The Military Ball was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Cerritos, CA. I had been there once before, when I stayed the night with my family after my Junior Prom 2012, which was held at the Performing Arts Centre just across the little square, behind the hotel.
My parents wanted to be as CLOSE to my prom as possible, so they could be there to pick me up the second they kicked us out at midnight.
Oh the memories.
Well, this event was even closer, being just downstairs in the hotel. And I was with my brother, so my family was very much asleep by the time we busted in at twelve in the morning. It was an experience though.
We made our way downstairs, and I held my brothers arm, out of formality and because my heels kept slipping on the glossy tiles.
There’s a long carpeted hallway running through the middle of the Sharaton. It’s between their massive conference rooms, or dance halls (whatever they call them), and where there was a long black table of cheese and crackers and grapes, arranged neatly on white porcelain platters, set up, and a wooden cash bar with two stern looking men buzzing about behind it, pouring things.
I don’t know why I got excited when I saw that the bar tenders use the same shot measurement thing that I use at the coffee shop. I wonder how close our professions are on the scale.
Still, I found it funny how grandly specific they were in labeling their “CASH BAR” with a big white sign. I elbowed my brother stupidly.
“Hey, you should ask if they take card.”
We giggled and entertained ourselves with this thought for a few minutes, while he scanned the crowd of uniforms and glimmering dresses for anyone he might know. And I scanned the crowd, trying to judge each couple as a real couple or a brother and sister couple.
Either way, we were standing awkwardly on the sidelines, not drinking, idly munching cheese and crackers, looking confused but trying to hide it.
Six o’clock came and went and the woman at the sign in table told us that the ceremony actually started at seven. “H’orderves and drinks,” were what started at six.
We chatted with a nice girl (a sister) and her grandma for a while. They had been to this event before and filled us in, and my brother took pictures for some people. I was also a mixture of shock and relieve to see girls with dresses shorter than mine. I thought it’d be so formal, all the women would have floor length. There were some girls there in “dresses” that looked like fluffy shirts, paired with ski high platforms. I was jealous of their shoes, but feeling much better about my goodwill dress.
At one point I did go to the bathroom, though, and as I was washing my hands, I glanced in the mirror and compared my whole attire with the other giggling girls who were wearing anything from sequined, to sparkly, to tight, to short, and colorful! While I was in a black lace halter top with creme colored under fabric and gold droplet jewelry. I felt very grown up.
Soon they opened the doors of the huge concert hall. Isaiah was told that all the students in uniform were going to march in together, so he stayed in the hallway, while I made a beeline for table #7, which was right next to the dance floor and had a great view.
|I wish you could see in the picture, but those two bright rectangles are actually hundreds of thin crystal spikes illuminated and poking down from the ceiling. I stared for quite a while.|
After a few minutes, “the great march” began.
|They wouldn’t exactly slow down for me to take a decent picture.|
|The last one coming in is my brother.|
Each academy marched in together. I’m probably forgetting one but there was Navy, Airforce, Marines, Army, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines, of course.
Then they turned and faced us awkwardly, while we tried not to stare. Soon they were dismissed again and the initial toasting began. There had been waiters fluttering about, pouring champagne and apple cider into our flutes — for this very moment, I realized.
They toasted the country, families, and those gone before us, each one of the toasters had a prepared speech that required it’s share of respect and acknowledgement.
Then, they did something funky. The DJ got up on his mic and told all the single people in the room to stand up.
At that second, all you had to do was search for a guilty and embarrassed face and you knew who was single.
“You heard me. If you came with a family member, a brother or sister maybe. Or even if you brought your brother or sister, stand up. Come on.”
I’m one to embrace whatever comes my way, especially stuff like this, so I looked at my brother to see what he’d do.
“I’m not getting up unless you do,” I egged him on, so he stood.
“Now all of you standing, I want you to make your way on out here to the dance floor!!”
I think about here is where I realized I’d made a terrible mistake. But we were already up, it was obvious. So we shuffled our way over — while everyone. In. The. Room. . Watched.
The DJ told us to introduce ourselves to someone. So a tall Korean boy who I hadn’t seen talk all night (though I did spot him standing miserably beside his pink clad and smiling mother while I was scoping out the hallway earlier) came and shook my hand and asked me what college I went to. I said I don’t, I’m a writer. Then the DJ said to move on and find someone else, at which point I found myself between two stone still girls, both seeming totally uninterested in talking to someone of their own gender.
