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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?

  • tiffanie lanmon


    • http://www.austineavesdropper.com Tolly Moseley

      Oh GOOD ONE Tiffanie.  I just hope that crush of yours, whoever you listened to it with, didn’t drive you home in a car filled with beanie babies?

  • Jessica Lonett

    this just made my heart so happy. in 7th grade i dance to mariah carey ft. 98 degrees “thank god i found you” with my crush, justin. i had my bff ask him to dance with me, of course.  i believe i gushed “those were the best four minutes of my life” after the song ended and we obviously just walked away with out saying anything to each other.  i was wearing a long sleeve baby shirt from american eagle and i still have it in my sentimental value box at my parents house.  i once listened to that song on repeat for a two hour car ride in my pink disc man.


    • http://www.austineavesdropper.com Tolly Moseley

       ”Those were the best 4 minutes of my life!!”  I love it so much, Jessica :)

  • http://twitter.com/austinstylish keep austin stylish

    It’s Your Love by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

  • Nicole B.

    Yes, our dances always had Garth Brooks, too (remember Thunder Rolls?) How about More Than Words by….Extreme, I think? Funny to see this post, b/c my 7th grade boyfriend (who came out of the closet in college) just posted a pic on Facebook from a dance where we are sitting on bales of hay (ah, growing up in TX!).

    • http://www.austineavesdropper.com Tolly Moseley

      MORE THAN WORDS!  Dude.  I’d still slow dance to that song, if somebody asked me.

      And the bales of hay: HA.  So Texas!  I’m sure the chaperones were also busting out their gingham, right?

  • Nicki

    Edwin McCain- “I’ll Be”. I had many depressing moments with my back glued to the wall watching other people dance to this song. haha! Great post Tolly!!

  • http://ummlist.wordpress.com/ Elisa

    This post is excellent! I can’t believe you remember all the details. The song that takes me back instantly: Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden. I thought it was the most romantic song in the world, and also my little 6th grade mind picked upt on the sex allusions in the lyrics and I loved the scandal of it. My “cool” aunt bought me the album. She’s the best.

    • Tolly

      Oh I totally remember / loved “Truly, Madly, Deeply” Elisa. I heard it for the first time playing overhead at SuperCuts, and was like — WHAT IS THIS GLORIOUS SEXUAL BALLAD. I think I bought the CD version of a cassingle that very day.

  • ChelleLynn

    I listened to a lot of Christian alternative music, for which I have zero nostalgia (except maybe The Newsboys, simply for their title “They Don’t Serve Breakfast in Hell”), in junior high, so high school was my musical coming of age. My heart sped up to the strains of Usher’s “U Got It Bad,” and I felt super cool driving around with the windows down, blasting 3 Doors Down’s “Ticket to Heaven.” I even SEXY DANCED (i.e. awkwardly shook my nonexistent white girl ass) with my much-cooler-than-me boyfriend to “Yeah.” Obviously, Usher was very influential to me.

  • Amy Haley

    Holy fantastic. This was such a giant bright spot in my day!! :D Although I have a hard time reconciling you as anything but a mega-babe. You must have been one of those rare “cool” kids that just befriended the world…”fast-dancers” included. My five minutes in heaven came during R. Kelly’s ‘I Believe I can Fly’. The next day I bought the single from the Space-Jam soundrack at a record store in the Collin Creek Mall. Drove my parents CRAZY repeating it on a loop the entire 20 minute car ride home, haha! Pretty sure that single handedly landed me headphones and a walkman though!!

    • Tolly

      LOL, I Believe I Can Fly!!! Amy, oh indie-loving music Amy, this absolutely makes my day.

      True confession: The first CD I ever owned was BROOKS & DUNN (!)

  • http://twitter.com/DorkyDeann Deann Armstrong

    I think my school, in their attempt to play NO love songs lest we get closer than a ruler’s length, ended up with the most inappropriate song for a ‘romantic’ slow dance: ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ by Puff Daddy (before P Diddy). I remember seeing a music video with a motorcycle crash before being asked to dance by (gasp!)Taylor Cole, super-cutie. I thought he was awesome because A) he was very tall, and B) his name was in the middle of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I told him this, and he responded, ‘You’re so weird. Who is that?’ Maybe he was still in that whole ‘I’m going to be mean to you because I really LIKE like you’ phase. Anyway, I was crushed. Now it’s a hilarious memory. Thanks for this post, Tolly.

    • Tolly

      Deann, you are the awesome one for liking a boy because his name reminded you of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Um, in junior high and already a fangirl for 18th Romantic Poets? I think I just became YOUR fangirl.

  • Chelsea Holcomb

    Celine Dion-Because you Loved Me. Though Im not sure i actually danced to it…I was also in the fast-dancing circle :)

    • Tolly

      Chelsea, I believe I saw proof with my own eyes at some point that you were NOT in the fast-dancing circle. ;)

      Ha- anyway! We all have a secret Celine album-of-shame in our CD collections, don’t we? Because whatever one had the Titanic song on there, I owned.

  • sweetbutterbliss

    Anything by BoysIIMen.

  • Mahshad

    Ohmigosh. 8th grade last dance in Wakefield, MA. “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” by Bryan Adams. Me, my unibrow, and David McCarthy. When that Flamenco intro came on, I swooned silently, certain that I would end my middle school career as a serial fast dancer (or, in the case of suburban Boston, a hopper-arounder to House of Pain’s “Jump Around”). But then… then… David McCarthy couldn’t find his “date”, and, well, I was just standing there in my shapeless beige sheath from TJ Maxx, looking kinda foxy, apparently. It was magical. It was unforgettable. We avoided eye contact, barely touched, and I remember sweat forming on my upper lip, but it was epic, and for a moment, I was cool. For years after that, I would dance around my room with that ugly petroleum-based dress any time I heard the song. And now, when I (almost never) hear it, I think back to the lunch room at the Atwell School fondly and remember that he kinda sorta really loved a woman, and that woman was me.

    • Tolly

      Mahshad, this might be one of my all-time favorite blog comments EVER.

      And dude. David McCarthy WISHES he ended up with a fox (and one hell of a storyteller) like you!