(The sequel to Hamlet was my undoing: Parts I, II, III)
In matters of romance, sometimes you want a second opinion. In high school, it's all about choosing the right person to ask, the one who will confirm the decision you want to make.
My best friend Liza- I reluctantly give her that title now as our friendship was based more on convenience than compatibility, trust, or supportiveness; it would not survive her dull letters* to me in college and her vocal homophobia. Liza would be noncommittal at best, "I guess, if you want to," but her tone would convey, "Well if you have to ask a boy to get a date, go ahead I guess, but your credibility will be even lower if he says no," as well as, "He graduated last year. Why would he want to go to the prom?" and even "Why ask him? What makes you think he'd say yes?"
She'd never known Jake to say more than hi to and didn't know much of anything about our friendship. Liza hadn't read the perfect note he'd written in my yearbook the year before that began: "What ho, Horatio?", referenced ice cream and graveyards, and ended with his phone number. She didn't know that if he was out when I called, that I could tell his parents were pulling for me as I left a message. I hadn't told her about the time Jake and I drove an hour to see a concert of women's world folk music because an old friend of mine was in the group; Jake was moved to tears (a subtle few) by the music and freely admitted it as part of his rave of the performance. Most of the things I liked about Jake were qualities Liza disdained: asking her opinion was out of the question.
My theater buddy Samantha was different. The previous fall we'd both been kings in the worst Shakespeare play I've ever read. She was no stranger to risk-taking.
"Sam! C'mere for a sec," I yelled over the intervening sophomore heads. Funky Cold Medina, a song I hated, was blaring from the DJ's speakers across the cafetorium. I'd been at the dance for a couple hours; I'd gone alone but was really enjoying myself with my friends. It got me thinking...
"Do you think it's worth going to the prom?"
"Yeah, it's gonna be great," Sam enthused. "We're going all out with the decorations." The junior class had decided to transform the gym, committing their time and talents to the task, so they could afford a live band.
"Do you think I should ask Jake?"
"Is he still around?" she countered. Apparently I kept talk of him close to the vest with everyone because I liked him.
"Cool. Sure, ask him."
It was Friday, and the prom was a week from Saturday. Sam nodded to some people behind me.
"You don't think it'd be weird if I asked him?" I pursued.
"Look," she began with finality, "I asked a guy I only met once before. It's not a big deal. I'm gonna go and have a good time."
I needed to stop being a wuss. "Right," I said, because she wasn't going to indulge my waffling anymore. Sam plunged back onto the dance floor. If I was ever going to go to a prom, it was going to be with Jake, so I just had to suck it up and ask him.
*e-mail still had a few years to go before becoming mainstream.