It’s a Monday morning, and you’re sitting in eighth grade homeroom at Southport Middle School.

You are a 13-year-old girl—a girl in between the age where you spend weekends riding bikes with your parents and the age where you spend weekends riding bikes with kids who have nontraditional haircuts and skip school to watch A Clockwork Orange on a portable DVD player at the bottom of the Southport Quarry.

You have a drawer full of training bras, a medicine cabinet full of Bath & Body Works lotions, and 70 Tweety Bird T-shirts you’ve grown out of in the past month alone. There are only three things you care about in this world: walking around at strip malls, frozen yogurt, and boys.

You love boys.

But right now you’re stuck in homeroom.

Ms. Parker is droning on about how the school dress code has been updated to allow nuns’ habits after the school was sued nearly into oblivion by the Association of Child Nuns.

You’re doodling a picture of your Bernese mountain dog, Timothy, in your social studies notebook.

Brendan McAllister is telling Miles Fischer about how over the weekend, he and his brother watched an unedited version of Wedding Crashers in which Vince Vaughn’s catchphrase was “Take a lap, Nutsack Jones!”

All of a sudden, your school mascot, the Southport Frustrated Dog, dances into the room.

You get a sense, deep in your currently growing bones, that something big is about to happen.

The Southport Frustrated Dog points to the loudspeaker on the wall and begins to sing the “Announcement Song”:

One two three, listen to the voice!
It’s time for the announcements and you have no choice!
The words will come through the big microphone!
You must take note of their content and tone!

The dog dances out, frustratedly. There is a crackle over the loudspeaker.

It’s the vice principal, Mr. Montana.

He announces that this Friday will be the annual Southport Middle School Sadie Hawkins dance.

Oh. My. God.

“The Sadie Hawkins dance is the one dance a year when girls get to ask boys to be their dates, which, due to social norms, is wrong,” Mr. Montana explains.

“If you want to know more about the Sadie Hawkins dance, you can head to the auditorium, where Ms. Cranmer will lead an information session that will answer all your questions.”

“Otherwise, get to first period, have a great day, and enjoy today’s lunch: French toast chips with maple syrup meat dip and carbonated milk!”

This is it: You are going to ask a boy to the dance.

Your stomach does a few flips forward, a few more backward, and then drops. The hair on the back of your neck stands up. Your fingernails feel hot and your teeth feel even hotter. You hope you aren’t having some kind of dumbass aneurysm, because this might just be the biggest day of your life.

Who are you going to ask? And will he even say yes? You need to come up with a game plan, and fast.

You head into the auditorium. You try to say hi to your friend Natalie, but the HD Power-Shine lip gloss your mom got you at Home Depot glued your mouth shut again. God, does your mom know freaking anything about anything? You try to wipe some off with your sleeve.

Ms. Cranmer is standing up at the front, waiting for everyone to file in. You slide into your seat. Ms. Cranmer clears her throat.

“All right, eyes up here!” she yells. “It’s Sadie Hawkins time, and in case you infernal twerps aren’t up to speed, you’re about to ruin the time-honored tradition of men being in charge! So everybody shut up and listen to me! Now, first things first: Does anyone know who Sadie Hawkins was?”

“It sounds like one of you freaky little nitwits had the right answer! Sadie Hawkins was the woman who was inside the E.T. costume in Steven Spielberg’s famous film E.T.!

“The Sadie Hawkins dance is named after Sadie Hawkins because she broke gender barriers by beating out hundreds of male actors for the role of E.T.! Including Christopher Walken and John Belushi, both of whom sadly buried themselves alive when they found out they were not cast as E.T.!

“It sounds like none of you freaky little nitwits know the right answer! Sadie Hawkins was the woman who was inside the E.T. costume in Steven Spielberg’s famous film E.T.!

“The Sadie Hawkins dance is named after Sadie Hawkins because she broke gender barriers by beating out hundreds of male actors for the role of E.T.! Including Christopher Walken and John Belushi, both of whom sadly buried themselves alive when they found out they were not cast as E.T.!

