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So I was in a coffee shop yesterday when “Fields of Gold” came on.  Do you remember that song, Reader?  Of course you do.  It’s a gentle, dreamy affair about a lovelorn Sting and his lady friend lying (having sex!) upon a field.  Upon the fields of barley …

“We’ll forget the sun, in his jealous sky, as we lie in fields of gold.”

(Somebody had to disabuse me of the notion very recently that it was not “Bali” like I thought, but “barley.”)

My God, that song takes me back. Does anyone else remember slow dancing to this song in junior high?

I think I was in sixth grade when I went to my first dance, and if memory serves correctly, I danced with exactly one boy that night. I was dressed in a navy blue Limited Too sweatshirt, matching navy blue Limited Too shorts (which were, perplexingly enough, also made out of sweatshirt material), and topped off by brand new Doc Martens.  For street cred.

Walking into the dance, I felt very on-trend. Very now. But it soon became clear that ensembles of color-coordinated, athletic fleece do not, in fact, bring the boys to the yard — especially when said fleece wearer is NOT in the popular crowd. So I resigned myself to upbeat, group dances in large circles with other awkward white girls with braces, bouncing our knees up and down to “I Would Walk 500 Miles” while the cool people took five in between their steamy slow dance numbers.  You could divide the room in two that night, into cool/uncool, by who danced to slow songs, and who danced to fast.  There in that fast-dancing circle, I knew I had found my people.

As the dance wound down, the DJ (a parent) announced there would be one more song. The soft strains of “Fields of Gold” came on, and I took my place by the water cooler next to my friend Margaret, where we’d pretend to be super concentrated on our water through the duration of the whole painful song. Damn Sting.

I saw Matt Lowry caught in the middle of the dance floor, looking around like he got lost.  Surrounded by the beautiful popular people, he glanced around anxiously, as if he had just temporarily lost track of his dance partner.  “Nice try,” I thought.

Then, Matt Lowry looked at me.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“What the hell?” he seemed to say, gesturing to me to come join him on the dance floor.

Oh my God.  Ohmygod!

Matt, like me, wasn’t cool.  But he was a BOY.  And not horrifying.  In fact, he was kind of cute!  Ok ok, so he was thirteen and he still had a bowl haircut, but whatever.  I could work with this.  I could dance — SLOW DANCE — with this person.  To Sting.  To The Fields of Bali.  Maybe he liked me.  LIKED me liked me.

As Matt Lowry and I “danced,” by which I mean straight-arm hugged each other while stepping in a small circle, I caught Margaret’s face.  She stared at me, open-mouthed, from the water cooler.  I smiled smugly.  Yes, Margaret, one minute you’re jumping around with the other honor roll students to The Proclaimers … the next minute you’re locked in a romantic embrace, I thought.  I was different now.  Changed.  I, Tolly Moseley, had slow danced.

Matt Lowry never became my boyfriend, and I don’t think he LIKED me liked me.  But that Sting song has always stuck with me, and I get a little wistful each time I hear it.  It will forever remind me of awkward-yet-exciting junior high dances.  Of the heady scent of Polo Sport.  I mean, I was 12 — but I wasn’t born yesterday.  I knew that people totally frenched to songs like “Fields of Gold.”  I knew that while people were slow dancing, there were actually thinking about MAKING OUT or DOING IT.

As such, junior high slow dance songs have far longer staying power than fast songs.  I feel like teenagers and pre-teens are just so cool these days (especially teens in Austin, geez), and can avoid dorkiness altogether by virtue of the Internet. But I think that one of the reasons I get so nostalgic for these songs is because I was so dorky, and because I so badly wanted someone to ask me to dance.  It’s like that line Philip Seymour Hoffman has in Almost Famous:

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”

So, thank you, Matt Lowry, for asking me to dance to “Fields of Gold” all those years ago.  We were uncool together, but shared a very cool moment, and as a result I smile, really smile, whenever I hear that song at the grocery store.  Or on the adult contemporary Muzak station in the bank lobby.

I don’t know about you, Reader, but I definitely have a secret, mental cache of my favorite junior high slow dance songs.  The songs that I should pretend I’m too cool for … but actually turn UP when I’m in my car.  They are, in Top 5 order:

1. Sting, “Fields of Gold” — Self-explanatory

2. Candlebox, “Far Behind — This song was so angsty and HARD CORE (if you were 12 or 13).  I have to admit that those opening guitar riffs still get me, and hypothetically speaking, I would totally bust out some air drums in the car when the “may-yay-YAY-yay-be!” chorus comes on.  Hypothetically.

3. Duran Duran, “Ordinary World”

What is going on in this video?  It looks like a tall woman walking around showing off her lampshade hat.  Anyway, this song seemed to capture the torrid affairs and whirlwind romances of junior high, namely, “Passion or coincidence / once prompted you to say / “pride will tear us both apart!”  I’m pretty sure I was saying this to my boyfriends like every other week y’all.

4. Garth Brooks, “The Dance” — Shut up, you know you love this song too.

5. Boyz 2 Men, “End of the Road” — The creme de la creme of “I can’t get over you!” breakup songs, with the added bonus of a classic, heartfelt Boyz 2 Men spoken songbreak:

“Girl, I’m here for you / All those times of night when you just hurt me / And just run out with that other fella / Baby I knew about it, I just didn’t care.”  

Well, that sounded like one understanding guy to me.  I’ll be your girl, Michael McCary!  And I won’t run out with other fellas.

What were your junior high slow dance songs?