The Morning File: When wallflowers unite, who does the dancing?


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The Morning File intended to send one of its crack correspondents to crash and cover the "alternative homecoming" dance held for wallflowers at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, our wallflower correspondent got tied up at home reading comic books, reviewing his stamp collection and participating for hours online in a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" chat board, so he never made it to the event. The whole premise made him anxious anyway -- the idea of being around a bunch of strangers, who might all be looking warily at him, waiting for him to show what an imbecile he assumed they knew he was -- so he reported he was pretty glad he missed it.

Thus we have no real information to provide about the outcome of an effort we applaud. Inspired by a Pittsburgh-based book and film, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," officials from The Carnegie and the city of Pittsburgh created a first-time event they said was for teens "who find it difficult or intimidating to attend their own school's dance."

Carnegie Library's news release said it would be "the coolest teen dance of the fall," featuring "sweet jams provided by your favorite library deejay." We take them at their word. If there's anyone who knows about the latest hip dancing and music, not to mention the hottest teen fiction, it's librarians (though angel Clarence still thinks we'll be appalled every holiday season when he reveals in "It's a Wonderful Life" that Mary Bailey would have ended up a librarian if George had never been born).

The dance was tied in with anti-bullying initiatives, as the "Perks" story -- like all good high school dramas -- contained a good amount of bullying of those young people deemed different from the in crowd. We thought maybe school bullying had been eradicated by now, considering all of the attention it has received, but it seems it's one of those things you can never reliably get rid of, just like the common cold, cancer and Donald Trump.

That's not to say intimidated wallflowers don't have their own pecking order of hostility toward one another. For all we know, the hated-for-being-too-smart kids at the dance Saturday night squared off against a gang of gay teens, who went after the audio-visual geeks, who took out their frustrations on any immigrant students present. That would be the American way, after all.

But we're hopeful that, instead, they all did insanely dangerous things together as a bonding experience, like the "Perks" characters who stand up in the bed of a pickup truck driving at high speed through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Maybe they did something just as crazy but closer to the Carnegie in Oakland, like visiting the Original Hot Dog Shop right after the nearby bars closed at 2 a.m.

We did wonder, initially, how you could have a dance if everyone there is a wallflower. The whole point of being a wallflower is to find an inconspicuous corner to stand in while those who crave or deserve attention take the spotlight. If no one's willing to go front and center, and everyone's trying to hide in the same place, doesn't that create some kind of awkward social paralysis?

We're also guessing there are a few attractive jocks and cheerleaders who feel discriminated against by the marketing of such an event, the way well-to-do white males often take offense and feel victimized whenever special attention is given to women, minorities, etc. It would be nice if The Carnegie or someone else would reach out at this time to the popular kids of Pittsburgh to let them know there's a place for them to feel welcome, too.

Hopefully, though, the wallflowers can take a message away from all this that even if they're misfit outcasts at an early age, they've got one night where they can be considered the cool ones -- right there alongside librarians or museum curators or other adults who will be present to make sure there was no unwallflowerish behavior like alcohol consumption or grinding on the dance floor.

And if there are any wallflowers who stayed away because they just didn't want to, you know, be identified as such, let's hope they realize that they will be the ones ruling the world someday. Or at the very least, perhaps writing a newspaper column.

intelligencer

Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.


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