The wait for Geek Prom was similar to that of Rock Band -- though the basic line situation was much more figured out, the convention staff still didn’t quite know what was going on, still didn’t communicate with one another, shifting the line here and there. They assured us that those of us who had tickets would definitely be going inside, and that being first in line wasn’t all that much of an advantage, but we were hard to persuade. The line for those-with-tickets ended up outside the doors to the lobby of the ballrooms, and I took a moment to run to the bathroom and to the car to drop off my purse and get a 5 hour energy. On my way out, I noticed a guy being led down the escalator from the Atrium, in handcuffs, forced ahead on either side by some security guards. I didn’t think much of it, just curious what had happened, and continued on my quest for caffeine and load-lightening.
When I came back, there was a weird terseness to the air. I approached Tanya, who looked at me in a wide-eyed expression I couldn’t exactly recognize.
“You’ll never believe what just happened.”
“What??” I asked, smiling expectedly. I half-thought she would say something like “William Shatner just walked in, unannounced, and accompanied by a choir singing a bebop version of Hallelujah, true story!”
She frowned angrily. “You better not be smiling! It was terrifying!”
My smile vanished, and I looked at the other people around her. What? I didn’t know. I’d only gotten there. Why shouldn’t I automatically assume good news, not bad? I felt a little embarrassed and awkward.
“So, what happened?” I questioned.
“This guy came in and just flipped out! They tried to restrain him, and he was all ‘Let me go! Let me go!’ It was scary!”
I remembered the guy being led down the escalator, and I did an internal facepalm.
What kind of moron security personnel brings someone obviously disturbed and in handcuffs into the middle of a huge gathering like a frenzied line of nerds waiting for something?? I don’t care if that was where the security office was, it was a stupid move on their part... I was grateful no one got hurt, although honestly, if shit had gone down, I would not have been surprised if there had been at least one black-belt anime geek in the throng who could have put an end to things easily.
The rest of the wait was pretty much noneventful. The line of ticket holders moved closer to the door (there was a line of people in a kind of ticket waitlist, too -- they didn’t save any, or very many, for the door, when they should have, since they’d advertised “tickets will be sold at door”) I got to talking to this girl dressed as Spock, who was from Tucson, and another Comic Book Guy, also from Tucson. We talked about many random things, the only one of which I remember was computers and my awful luck with them. When I mentioned my Gateway computer, the Comic Book Guy snorted. “Well, yeah. Um, GATEWAY!” I told him it was the most reliable of my computers, honestly, and I would still have it if my boyfriend hadn’t clumsily dropped a bunch of textbooks on it.
I thought of my boyfriend. I thought it would have been awesome for him to have been there, to dance together, to get a picture under the Geek Prom Arch (Pacman style, oh yeah), but at the same time, I wasn’t sure he would have enjoyed it. He’s not much for these kind of events (although, being geek-related, he probably would’ve enjoyed it far more than other dances I’ve forced him to). I also was okay not hearing him arguing computers with the geeks around me -- it would’ve gotten bad. He’s very opinionated on the subject, with good reason. But these guys, they were very opinionated too. Shit would have gone down, and I don’t like conflict....
Finally, at long last, tickets were handed over, IDs were held out and wristbands or marker markings given accordingly (oh yeah, there was a bar -- awesome prom, even though I didn’t imbibe), and we entered the ballroom, the same one from the previous night. The same stage, but a new setup on it. The chairs that had made up an audience were now situated at the far perimeters of the room, and people had already begun to seat themselves. Near the door was a table catered with desserts and popcorn, along with another table with cups and big kegs of water, that was almost always out of water (ah, prom). I made my way close to the stage, brimming with excitement, my new friend Spock aside me, Tanya disappearing into the chairs. I looked around and grinned.
“It would be so funny,” I laughed, “if we ended up with boys sitting at one side, girls on the other, and no one dancing. Totally befitting a Geek Prom.”
This didn’t come to pass. As the Master of Ceremonies (who’s name or identity I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure he was famous) and the spokesperson for the charity came out and introduced the first band, a local teen band named No Big Deal, we got into the groove, and danced. I don’t remember if they did any original songs, but their covers were fantastic. I specifically remember them singing “In The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World.
