In ninth grade, I took matters into my own hands.
It was springtime, promtime. And I knew no one would ask me. This wasn’t a sad knowing. Just a knowing of fact. I was unapologetically taller, louder, less refined than most girls in my class. But I wanted to go to prom – to get gussied up, dance my tail off, have stories to tell my friends that summer.
I knew who I wanted to go with. He was a year older than me: brown hair, big heart, and a fondness for mischief. I had no clue if he was the prom-type. If we went together, I’d have to do the asking.
And this ask became something of a crucible for me. I knew in my bones that if I didn’t do it, the lack of self-respect would gnaw and tear at me. And, as Parker Palmer would say, I wanted to report to something bigger than fear.
One afternoon, I called him. Hi, I said. We’d never spoken on the phone before. It’s Caitie Whelan. Hi! he said. There was small talk. Then I cut to the big talk: Would you go to prom with me?
And even before he answered, my victory had been had. I’d reported to self-respect over fear. If he said no, it would hurt in the here and now. But in the big arc of a life, this would go down as a triumphant moment.
He did say yes. We went. It was fun. And what I got from it, what I would tell my friends about that summer, was something like this: don’t forget who you report to.