I did share some sentiments with one of them when she noted, deadpan, her eyes glossed over, “everyone’s watching us.”
“Kind of feels like a circus freak show, huh?”
A flamboyant blond woman came bursting towards us, obviously loving all the attention and shook her hand. Then the DJ told us to give each other hugs, which I thought was strange. But the woman gave her a big hug, without question, and they started laughing, while I stood awkwardly to one side, trying to laugh too.
Then the DJ said to give each other a kiss, which is where I grandly blurted “yeah, that’s enough. .” I had no idea where my brother was the entire time.
The DJ laughed and said that we should find a partner because he was going to play one song, and it felt like everyone around me shifted away in unison, looking for anyone else, so I shuffled back to my seat, soon accompanied by my brother.
“That was awkward. . ” I chuckled.
My brother laughed too, and another guy who just got back to the table said how he remembered his first time and how it’s always awkward. I told them how the DJ said to find a partner and all I got was a wall of backs to me, and the guy at the table gave me a pity look and asked to dance.
I loved the music when the event first started. All oldies like Frank Sinatra. It’s some of my favorite kind of music. We shuffled side to side, talking idly about why I’m taking so many pictures of the event for my blog and soon it ended and we got back to the table and the rest of the program, like dinner.
We each got a ticket so the waiters would know what plate we ordered, but it first began with salad and the most delicious ranch dressing you have ever tasted. I was in foodie heaven. We got rolls on our roll plate and soon they brought the main dishes.
I was comforted when I heard the other girl at the table quietly asking her boyfriend which fork to use first. There where three on the table. I at least knew that you start from the outside in and was a little too smug about it.
In these clear flower vases things, were cute little balls of butter for your rolls. Her boyfriend was fishing around in one, struggling to scoop it out with the spoon they offered, while on the other side of the table, I saw one of the fathers just stab a ball with his knife and pull it right out. I was thinking I’d do the same thing, without realizing I’d have to reach over my brother, knife in hand, to do so. My elbow was probably about in front of his face, when he exclaimed “no!” at me, and moved the butter closer.
Everyone turned to see. I laughed and quickly buttered the roll.
Finally the part I was looking forward to, the dancing, began. And I was having a lot of fun watching this girl in a long white dress dance with her boyfriend. They obviously had no idea what they were doing and were just swinging each other around and making stuff up. But their expressions were so serious and mellow, as if they were true professional dancers. It made me laugh.
Their whole aura was like “I got this. . Yeah. I think I’m going to spin you again then we’re going to walk, cheek to cheek. Yeah.”
Another part of the ceremony is the cake cutting, where they have the oldest and youngest cadets attending cut their cake with a scepter.
Yeah, a scepter. I thought that was stinkin’ awesome.
|Here’s a picture of my brothers cake and of the only girl up there too. Whoo, representing!|
We also had a guest speaker and author, Ellie Kay, come and speak for us. It was really good. She spoke about how, of course, our men and women in the military are our heroes. But then there are those who have to keep up with the bills, and raise the children, and pray they stay safe night after night, and those who say “I love you” even though they want to beg them to come home and say how hard life is without them, but instead they encourage and support them, and those are the heroes at home. She really brought to light something I had never thought of.
And the cake had gold frosting on it. That tasted like frosting, not metallic-y. But it really looked gold.
Then according to the program it was “dancing until midnight”, which I thought it’d be cool because of all the oldies. But they turned the lights down and soon it was prom all over again, strobe lights, jumping, and girls taking off their shoes.
I didn’t dance much after that. Though I did drag my brother on the dance floor for “Twist and Shout”. And we requested the Cupid Shuffle (I figured I might as well embrace the sudden not-classy fancy ball-ness). The DJ even taught us a dance from Saturday Night Fever, something like that, which was fun. A lot of the adults had left by then, but some even tried this song.
It was fun. A little unexpected too. But quite the experience.
We finally called it quits and headed back to the room, but not before taking a bunch of silly pictures together.
|In the elevator.|
|Told you he has a great smile.|
|And in a mirror we found on our floor.|
This is what happens when you’ve stayed up ’til midnight, supposedly being civilized.