And sitting? That was for quitters. I danced. I danced like crazy, surrounded by geeks who danced like crazy. We danced as stupidly as we could, on purpose, because, seriously, who dances well at Geek Prom?? Spock and I did the whole V-in-front-of-the-eyes move, but with the Live Long and Prosper gesture. We did the swim. We did the YMCA. I did the Macarena even though they never played the Macarena. I danced the way my ex-boyfriend had at Winter Formal, just to make fun of him, to kind of get back at him for ditching me before prom.
At some point, I sought out Tanya, and found her sitting out in the chairs in the corner (hilariously enough, beside the girl who woke me up to Star Wars). She was unhappy. She had told me she hadn’t had any intention to go to Geek Prom, and that she was really only there because I’d bought her a ticket.
“Just the word “prom” brings up bad memories for me,” she told me.
I recognized the look in her eye. It was the external portrayal of an internal scar, much like the ones I had of forgotten birthdays and friendship betrayals.
“I had a bad prom, too,” I told her, thinking of the night. The music had been good. The decorations had been good. But I’d spent the entire time crying, since my ex-boyfriend had decided the day before that he did not want to go, not even giving me the opportunity to get a pity date out of one of my guy friends. But I could tell maybe her hurt went deeper than mine. I turned to her, and put on a grin. “Come on! This is supposed to be our night! This isn’t just any prom -- in fact, throw out that word! Let’s not use the P-word! This is just a social geeky gathering that happens to include dancing and desserts! And I guarantee almost every one of us in here either had a bad P-word experience, or no P-word experience at all. This is our night, to be ourselves, to be geek, and to have fun!”
I don’t think she was completely persuaded by my talk, but I was determined to make her smile and enjoy herself. And she tried her darnedest not to smile as I tried my best to make her. I put on the Birdman face, failing the first time thanks to my glasses, and succeeding the second time, after removing them. “Birdman is prejudiced against glasses,” I said aloud to myself, in annoyance.
I don’t know if this made her smile - I think it did. I know for a fact I eventually did something to make her smile, if not laugh, before I ran off to dance more. And I do know that by the end of the night, she was much happier than when she walked in. I felt proud of myself. I made someone feel better, not worse.
I went back to dancing, house right of the stage, with Spock and Danielle. At one point, the band ended one song, and one of them turned to the mic.
“Hey! We prepared this song just for you guys!”
They take a moment to situate themselves, count off, and then, a blaring guitar note.
And we all glance at one another, eyes wide.
No way... it couldn’t be...
A drum beat. More guitar.
No fricken way.... could it.... is it...?
“I wanna be the very best--”
We all break into a squealing torrent of fangasm. It was perfect for us, the majority of us, those 20-somethings of us who grew up on the show. We danced like maniacs and screamed the words to one another.
“--like no one ever was!
To catch them is my real test
To train them is my cause!!!
I will travel across the land
Searching far and wide
Teach Pokemon to understand
THE POWER THAT’S INSIDE!!!
Gotta catch them all--it’s you and me!
I know it’s my DESTINY! POKEMON!
Oooooh you’re my best friend!
In a world we must DEFEND!” At this point, we stood back to back Team Rocket-style, pulling tough guy poses.
“POKEMON!! Gotta catch em all- oh so true!
Our courage will pull us through!
You teach me and I teach you
GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL!!!”
I honestly can’t remember if they ended it there, or did the proper thing and continued, because there IS more to the song than what was in the opening for the show....
....yes, I’m a geek and I own two copies of the Pokemon 2. B. A Master album SHUTUP I WAS TEN WHEN THAT CAME OUT AND THEN I LOST MY COPY AND HAD TO GET A NEW ONE AND THEN FOUND THE OLD ONE AND WHY ARE YOU JUDGING ME?!?!
Not long after that, the band finished playing, and we applauded them loudly and feverishly, for being appropriately geeky with their song selections, with their appearance, everything. Hell, they even had guitars modeled after Rock Band guitars! Such win. Perfect for Geek Prom.
