During my first ever off-semester home from college, my Mom asked me if I would be willing to help chaperone Crystal’s first ever school dance. I can see her face in my mind; the I-know-I-always-ask-you-to-do-this-kind-of-thing-but-I-really-hope-you-won’t-be-unhappy-about-it face. I was more than happy to accompany Crystal to the Ball. Mom and I agreed that an after-school dance was hostile territory and she should have someone there looking out for her, and we also agreed that it would be beyond uncool for her to have her Mommy there at the dance. Sister, less uncool. So, I dressed in my best don’t-mess-with-this outfit, fixed my hair to look as much like a teacher's as possible, and drove Crystal to the Winter Ball.
She was happy to see her friend CJ there, and didn’t seem to have any problem with not having a date to dance with. She enjoyed herself immensely, and CJ even asked her to dance to a couple of slow songs. I stood at the side and chatted with the Principal, who seemed glad I had come. All went well for at least an hour, which was impressive because Cody Sparks was there. He was the most popular boy in the 11th grade, and Crystal was Cody’s favorite target.
Crystal loves to dance at least as much as I do. She actually said more than a time or two that she would most like to be a famous singer or dancer some day. She never took lessons, but it was one of the things she could do and feel free while she did it. You could tell by the way she moved. Her whole soul danced together in unison, with absolutely no concern for the people around her (beyond trying not to run into anyone). Her dancing used to embarrass me, until I realized that it she might actually be the only one doing it right. After that I danced next to her sometimes at Church dances we attended together. It was my way of letting anyone who cared know that I endorsed her behavior and welcomed them to join the fun too. But at the Winter Ball, I was obliged to act as an adult rather than as a peer. She was on her own, so it was only a matter of time before the teasing began.
I watched the first incident from a distance. Crystal was dancing in her usual way, unrestrained and alone, with a huge empty circle around her as if everyone else there were trying to avoid catching her disease of uncoolness. Cory approached with a smirk and a swagger, accompanied by the silent attention of his many adoring fans. Crystal looked up, he spoke, she turned, tipped her head forward, and walked away with long, determined strides. Cory paused for a moment, I suppose imagining what he would say to his admirers when he returned empty-handed.
I couldn’t have been more proud.
When I found her and asked her what happened, she said he had asked to dance with her, and she had walked away without even answering because she knew his intentions were anything but kind. He had proven his true colors long before, and she had no problem seeing through the guise to a joke at her expense waiting to happen. I told her how proud I was of her for not making a big stink, or worse, actually letting him dance with her. I was a little surprised, and of course I was very pleased.
Not one to be robbed of his place in the lime-light, Cory tried again. This time Crystal could see where I was and headed straight for me.
He made the mistake of following her.
I can’t remember what I said to him, but I know I opened my can of protective-older-sister and let him have it. There was a fair amount of What pleasure do you get from picking on someone with a disability? with quite a bit of Do you actually think that hurting people makes you a bigger person? mixed in I'm sure. I also know I won. He tried so hard to save face, but at last wisely discerned that continuing on would only give his ever-close-at-hand cronies more to laugh at him about once he finally retreated. I can’t say he walked away like a dog with his tail between his legs, but he did seem a notch or two humbler than he was at the start.
We didn’t have any more trouble the rest of the night.
From The Crystal Puzzle: Life with a Sister with Asperger's, by Ashley Nance, due to be published Winter 2013.