Lessons learned from a Sadie Hawkins Dance

My first reaction to the news that my children’s school has scheduled a Sadie Hawkins Dance has always been a heavy sigh. When my son was younger, I thought that girls have surely gotten beyond the need to have a special occasion to ask a boy to do something. We are empowering our girls.

Throwing a dance based on a character from the hillbilly 1937 cartoon Li’l Abner seemed a bit of a step back in time. Perhaps less of a step back in time and more of a large leap or even attempt at time travel.

Sadie Hawkins, the unmarriageable daughter of Dogpatch USA’s earliest settler, couldn’t find a husband so her father created a day where any unmarried woman could “win” a bachelor in a footrace. The winner I guess, was the woman as she would have the right to marry her “caught” man. Poor Sadie Hawkins. (Yes, I know she is fictitious, but her cartoon father went to such lengths to state that no one wanted her.)

Two years after the 1937 cartoon ran, Life Magazine reported that over 200 colleges had held Sadie Hawkins Day dances, giving women the freedom to ask out the man of their choice. Since that time, thousands of Sadie Hawkins Day dances have taken place putting the pressure on the girl to ask out the boy of her choice. Essentially putting that girl in the same awkward position one day a year that every boy and man has to endure the other 364 days.

I know. I didn’t see that one coming either. My daughter recently asked a friend to the Sadie Hawkins dance. The more I heard from other parents about how nervous the girls were, the more I began to defend the lessons learned at a Sadie Hawkins dance. When that boy turned a girl down, welcome to a Saturday at the house with a son. When that girl wasn’t sure if the boy liked her or just wanted to be friends, welcome to the stage we call “being kind, but not ambiguous.” We used the opportunity when a boy couldn’t attend the dance as a lesson on how to graciously turn down an invitation.

As much as we want to empower our girls, we need to remember that we still expect our boys to be confident and brave. They don’t get one special day and a DJ when fumbling about asking other people out. They are putting themselves on the line while girls are still given a choice. It was a nice opportunity to have a girl be nervous and be able to point out that boys feel the same way. I don’t think a footrace is necessary and marriage is not an option, but changing one’s perspective is always a good thing. I also understand that sometimes a dance is just a dance.

.Diane Chase is the author of the “Adirondack Family Activities” guidebook series, “Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.” For more family-friendly activities go to www.adirondackfamilytime.com.

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