After they cleared the stage, Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day showed up, and talked a little about why they were there, why this was going on, and they both admitted to us that they honestly never went to prom themselves. I was floored. Their first prom was Geek Prom? I had to admit, I was pretty jealous, but very proud to be part of the experience.
After some more words I don’t for the life of me remember, they cleared the stage, and pop music began playing over the loud speakers as the band broke down their set, so another one could set up. We danced to more appropriately geeky songs. I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t care if I had stitches in my side or that I was thirsty or any of it. I spent as much time on the floor dancing.
Lady Gaga played.
Not just any Lady Gaga selection, mind you.
It was “Bad Romance.”
Here’s a fun fact! My roommate (okay, former roommate - it’s just weird to refer to her as such) is a huge Lady Gaga fan (otherwise known as a “Little Monster”). And she not only knows the “Bad Romance” music video dance by heart, but ended up teaching it to me and some of my other friends so we could shoot our own music video of it. Although honestly, I didn’t need much teaching -- I had seen her do it so many times that I had it pretty much down.
So, I’m at geek prom, where everyone is dancing and having a grand ol’ time, when Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” comes on.
So naturally, I would do what anyone with a roommate like mine would do.
I effing danced that dance.
...but no one else did. I looked around and everyone was just.... dancing.... as they would to any other song.
Clearly they did not have roommates like mine.
I resigned myself to being the only one who knew it, and just enjoyed it. It was kinda cool, you know? Even if no one really understood why I was dancing so weird...
But then, we get through the first half of the song, and it falls into the “Walk, walk, fashion baby, work it, move that bitch crazy” segment... and this guy jumps up on the catwalk. Not just any guy, but a kinda chubbier appropriately flaming guy. He starts doing his little turn on the catwalk in time to the music, pulling off his jacket and getting into it. I clap for him, and squeal, but in the back of my mind, there was a little tickling voice, once again.
Maybe he’ll manage to stay up there, it says.
Maybe he wont get kicked off, even though you know he should....
Maybe he’ll know the moves....
I hold my breath through the whole “I want your love and I want your revenge” part -- it’s a long portion of the song. I wait... and wait... Lady Gaga sings in French... and he lipsyncs them perfectly.
He knows the French. How can he not know the moves? He has to!
I don’t want to be friiiiiends.... want your bad romance....
Want your bad romance!
There’s not even a moment’s hesitation. I knew this was my chance. I knew that he knew it. I knew it would work. I leaped up on the stage, another girl leaping up from the other side, and we do the dance, together. (The other girl realized she didn’t know it as well as she thought, and ditched out, leaving just me and the first guy, who, I might point out, was off by at least one beat).
And we danced til the end.
In. Front. Of. Everyone.
In fact, Wil and Felicia may even have been behind the stage, watching.
But I could only think of the following things as it was happening
1) Oh my god why isn’t my roommate here? This is practically her dream, and I’m living it out.
2) Oh my god. They’re going to kick us out, aren’t they? I just know it. We’re going to finish and there will be security guards there to grab us and chuck us. I know it.
3) You know what? Screw them -- I’m kicking ass here!
4) Why isn’t my roommate here?!
We finished to the sounds of a roaring crowd and a very official-sounding voice over the loudspeaker. His words are warbled and foreign, but I assumed he was telling us to get the hell off the stage and don’t come near it again. I jumped down and stumble, my friends, both new and old, cheering for me and telling me I’m both crazy and awesome. I was shaking. I was amazed at myself. And I grinned from ear to ear, and after a moment, ran out the door, whipping out my phone. I didn’t care that it was past 11pm -- I had to call my roomma-- er, former roommate.
“Why aren’t you here?!” I demanded in a squeak after securing knowledge that I didn’t wake her. “I just danced Lady Gaga in front of hundreds of people and you weren’t here!!! I’m not allowed to do the things you want to do! It’s not fair! Why aren’t you here?! I miss you!!!”