“Here’s what you need to know about Sadie Hawkins: The GIRLS ask the BOYS to the dance. Girls can’t do that normally because it’s BACKWARDS and they CAN’T. Boys have the power for DATING whereas GIRLS wear pink and are GIRLS with long HAIR. Boys wear BLUE and ask for DATES. Except at SADIE HAWKINS. Do any of you creeps have any questions?”

“I HAVE NO ANSWER!!!!” Ms. Cranmer yells.

Ms. Cranmer gets on the floor and rolls around for 35 seconds before getting up and yelling, “I HAVE NO ANSWER!!!!”

As you begin to scream, Ms. Cranmer emits her own high-pitched shriek, harmonizing perfectly with yours. This is cathartic.

“That’s it!!! Goodbye, freaks!” Ms. Cranmer says.

You still have a lot of ethical questions about the Sadie Hawkins dance, but there’s no time to think about them now. The clock is ticking, and you need to find a man.

Commence daydream.

Oh jeez, it looks like you’re starting off your daydream with a real dud: Trevor. Trevor is the tuba-playing dweeb of the century. He rides your bus in the morning and gave you a Dunkaroo one time, but that’s pretty much all he has going for him. Plus, the Dunkaroo was honey mustard flavored. Trevor would definitely be a slam dunk, but you should probably set your sights higher.

Ahh, Farhan. Much better—Farhan is a solid option. He’s the only person on your school’s basketball team, which is hot. Whether Farhan would go to the dance with you is a total toss-up, but it’s worth a try.

Ooh, Colin O’Keefe owns a startup that helps retired lawyers turn their old briefcases into soccer balls for younger, more athletic lawyers. He’s so successful that he might be hard to snag, but a girl can dream.

If you can pry studious Augustin away from his books for a night, he’d be a decent Sadie Hawkins date. He did a Serbian folk dance at the talent show last year.

Then there’s kind-eyed Danny…

“Elton” John…

The Dastardly Baritones…

And Andy.

You love Andy.

Andy is the fastest freestyler on the swim team. He takes his little brother to the park on weekends. And hell if he doesn’t know how to rock a pair of boot-cut jeans. But would Andy ever agree to go to the dance with little old you?

You don’t have a chance to answer that question, because the bell rings and snaps you out of your reverie. It’s time for English class.

You turn to T.J. and ask about her plans.

“Oh, me?” she says. “I already asked Carla Monteleone.”

“She did, but that was only for the first three weeks of school. Now she’s allowed back, but she’s going to get straight Ds this semester as punishment. It’s okay. I still love her.”

“By the way, I decided that now that we’re in eighth grade, I’m going to start going by my full name instead of T.J. So you can me Tolerant Justine.”

Whoa. Your head is spinning. Yesterday T.J. was your regular old best friend, but now she’s Tolerant Justine, and she’s in love. You’re starting to feel like you’re falling behind. You’d better get a move on and find a date.

You’re heading down the hallway to English class. But wait. Something just happened. Goddamnit, not again! You just got your period. Didn’t you have it a couple weeks ago?

Your mom told you it was normal for your period to be irregular at first, but what does she know? Your mom is such a freaking idiot, it’s unreal.

Well, you’re going to have to figure out something to do.

You walk to English class with your sweatshirt tied around your waist: international eighth grade code for “I just got my period unexpectedly.” Hopefully it was just a false alarm and you’re not going to ruin your best pair of L.E.I. jeans.

You look up at Mrs. Smith, who’s starting class.

“Welcome to English class, everybody. Today we’re going to start from scratch at the very beginning, like we do every day. So, who can tell me what language is?”

“That’s a great definition of osmosis, and in many ways it’s also a great definition of language,” Mrs. Smith says.

You sigh dramatically. Mrs. Smith is such a dumbass. It’s pretty obvious that she only made one lesson plan for the entire year. And news flash, Mrs. Smith: It freaking sucks.

You’re done paying attention for the day.

