I ignored a lot of my mother's old-fashioned, time-tested advice when I was in high school. In hindsight, this was a bad idea because most of it was sound. Mum was very popular with boys in high school and college, so I ought to have taken notes. Unfortunately, though, my mother had no sense of saleswomanship. Instead of explaining why it was pointless to ask boys out on dates, she squawked, "Is that a BOY you're telephoning, you brazen hussy!"
Calling girls brazen hussies is no way to win hearts and minds. If you do that, don't be surprised when they decide your ideas must be completely out of date.
But there was one opinion that, pace Mum, was well and truly out of date and simply not applicable to teenage life. The morning after a high school dance, still gleeful from all the excitement, I listed off all the boys I had danced with.
"So Victor asked me, and Albert asked me, and then I asked Sean..."
"That doesn't count," said my mother.
(Cue Alisha to faint dead away in horror.)
I felt completely deflated. At dances, sometimes boys asked me to dance, and sometimes I asked them to dance, and it was all very fun, no matter who did the asking. Being asked to dance is good for the ego (and for impressing my mother), but sometimes you'd rather dance with the man of your own choice, just for the fun of it. Back when girls could almost NEVER ask a man to dance, the special "Ladies' Choice" was a big deal.
Now, at Singles Dances as eligible grown-ups, with the possible exception of swing-dancing, if swing-dancing is basically your life's blood (as it is for Alisha), I don't recommend women ask strangers to dance unless it is completely sanctioned by the DJ announcing that it is "Lady's Choice". (And even then I might suggest strategically asking, not the cute man who looked at you, but his buddy.) Unless you are really the Dancing Queen (like Alisha), you're not there as much to dance as much as you are to meet nice men.
HOWEVER, in high school, where there is no marriage or giving in marriage, I think girls may and should ask boys to dance and simply dance up a storm, just for the fun of it. And I think I will extend this to freshman year at college, too. ANYTHING is better, in the psychologically crucial high school and freshman year, than to hide in the bathroom, crying from loneliness and pre-emptory despair.
I love to make up rules, for nature abhors a vacuum. My rule is that if you are under 21, you can ask boys to dance. But if you are over 21, it is time to lengthen your skirts and put up your hair (so to speak) and wait for men to ask you. Hopefully you will have developed such a reserve of confidence and fun from your high school and freshman year asking-boys-to-dance days, that your face will exude a glow of fun and friendliness irresistable to at least one or two of the men around.
Incidentally, at the last big dance I was at (Newman Centre Pre-Advent), I mostly danced with a female friend. There we were--she 27 or so, and I 36 or so--in full evening dress swing-dancing all over the wooden floor to "Sing, Sing, Sing with a Swing." It was hilarious and much more fun than crying in the bathroom because we were 27 (or so) and 36 (or so) with no man in sight.
She's married, too, now. Most of us do get married in the end, so any time at a dance spent crying that it hasn't happened yet is time wasted. If you really can't have fun, home you go to your comfort snack, your specially-selected DVD and your blankie.
Update: That is me at the Newman Dance, Single at 36 (or so). I'm relatively sure one of those beers was for someone else.
Update 2: Oh, as for Prom. I must talk about Prom, which for my year at the all-girl's school was called "The Formal." The social event of the year, when I was a teenager, was called "The Semi-Formal." Tickets were offered to girls in Grades 11 to 13, and if there were any leftover they were offered to the envious Grade 10s. It being a girls' school, obviously you had to invite your own guest. Some girls gamely went with each other, which simply never occured to me. For three years, I agonized over who I could ask, since I didn't know many boys, and both times I did, I got turned down. Eee! Fortunately, I knew lots of boys by Grade 13, and so I had a Formal Date. Some amazing sense of self-preservation prompted me to ask the friendly boy I was good friends with and not the nasty boy I had had a crush on all year. The nasty boy was extremely annoyed that I had not asked him, for he had very much wanted to go to our Formal. ROFL.
Update 3: My most fun dance ever was two weeks ago in an Edinburgh flat when suddenly a friend struck up a waltz medley, I danced a few steps, and B.A. grabbed my hands. Singing "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do" we whirled around the room. The medley ended with "Edelweiss," and then that was it. Three minutes of dancing, tops, but it was the best ever. Come to think of it, it was our first dance as a married couple. Aw. Have I mentioned that we're old and squishy? We're comparatively totally old and squishy.