And it was the truth... I could only imagine how insanely epic it would have been if Alyssa (who no doubt would have shown up to Geek Prom as Gaga ANYWAY), and my friend Eric, in his gorilla suit, had been on stage with us....
And Rock Band, too. I’d learned to play Rock Band with those two. I had missed them while onstage the night before (although Alyssa most likely would have sang, which meant no Wil Bon Jovi, but STILL!).
(I had tried very hard over the months to convince at least my roommate to come to PhxCC with me, but she was moving out of our apartment that weekend -- I’d moved out earlier in the week).
We talked a little more over the phone, gradually talking about simpler things like moving out and her trip home and how her cat was and how awesome con was for me, basically allowing me time to get the edge off and calm down from my strange lapse in judgement into awesome. I didn’t want to be gone from the prom too long, so I bid goodbye and ran back in, feeling like a superstar.
I made my way back to where my friends Danielle and Spock (okay, this was what I was calling her, but her real name was Catherine) were dancing. More songs to dance to. YMCA. The Cupid Shuffle.
Then, at one point, Danielle grabbed my attention, and pointed it behind us.
I paused in my dancing, and gaped.
Somehow, Felicia Day and John Scalzi and Aaron Davis had appeared. On the dance floor. Dancing!!
I couldn’t believe that they had actually decided to dance among us, the fans. I kept trying to move closer, be part of the crowd that surrounded them, to just dance next to Felicia Day, cuz seriously -- come on! FELICIA DAY!!!
And not just Felicia Day.... well, and John Scalzi and Aaron Davis...
At some point, a flash of dark and denim, and Wil Wheaton leapt into the fold, and danced his brains out next to them.
Danielle and I push our way gently past John Scalzi to Wil’s side, grinning as we danced together close to him. It felt like we were now part of the coolest club -- the geek club!
As we danced, there were tons of flashbulbs igniting -- tons. You could see their faces, especially Felicia’s, grow more and more stern and less and less “I’m having fun.” Finally, Felicia frowned completely, and kinda turned, shouting something I couldn’t hear at the others but I correctly assumed was something along the lines of “Come on, guys! Stop with the photos and DANCE!”
It really was douchey of them, I thought. There were so many. Imagine this as a bulls-eye -- in the center danced Felicia, Wil, John, and Aaron. Around them, a small ring of people like me, who simply wanted to dance near their idols and have fun, because honestly, what are the chances of it ever happening again? And then, around us, an ENORMOUS RING of people with flash photography and video cameras, swinging them around and into their faces. (Beyond that were random scraggles of people who either didn’t know that these famous people were there, just didn’t care, or didn’t want to be a part of the paparazzi insanity.
But apart from the pictures, it was a blast. It was so fun to see them dancing - especially Wil. He REALLY got into it, especially when a song came on “Just for him.” He danced like a maniac, twisting and waving his arms and being every bit as geeky as the rest of us. He bumped into me a few times... just saying....
After awhile, the dancing finished. They were called up onstage, where they were to announce the Geek Prom Royalty. They had everyone “In proper costume” do a turn on the catwalk while they commentated, and I debated, so long, about going up. Did a cape count as a costume? I felt like a hack. In the end, I decided to do it, because honestly, when do you get to? But this time it was a little against my better judgement. I reprised Lady Gaga, and I felt lame for doing so. I just didn’t know what else to do. When I jumped off, though, Danielle, at least, was smiling and clapping. “I was hoping you’d do it!” she told me happily. “I would’ve hated you if you hadn’t!”
“I almost didn’t... I mean, it’s not like I’ll win...” I told her. She told me not to be so sure, but I was right. The winners were Princess Chess Girl, Prince Sheldon Cooper, and Prom King and Queen Matching Sock Nerds. It was amazing, and we all cheered and clapped. The famous people disappeared with the royalty winners, to take pictures under the arch.
After that, a new band mounted the stage - a loud heavy metal band I didn’t really care for. I stepped out of the ballroom to catch my breath, get some water, and save my ears. They were ringing, and I probably smelled of sweat from dancing. I looked around at the others who were milling about. People were still getting their pictures taken under the arch (I wanted to get one with Spock, but lost her before I had the chance). Groups of people from both Geek Prom and the neighboring Anime Rave stood around the lobby, talking. Convention members were signing people up for Rock Band, which would happen later that evening. I hung around Danielle, who was playing doorman and making sure only those with the markings or the bracelets were let in.