“Great answer. Now, who can tell me why language is important?”

Ugh, this again? It’s pretty obvious that Mrs. Smith only made one lesson plan for the entire year. And news flash, Mrs. Smith: It freaking sucks.

You’re done paying attention for the day.

You scream.

Your scream is powerful—it fills the room. Without warning, Mrs. Smith looks deep into your eyes and screams in perfect harmony with you. The sound waves build, shaking the windows and soothing your jangled teen nerves.


Oh no! The power of your shrieks blew up all of the desks in the room.

Mrs. Smith shoots you a look that unmistakably says, “I am angry.” You’re in trouble.

You turn.

As luck would have it, it’s Farhan, spinning a basketball on his finger as always. Farhan lives next door to Andy, so you could use this opportunity to get some intel on your man. Or you could hedge your bets and ask Farhan to the dance himself.

“Uh, I dunno,” he says. “Notes are, uh… cool.”

That’s all the confirmation you need.

“Mr. Montana’s office. Now.”

This is so freaking unfair! If Ms. Smith hadn’t screamed, too, nothing would have exploded. At least, you’re pretty sure. You don’t start the screaming unit in physics until next week. Ugh, whatever. Nobody ever cares what you think anyway.

“I’d better not see you grab your backpack that brashly again or you won’t be going to the dance!” Mrs. Smith shrieks after you. The floor shakes under your feet. You let the door slam behind you.

“I appreciate your show of respect toward me!” Mrs. Smith calls after you. You close the door gingerly on your way out.

You’re taking the long way to the vice principal’s office, and everywhere you look there are couples caught up in Sadie Hawkins fever. Sarah Nordstrom is making Tyler Dill sign a contract saying he’ll slow dance with her.

Hat Dale and No-Hat Dale are skipping class to hang out romantically near a window.

You peer into the back alleyway. Looks like Tara just asked Nicole to go to the dance with her and they’re sharing a celebratory cigarette.

Outside, Dan Delacroix and Jan Delafield are basking in the sun and the warmth of their love for one another.

Denny and Jon are laughing mirthfully at how easy life has become now that they have decided to go to the Sadie Hawkins dance together.

Jeez, could these people be rubbing it in any more? You’re going to lose your freaking mind if you don’t find a date soon.

But first things first: You need to report to the vice principal’s office.

You push open the door, and there he is: your vice principal, Mr. Montana. He tips his hat.

Dang, Mr. Montana looks good today.

You feel a little weird thinking that about your vice principal, but to be fair, Mr. Montana is only 15 years old. He got hired to be an administrator right out of eighth grade after he got a standing ovation for doing a backflip when he accepted his middle school diploma.

You heard he grew up on a farm in North Dakota, wrangling cows, farming chickens, building fences shirtless in the hot summer sun…

Whoa. You drifted off for a second. You snap out of it and focus your eyes on Mr. Montana again.

He is sitting across the desk from you, tossing French toast chips into his mouth between sips of carbonated milk. He looks at you expectantly, waiting for you to speak.

Mr. Montana tips his hat at you. “Well, that’s quite all right, little lady. I know sometimes life can be frustrating for an eighth grade gal, and you just want to scream. Hell, I’ve been known to let out a bellow here and there when I get upset with a misbehaving student.”

“Well, it’s no problem at all,” Mr. Montana says.

He winks, spins his hat around on his wrist, puts it back on his head, stands up, bows at the waist, sits down, and winks again. Wow.

“Heh heh. Well, I suppose I do rule. Thank you kindly, young lady,” Mr. Montana says.

He winks, spins his hat around on his wrist, puts it back on his head, stands up, bows at the waist, sits down, and winks again. Wow.

Mr. Montana opens his mouth and lets out a bellow as deep and sonorous as a whale’s.

“Whoa there, little lady! You fell out of your chair while I was bellowing. I had to pick you up off the floor. Are you all right?”

“Well, I’ll be darned. I hope I don’t have to do too much disciplinin’ or chaperonin’ at the dance, because I’d love to attend it with you.”

