“The Social Butterfly” by Danielle Calhoun
The Social Butterfly Stage:
Brooke begins to put her hands in the air and move her hips, as her box braids swish left and right across her shoulders, hooting and hollering, drawing attention to herself as her favorite song comes on. Emerald bobs her head, a little more reserved.
She catches the eyes of a friend from a class, and he glides over to their group to talk, bringing along his other friend as well. The four yell above the noise while you close your eyes, wringing your hands, your mind in another world.
You count down from ten, take a deep breath, and then open your eyes as you are transported in to the world of college party life. You stagger into the room, behind your friends, knees buckling, feet feeling like cement bricks as you try not to trip in your heels. Your eyes widen as you question why you decided to come in the first place, as you are engulfed by the dank air.
You shake your head, putting your fingertips to your forehead as you think back to one week ago as this entire thing began to develop from “The Bookworm Phase,” rather than “The Social Butterfly Stage” you have now taken upon yourself to try out.
The Bookworm Phase:
As you sit in the student union, taking a lunch break with your friends, you realize that the time has come for arguably the most important social event of the year. Your friends are ecstatic, but you start sweating anytime someone mentions it.
“Layla come on. You never do anything,” says Emerald pouting like she does when she might not get her way (she always does).
You really don’t do anything ever. But it works that way. You are not usually referred to as the social butterfly. You are the most socially awkward person that you know.
“Bryce will be there,” says Brooke, quirking her eyebrows. You slit your eyes at her as she smirks back at you.
“That’ll make me wanna stay at the dorm even more,” you say. “Then I won’t have to worry about embarrassing myself any more than I do on a daily basis.”
“Just think about it Lay” both say as they wave and head off in the direction of classroom buildings.
So, you do. You sit in the union, absently twirling a straw in your mouth from a Chick-Fil-A cup, going through certain scenarios and overthinking the possibility of attending this party.
As you daydream you begin to think that maybe you can use this as an opportunity for immersing yourself in a new culture! Right. Partying. The social event, besides sports, that livens up a college campus. On a university campus, the most important party to go to, arguably, is the homecoming party.
At Liberty University, the homecoming party appeals to all universities and students across the state. This year the party is not just any party. The black frat, the Alphas, are putting this party on. This is the same frat that Bryce is a part of, a childhood friend who is now nothing more than an acquaintance that feels obligated to speak because of the close friendship between both of your parents. This realization hurts you as you think of this because you might have just a lowkey crush on him or maybe it’s a high key one.
Okay, time to move back to the party. This means that everywhere a person looks, there will be bodies grinding upon bodies. There will be girls shaking their behinds in a dance that only you could admire from afar, twerking. Now, to many this atmosphere is normal. But for you, this is like entering a totally new dimension. You never let loose. The closest you have ever come to partying was at the family reunion years ago doing the electric slide with granny, an experience not worth living again.
Maybe you can justify this animalistic style of dancing. Okay so twerking has become a pastime, a workout session, and of course, something that is part of many party scenes across the nation and even the world, particularly those that live on the islands such as the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and others. But for one who has always stayed clear of parties and alcohol, this is extremely foreign territory. A hot, sweaty room with loud music, scantily dressed women, and men with roaming hands is not appealing to you.
As a black woman who cannot dance and does not attend gatherings like this, it seems like you have always been an outcast. But let’s say that on this particular day, and to the immense surprise of your friends, you do agree to go to your first party. You actually decide that you are curious to see what this atmosphere is like, so you immerse yourself into your first intense party scene.
The first step in getting ready for a party as big as this one is to find an awesome outfit that will catch the eyes of everyone in the building. Any dress you pick out will turn heads only because you rarely wear anything more than jeans and a sweater. But you decide that for your first party, you are going to go all out. You choose a form-fitting pink dress that stands out from all the other dresses that you came across.
At first, you are a little self-conscious, but after getting used to the way it looks and feels on your body, you feel empowered sexually. You feel extremely feminine. You always thought that when going to these parties, women would have to dress scantily to be accepted, but you found a dress that covered most of your body and was still sexy.
Not only do you purchase this dress but pick out some 5.5 inch, nude heels that you will wear also. Now that you found an outfit that you felt was appropriate for the occasion, the next step before getting ready for a first party, and being someone with two left feet, is to have dance lessons.
This party consists of a very intense atmosphere of dancing, and you are already developing a headache just thinking about it. At this moment you think that maybe you should have attended senior prom, just for the experience, because you are about to be thrown into a whole new environment of party life. Your friends decide that you guys would have this “twerk session” in your dorm room.
Dancing in front of people has always made you anxious, and even though these were your friends, you are still nervous and embarrassed. In order to really get into the dance, you have to just relax and let your body flow with the beat of the song, your friends tell you.
There is something about opening up in this way that is freeing. You are relaxed for once and are even having fun; now you are still uncomfortable with the idea of basically shaking your behind in front of others, and god-forbid Bryce, but at least you feel good dancing in general. You go through a few more songs laughing and acting silly together.
Emerald and Brooke are so excited that you decide to come that they cannot stop talking and yelling, turning the hip-hop music up even louder, as you try to warn them that this is an honors dorm, and there are certain rules set in place, one of them being “quiet hours.” As they laugh and tell you to relax, you eventually do, thinking that if the party was going to be anything like this, things might actually go okay. Boy, will you be in for a rude awakening.
The party is held at a hotel. You are unfamiliar with this setting and have no idea what to expect at all. Right when you guys pull up into a parking spot, your anxiety begins to take over. Maybe this was not a good idea. Thoughts of Netflix and pizza begin to run through your mind.