Danielle was lucky. I mean, I had my round of luck, but she had gotten some of her own. At some point during the night, she had been at the door, doing her job, when Wil walked by. He stopped, and held his arm out for her, to help her in. She hesitated a moment, looked at her supervisor who gave her the okay (“She told me she would have killed me if I hadn’t,” Danielle said to me later with twinkles in her eyes), and Wil Wheaton effing escorted her into the dance hall, like a princess. Not gonna lie, I wanted the same to happen... and that may have been an ulterior motive for me idling by the door, aside from hanging out with my new friend. (I’m a geek....)
After a long time, though, I decided to go sign up for that night’s round of Rock Band. However, I found out that not only did it cost money this time, but unlike advertised, it was in no way “Celebrity.” It turned out that after the royalty crowning and subsequent picture taking, the celebrity in question had all left for the night. I was a little disappointed - I mean, it felt like no time at all they had been there before leaving... and they hadn’t even said good-bye to us all...
We stuck around long enough for Tanya to try and win some free stuff in a raffle. After hanging out with Danielle awhile longer, I went and sat in the lobby, surrounded by other con-goers, many still in costume and grouped together. I pulled out my phone. At the time, I wondered if the reason Wil and Felicia and them had left was because of all the paparrazzi bullshit that had happened earlier - I knew it really irritated them, and I felt bad. I went to twidroid, and tweeted to Felicia and Wil.
(Note: I figured out after the fact that they left because that was how long they were supposed to stick around Geek Prom. They left to go have a fun time by themselves, away from the fans. They were all friends -- what friends don’t want to hang out by themselves?)
Five minutes after sending my tweets, I checked twidroid again.... and I found this....
....She.... responded... to my tweet??
....they actually do that????? Famously awesome people with millions of subscribers actually read @replies.... and actually @reply back?!?!
Well, of course they did. I always knew this.
But.... they actually @reply back to ME?!
If I had the physically ability to let my jaw drop ten feet to the floor, I would’ve let it.
Of course, I ran to my friends and showed them, brimming with excitement. It was yet another thing on the list of my personal lifetime achievements that I was able to cross off thanks to Comicon.
Finally, it was time for us to go. That night we were staying a cheaper Super 8 motel about a mile and half down the road. We walked to the garage that held my car.... to find the entrance locked up tight.
Before panic could set in, I saw a sign saying something to the extent of “Car trapped in here? Call security.” So I did. My good luck prevailed, and in less than twenty minutes time, I had my car, and we busted on out of there (not even a ticket, wewt!) and checked in to the other hotel. I took a shower, and crawled into bed, but was completely unable to sleep because Tanya insisted on keeping the light on while she did stuff on her computer. (I am so light-sensitive at night that I will often put post-it notes over little lights on my electronics).
As I lay in bed, staring at the illuminated ceiling, I found myself feeling considerably less awesome than I had only an hour or two before.
There was a voice nagging me -- a different one from the one that had been accompanying me the last two days, but one that I knew much better.
why did you do that dance again, huh? you’re so lame. that was the lamest thing you could ever have done. people are laughing at you. don’t even start thinking people like wil and felicia, or even catherine and danielle, give a damn about you. you’re just a blip to them. a non-presence. they’ll never remember you again. you’re a loser to them just like you’ve been to every other friend you’ve ever had the last four years. you’re so lame.
“Would you just shut up?” I spat at that stupid little voice I knew so well: the voice of self-doubt, my normally ever-present companion. “Seriously, what are you doing here? Why did you have to catch up to us? Why couldn’t you have just stayed at home and away from me?”
It merely laughed, a small but spine-crushing giggle of spite. I groaned and rolled over, pulling the blanket over my head. I remained wide awake, with it tormenting me all the while, until the moment Tanya finally put out the light and I could fall into the silencing throes of sleep.