Mr. Montana watches you reach across the desk to grab one of his chips, and you see his eyes turn icy cold. Uh oh. You’re in trouble again. This is so freaking unfair.

“That food was mine,” he says. “And where I come from, you don’t eat food that isn’t yours unless it’s a deer you found in the woods, dead from old age.”

“I don’t have time to deal with petty thieves of the likes of you. So why don’t you go through that door behind you, and my assistant vice principal will take care of your punishment.”

Aw man. You blew it big time.

You never noticed that door in Mr. Montana’s office before. And you didn’t realize Mr. Montana had an assistant. You walk in tentatively, and are met with…

“Elton” John!

“Hee hee!” he intones. “It is me, the assistant vice principal! You have misbehaved, and I must punish you by giving you a paper cut…”

“With my knife!”

“What the hell indeed, hee hee! An apt reaction to be sure!

Before we begin, please, call me John, as it is my given name. Elton is a nickname my family gave me because I love Elton John!

Now! It is time for your punishment. I hope that you fear me, as I am extremely strong! Would you like to see my torso?”

He lifts up his shirt.

“Ta-da! Very strong, yes?”

Holy freaking shit! John has an insanely ripped torso! Your neurons are going crazy…

Hormones are taking over. You’re not thinking straight.

“Hoo hoo, hee hee! I would love nothing more!” “Elton” John exclaims, looking deeply into your eyes. Oh god, what have you done? You don’t want to show up to the dance with this weirdo, no matter how nice his abs are. Go back and see if you can find another date!

What a stroke of luck! You’re going to the Sadie Hawkins dance with THE vice principal of the school. And he’s a cowboy! You aren’t going to find a much better date than that. As long as the school doesn’t take some kind of disciplinary action against Mr. Montana for dating a student, the Sadie Hawkins dance is going to be the best night of your life!

Ms. Smith smiles. “Sounds like this fine young lady is looking for a date to that upside-down, backwards, topsy-turvy, socially unprecedented dance where girls ask boys on dates. Any takers?” she asks the class.

You hear a low noise as Trevor quickly blows on his tuba. He lifts his lips from the mouthpiece. “I WOULD BE OVERJOYED!!!” he screams.

You look over and he smiles at you.

You run around the room, bumping into various walls and desks before falling to the floor and lying motionless until Ms. Smith calls the school nurse to pick you up and carry you home. You convince your mom to tell all your classmates you died of demonic possession and let you transfer schools. Hundreds of kids come to your staged funeral. You think you even see Andy tear up a little bit! And you successfully avoid going to the dance with Trevor—but only because you didn’t go to the dance at all. Go back and try to find a date this time!

Oh man, this couldn’t be worse. Do you really want to go to the Sadie Hawkins dance with the guy who comes into school early every day to make sure all the computers in the lab are booted up and running properly? That’s up to you… but you might want to go back and see if you can snag Andy.

Now you just need to find Andy’s locker.

Yep, this looks like the right hallway. But which one is Andy’s locker again? You’re pretty sure it’s either locker number 138 or the Dark Locker.

You locate locker 138. Now you need to write your note. What tone do you want the note to take?

You write a note that hits the perfect balance of fun, low-key, and straightforward. Awesome.

You write a note that hits the perfect balance of fun, low-key, and intensely sexual. Awesome.

You write a note that hits the perfect balance of fun, low-key, and Halloween-oriented. Awesome.

You write a note that hits the perfect balance of fun, low-key, and Finnish. Awesome.

You insert the note and dart around the corner and wait until you can see Andy’s signature red New Balance sneakers approach his locker.

You watch Andy take the note out. He reads it.

Then, he finishes, crumples it in his pocket, and turns to a friend at the locker next to him.

“Dude, I just got the weirdest note in my locker about the Sadie Hawkins dance. Some girl who wants to talk about television? Uh, like I even know what that is?”

They laugh. Oh no! This is a disaster.