As you look around, you see so many different and unique styles of dress. All the colors of the rainbow and even some you never knew existed were available at everyone’s disposal. There are all types of ethnicities and races, black, Hispanic, white, you name it. It’s a melting pot of hot bodies. The thought makes your stomach rumble as you wonder if it is because of the nervousness or the fact that you haven’t eaten all day.
People from all over the state have arrived and are ready to enjoy an amazing experience and hopefully get some numbers from people other than from their own “mundane” schools. As you head up to the second floor of the building, you can hear the noise and excitement already before even reaching the room.
At 11:30 p.m, the room is already packed. Even though this is not your normal scene, you have to admit that the atmosphere is pretty addicting. The DJ is bumping all the hot songs and no one can say that this party was not jumping. So far everything is going as planned. You run into a few people you know who are very surprised to see you there, but it is too loud and crowded to give an explanation or defend yourself, thank goodness.
Your friends drag you to the dance floor and as they do, you see so many different styles of dance. There are some couples who are grinding on each other. On the other side of the room, there is a group of people surrounding two men having a dance contest.
All of this is happening with hardly any space for people to move around and with the lights dimmed something that comforts you, almost as if you are in a hiding place. The atmosphere is nothing you have ever experienced as an introvert, and it draws you in, despite your anxieties. However, it isn’t until around 12:30 a.m. that the tone shifts immensely.
It seems as if this is the time that everyone decides to show up for the party, because, all of a sudden, it is like the room has suddenly been turned into a sauna. What happened to the air-conditioning? Sweat is dripping off of everyone. Not only is it hot and humid but people have begun to smoke weed, boys are trying to talk to you and dance with you, and you get separated from Brooke and Emerald. You search the room for the most plausible exit but notice that no one else seems to mind the shift of the atmosphere. As a matter of fact, the entire group erupts with more intensity.
The music gets louder, the lights get dimmer, and all of a sudden the real “Twerkfest” begins. Everywhere you turn, there are bodies shaking and grooving to the music. It is like a video game your brother would play: avoid the fierce level of dancing bodies before you get thrown to the ground! Many females are dancing alone, but you are so enamored at how these women could move their bodies this way and be so comfortable in their own bodies to do so by themselves, and you admire them for it. You slide past them, avoiding the guys perched up on the wall, looking for their next prey.
You are out of your element and drenched with sweat, mouth parched as if you are in a desert searching for some sort of salvation. You finally spot your friends in the doorway once you reach the light you were seeking. They are enjoying themselves but you are frustrated, thirsty, and starving. As the two laugh about something you apparently missed in your struggle to be set free from the madness, you cut them off by going on and on about the boys that tried to feel you up, the chaos you had to encounter. But wait a minute. Is that Bryce you see walking up behind your friends? All things seem to stop as he takes your hand, leans into you to whisper something in your ear…
“Hey why are you still here Layla?” asks Brooke knocking you out of your reverie as your mind is brought back to reality. “We left that folder for our stupid project lying here and had to come back to get it.”
Emerald walks up as well laughing and shaking her head as she adds, “yeah. and why were you just staring off into space with that straw in your mouth.” You begin to blush as your light caramel face turns a shade of red.
“ I…I.. was thinking about the party and umm was having some good thoughts” you state robotically.
The two girls give each other a look and simultaneously yell, “So you gonna come girl?”
You think back to that daydream about the party. Maybe if Bryce noticed that you could be a part of his crowd then both would have more in common, and he’ll see you as more than just former childhood best friends and maybe move into a new relationship void of the past. You eventually stop twirling that straw in your mouth and cryptically state, “we’ll see,” rushing away from the table to throw your Chick-Fil-A cup away and head out the door and to class before you are late.
You situate your bag and books, heading across the courtyard, but stop mid-step as Brooke and Emerald, who are carrying on their own conversation behind you, stop as well, almost running into you. “Layla what is up with you girl?” asks Emmy. You clear your throat looking from one to the other awkwardly, as you blurt out unexpectedly. “Can y’all help me find an outfit for the party?”
The Social Butterfly Stage:
With a hint of a smile on your face, thoughts of the entire “bookworm phase” still linger in the back of your mind. As you were thinking about the daydream you had about the party, you did not realize that Bryce and his crew had pulled up beside the slightly larger group that accumulated among your friends. As he speaks with the two dudes from Emerald’s class, he steals glances at you, probably not believing that you are actually in this type of environment. You shuffle behind Brooke, as she tries to stifle a laugh and raises one eyebrow. It is too late, however, as Bryce makes his way around the group to speak to you.
“Mom and pops know you are here?” he questions teasingly, his bright white teeth standing out from the darkness of his skin, in the dim atmosphere.
“Absolutely not. And don’t you dare mention it to them” you reply chuckling nervously, looking off into the distance, trying to think of something witty to say.
This is definitely not the romantic approach that you had envisioned but at least it is a start. You laugh freely and before you know it, the two of you are separated from the rest of the group. The rest of the night is much tamer than your daydreams a week ago. You don’t have any trouble with nasty dudes, sweaty people, or dodging fast-shaking booty popping females.
Instead and unknowingly, the both of you spend the majority of the party outside in the foyer talking, reminiscing, and discussing the future. You don’t know where this conversation will lead to but you can’t hide from the facts that a) Bryce is one of a group of popular guys who put this party on and b) he hasn’t tried to leave your vicinity and doesn’t seem to want to anytime soon.
You smile at this realization, abruptly shaking yourself out of your thoughts, something that you need to work on as soon as possible, before people start to think you are crazy and resume your conversation, with Bryce. You are still the shy bookworm, but in this moment the social butterfly has come out of the cocoon, and you didn’t even have to bust a move on the dance floor.
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