sadly we don’t see many TV shows that make us really think anymore. The Wonder Years made us examine all those painful parts of growing up, maybe giving us a chance to put some of those old hurts into perspective as we got older. You don’t see much of that going on with the programming they have these days.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 14, 2013 @ 13:40:09

      Yes, sadly, this is true. Shows that make you think, make you really reflect on things, are quite rare. The Wonder Years was one. The Twilight Zone was another. Great shows that often stuck with you long after viewing them . . .

      Reply

  14. Kim 24/7 in France
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 07:41:43

    Amusing post – thanks for taking me down memory lane!

    Reply

  15. Sue Dreamwalker
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 20:17:35

    I never saw the Wonder Years over in UK.. but looks a good show.

    Reply

  16. seeker
    Feb 16, 2013 @ 14:30:06

    Oh Mike, there is so much truth to this story. A young mind does not know the difference then. It’s all about popularity, even in the blogging world. May I share this in my facebook to open the eyes of the younger generation in my family. This is a good read.

    Reply

  17. maryamchahine
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 14:47:34

    Great and interesting read! This took me back. I use to love watching that show. The end of the episode had something pretty profound to say. That’s one of the big reasons why I use to like to watch it.

    Reply

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