The Art of (Young) Manliness: Homecoming, Simplified.

Homecoming: the first major dance of the school year. When you break it down to its core, you’ll find that it is quite simple in its construction. A simple photo op with the guys and their dates, followed by a trek to a local eatery, topped off by the moment of the night: a dark-lit dance floor with two hours to dance the night away. Some social butterflies choose to add an after party to this list, but for our sakes we are going to leave it at the bare essentials.

So the list is pretty short, right? Surprisingly there are a lot of pitfalls that young, inexperienced guys fall into. Our goal is to identify said dangers and teach you to leap over them. Whether or not you choose to do so gracefully is up to you.

So let’s begin with the first part of the night: the photo op. These are pictures of you in your Sunday (more likely Saturday) best, and they should reflect a different side of you: maturity. While not prom, one should take a little more time to get ready than your average outing. Brush the teeth, comb the hair, use a little gel; doll yourself up handsomely, because you’re not going to want to show up with bad breath and bed head.

Now what should you wear? This is where the hoity-toity people say that you must match your date, or in case of a lack thereof you must don all black everything. I’m here to shove that crap under the rug, whether you have a date or not. In case you have a date, it’s your job to compliment her dress while at the same time keeping your own style. Otherwise you just seem… influenced (insert whip crack noise here). So let’s say your date is wearing an emerald green dress. Instead of donning black slacks, a ridiculously colored emerald green shirt and an equally offensive colored tie, consider this:

Black slacks. White or pale (and I mean pale) green shirt. Top it off with a tasteful burgundy or red tie. Here’s the stylish kicker: wear EMERALD-COLORED cuff links or similar accessory, if available. It balances your own look, makes you feel independent, and in the off chance you get a ditch-date then the whole dance floor doesn’t have to know Ms. Popular grabbed some punch and never came back—you can get right back to dancing.

For all you single fellas, you have a lot of free rein. You don’t have to compliment anybody. Just be careful, try not to use too much color, and choose the pieces of your outfit with careful analysis.

So the photo op is done, you managed to get some killer pictures of your friends, so you’re off to the restaurant. Hopefully you’ve managed to secure a spot somewhere more upscale, which means your manner must be upscale as well. I’m going to keep this short and sweet, assuming most of you guys are competent with a fork and knife. All of your mom’s rules apply: elbows off the table, don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t interrupt a conversation (no matter how stupid your friend’s story is), and always try to pay the bill for your date if you have one. It’s unspoken man code and it’s a token of affection if your ultimate goal is turning a temporary date into a permanent thing.

So we’re two thirds of the way through the night, and hopefully you’re still with me. Now, there’s no dodging the elephant in the room: the dance. There’s a lot of mistakes you can make here (an article in and of itself) but I’ll take you through some of the most important and potentially shameful things you should not do. First, do not ditch your date or friend group. Unless in dire situation (family emergency, the building is on fire—in which case I would hope you would go back for your friends), you need to stick with your friends. That’s why they’re your friends. Second, stay away from the center of the crowd unless you’ve mentally and physically prepared. There’s a lot of stuff that goes down in there, and you’ll be rubbing against the tails of girls and guys alike, all of whom are too caked up on soda and cookies from the refreshment room to notice you. It wouldn’t be good to see you pummeled at the dance, but those who do manage to let the mosh pit get the best of them, just close your eyes and pray until you can see light. For you social butterflies out there who enjoy the sweat-induced raving of the central cluster, STAY AWAY FROM THE FLASHLIGHT. It’s just a mood killer and you’ll get blamed for a lot of things you didn’t even know were going on. Lastly, don’t be a jerk. If your date wants to get something at the coat rack or the punch bar, walk with her. Talk her up, enjoy her company. In the absence of a date, enjoy your friends. You’re there to take the night by storm. Make it a night to remember.

Don’t be afraid to be a little silly. Chances are nobody will remember it on Monday. On the off chance they do, take advantage of it: you’re now slightly more popular.

Take these points to heart and you’ll do well, my man. Whether a freshman or senior, these points are what separate the men from the boys. Homecoming is a fun, spirited time. This school has the added advantage of presenting lower social hurdles than most other high schools. Dance the night away, enjoy yourself, and you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time.

Good luck guys.