The matter-of-fact note didn’t work at all! And now you’re trapped hiding in a stall in the girls’ bathroom while Danielle and Daniella try to ombre their hair with Sherwin-Williams “Mindful Gray” in the sink. Go back and try a different note.

You insert the note and dart around the corner and wait until you can see Andy’s signature red New Balance sneakers approach his locker.

Andy takes out the note and reads it with a furrowed brow. He finishes, then without hesitating for a second, he reaches out and smashes the Prurient Conduct alarm button on the wall next to his locker.

Rats! You didn’t think Andy would be such a narc. All you did was mention boobs. Now you’re going to be in huge trouble. Southport instituted a no-prurient-conduct rule at the beginning of the year when someone drew a dick on a poster of Gandhi in the library, and it looks like you’re the first person to have the alarm pulled on you.

Lights are flashing, gates are coming down at the ends of the hallways, and the Perv Alert siren is blaring. You need to get out of here.

You insert the note and dart around the corner and wait until you can see Andy’s signature red New Balance sneakers approach his locker.

He reads it. He smiles. He untapes the candy corn. He puts it in his mouth.

“God DAMN that’s good!” you hear him yell. “What the HELL is that? That’s GOOD stuff!”

Andy turns around. “That triangle candy is the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Did you give that to me?”

You nod.

“Well then I’d go to a Sadie Hawkins dance with you every half hour for the rest of my life.”

You did it! You’re going to the Sadie Hawkins dance with THE Andy. Your eighth grade dreams are coming true. And you introduced somebody to candy corn, which you don’t get to do every day! Way to go!

You insert the note and dart around the corner and wait until you can see Andy’s signature red New Balance sneakers approach his locker.

Andy opens the note. His eyes go wide. He turns to his friend, ashen-faced.

“This is it,” he says urgently. “They’re back. The ones who took me last summer.”

Oh no. Did Andy get kidnapped by a Finnish family last summer? Is that why he wasn’t at the Algebra II pre-session? This is bad. Abort mission.

Everybody’s rushing to get out of the school, and it looks like Andy dropped the note on the ground. Whew. You nearly opened up a pretty big can of worms about his past that might have stopped him from going to the dance at all. But for now he’s still a viable Sadie Hawkins date! Go back and try again.

Pretty much everyone at Southport is terrified of the Dark Locker, but if there’s even a tiny chance that it’s Andy’s assigned locker, it’ll be worth braving it. You take a deep breath and approach the locker. A deep rumbling emanates from within.

A familiar voice issues forth through the shrouded locker vents:

You found the Dark Locker and you’re right outside!
It’s too late to run and it’s too late to hide!
You heard that right, you gotta come in!
To the deep dark locker that’s a den of sin!

A three-part harmony sings, “No!”

And a big plush hand grabs your wrist, tugging you down into the locker’s depths.

Uh oh.

You fall for what feels like maybe a second and a half or so, then hit the ground. Where you are is dank like a basement and smells like cinnamon—you must be underneath the cafeteria. Everything is totally dark, until… a light clicks on.

It’s the Southport Frustrated Dog in the plush flesh.

“Don’t be alarmed,” the dog says tunefully. Even when he isn’t singing, he has a beautiful, honeyed voice. You wonder who could be inside there.

“Most people don’t come near the Dark Locker, but it would be nice if they would,” he says. “It’s actually a great place to be if you don’t mind the mold and the family of cannibalistic raccoons. I come down here most afternoons. Do you want a chocolate milk?”

You nod. He hands you a glass. Carbonated chocolate milk. You can’t get that in the cafeteria.

You still don’t know who’s in the mascot costume, but he seems nice.

“To be clear, I mean that the raccoons are cannibalistic because they eat each other, not because they eat humans. Anyway, it’s great to have you visit.”

A beautiful, harmonious “yes” comes from the Frustrated Dog’s mouth as he takes off his mascot head.

Yes! This rules. Slowly, the head lifts, then falls to the dank ground, where raccoons descend on it instantly. Underneath it’s…

The Dastardly Baritones! They begin to sing:

All three baritones, all three singers
We’ve live in the basement and we’ve been through the wringer
Give us your hand and we’ll take you to the dance
With three times the Axe cologne and three times the romance!

That’s right—you set out to find one date and ended up with three. Hell yeah! Better get home and start practicing your four-way kiss before the big night!

Farhan shakes his head mournfully. “I am sorry,” he says. “I am deeply in love with Deirdre Tinsley, and we are going to the dance together. We are wearing matching hats. Thank you for asking me.”

Farhan was a total dead end, but that’s all right. There are plenty of other boys you could ask to the dance. Especially Andy. Get out there and try again.

You turn down the hallway and run into none other than Andy’s best friend, Tommy Nabisco, heir to the Nabisco fortune. This boy’s family is swimming in Oreos. And you love Oreos…

He’s standing next to the back exit. He waves you over.

You approach.

“Have you ever been out back, to the lake?” he asks.

You had no idea there was a lake near your school.

“There’s one out behind the softball field, but most people haven’t seen it—it’s an old Nabisco family secret. I can show you. If you want.”

Tommy pushes open the back entrance and pulls you by the hand past the softball fields.

Your heart is beating out of your chest. This is the most romantic thing that’s happened to you since Kevin Tenley brought you a bunch of napkins when you got a nosebleed on the Ferris wheel at the county fair.

Tommy stops in front of the lake.

He hops into the water, carefree as the wind.

Tommy shakes his head and takes his shirt off!!!! Hell yes!!!!! He splashes you.

You can’t help but stare at his sandy hair and lithe wrists. The temptation is too much.

Tommy nods solemnly.


Hell yeah.

“Thank you for your commitment to hygiene,” Tommy says.

You pull away, lost again in Tommy’s eyes. They’re so round, so multilayered, like his family’s signature cookie.

As if he read your mind, Tommy pulls an Oreo out of his pocket and hands it to you. It’s a little wet.

You eat it in one bite, take a deep breath, and ask.

“It would be my and the Nabisco company’s great honor,” Tommy says, crawling onto shore.

Yes! You did it! You had your first kiss and you’re going to the Sadie Hawkins dance with Tommy Nabisco. This is the most empowered you’ve felt in your 13 years of life, and you’re ready to ride this wave right into ninth grade if you can. Well done!

You push past the door and are met with a bevy of sights, sounds, and smells. Lasers dart past your eyes, pinging as they ricochet off the walls. There are all sorts of scents you can’t identify. Sulfur? Formaldehyde? Who knows—you’re not in the magnet program.

Out of the chaos emerges a familiar face: Deirdre.

You peek in the classroom across the hall. Bingo: the science lab. Your friend Deirdre is in there. She’s in the math and science magnet program. And she got her period like, two years ago, so she definitely has a tampon.

“Whoa, are you talking about a tampon? Don’t you know tampons are for losers now? I have a Diva Droid. It’s a tiny robot that absorbs your period blood and uses it as fuel to power wells in developing countries. You don’t seriously still wear tampons, do you?”

“Okay, don’t freak out. I made a love potion for my science fair project. If you give it to someone to sniff—”

You don’t let her finish. Love potion? That’s exactly what you need.

You hear Deirdre yell, “No!!!!” Something’s happening…

You’re getting woozy…

Memories start flashing before your eyes…

Your family…

Your friends…

Your one true love…

Then… total darkness.

Oh no! You died!

As you succumbed to the potion, Deirdre explained that her science fair project was actually a psychological experiment to see if people would be so enticed by the prospect of a love potion that they’d be willing to sniff an unlabeled liquid if they were told there was a chance it would help them fall in love, but also a chance it would kill them. But since she didn’t have her tri-fold board with her when you walked in, she didn’t get the chance to explain how the experiment worked before you sniffed the potion. Now you’re dead and Deirdre’s probably going to get a C at best.

Dying was a total fail, and now there’s no way you’re going to the Sadie Hawkins dance with a date. Go back and try again!