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Three score and ten or more

Sunday, February 05, 2006



We’ve toured together through some of my high school years. If I didn’t make it clear, I was scared of girls. I actually had a date to a movie with a classmate named Frances when I was in the fifth grade, and she got sick to her stomach before the bus arrived at her home stop. I had another date with a girl who happened also to be one of my best friends when I was in the eighth grade. (I learned in this that having friends is often spoiled by having dates with the friend). We had a date to the movie. On the day before the movie, I broke my hand, so I had a large cast on my right hand for the date. In the movie, I tried the old stretch up your arms (yawn) then let your right hand fall on the back of the seat, and you have your arm around your date gimmick. As I let my hand fall, I whacked her on the side of the head and knocked her silly. I don’t really think that she was as bothered as I was by the event, but it ruined the date, and I was so embarrassed around her after that, that it rather messed up our friendship.

Now, in my first two years of high school, I took ballroom dancing, and was hired by the teacher to teach dancing for a couple of months, after my session was complete. I played football, had leading roles in a couple of plays, and minor roles in our school’s yearly operetta. (We were hell on Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg in those days.) I sang in the choir, and became a member of the school’s male quartet as well as joining the debate team. I was also on Boy’s Council (see post on Boy’s Council and Hard Cider earlier) and during my junior year I lettered in football, got my own letter sweater and worked in the campaign for the Student Body President. I went to dances at the third ward Mormon Church most Saturdays (stag, or with a couple of other guys – also stag) where, thanks to the dance lessons (and a lot of teaching by a couple of my cousins) I danced with girls who seemed to appreciate the dancing. In all this time, I had avoided the “date” thing. The two I had had were disasters, and I assumed that any future ones would be the same, so I was terrified of any association with the female sex that involved anything but shared studying (in study hall) and occasional dancing when I went to dances where stag appearance was not frowned on.

After football season, my Junior year, I was given a leading role (given, heck, it was bloody competition) in the yearly operetta. I am not sure, but I think it was Desert Song, by Sigmund Romberg. At Pocatello High School there was a tradition of holding a cast party, only for the leads and speaking parts, at the end of the play. I confess that as a theatre director, I would never have allowed a party which didn’t include everyone who participated in the show (Including all the backstage folks) but that was not the situation at that time and in that place, and the operetta cast party was one of the featured events on the school social calendar.

Early in the rehearsal period, a “speaking cast” meeting was held to plan the party. It was planned as a dinner dance, to be held as a restaurant/bar called the Green Lantern, on the outskirts of town. It was also determined, by vote, at which I sounded a rousing negative, to be a strictly date affair. I was stuck with missing the party, or asking some female person for a date. I confess that this was major trauma. I spent several hours standing by the telephone as if it were going to grab me by the hand and dial some girl’s number for me. I wandered the hall wondering if any of the ladies in my hall would be interested in going to the operetta cast party with me. I contemplated my fellow debaters but determined (without asking) that they were all taken. Time passed, and the cast party came closer, and I still had no date.

Finally we were in dress rehearsal (for which we were all excused from classes for most of the day --I would love to have been able to do that when I was a theatre director, but when I suggested it, school administrators laughed aloud). As we got into one of the final dress rehearsals Louis Weertz (who had another performer name that I don’t remember) an alumnus who had won the Tchaikovsky prize, or something like that as a pianist came back to town to do a Community Concert. He was to play a matinee at our school and an evening performance in Frazier Hall, the university auditorium. When they prepared the stage for the matinee, they sent the entire cast up into the back of the balcony: 1. to see the concert, and 2. to be well out of the way.

As we took our seats for the concert, I found myself sitting next to a very pretty little freshman girl, and, out of the blue, I did it. I asked her to the cast party. Now I don’t know whether it was me, the football letterman, boys council member etc.,or the fact that the cast party was one of the BIG social events of the year, but her answer was “Really?”

When I reassured her that I was serious (having already come to the conclusion that maybe this date asking thing was not as difficult as I had thought it to be) She answered, almost dancing up and down in her seat, “Yes, I’d love to”. With a thousand pound weight removed from my shoulders we ignored most of the piano concert and got more acquainted. Up to that moment, all I knew was that her name was Anne, and she was almost terminally cute. For the remaining few rehearsals we spent a fair amount of offstage time together, and even walked, a little ways, hand in hand. I decided that I well might have fallen into, what might be called, instant love.

When I went to pick her up for the party she looked really lovely, but also very sad and sober, almost in pain. When she said hello, I realized what was different. She had acquired braces on her teeth, that very afternoon. She informed me that she was in some pain, but nothing serious, but that she couldn’t eat anything for the remainder of the day.

We were going to a dinner dance, with a good orchestra, in a “nightclub”, and she was not going to be able to eat a bite of the food, for which I had laid out 15 or 20 bucks (a lot of money in that time). She assured me that, even though she couldn’t eat, that I could go ahead and eat the meal and yadda , yadda, yadda. I knew already, in my heart, that I was not going to be able to sit at the “banquet” and eat in front of her, and I was right.

We went to the dance, danced some, but I discovered that she really didn’t feel well, and probably would have been home in bed if she hadn’t this commitment. We drank some cokes and ginger ale, walked outside under the stars, and danced the final dance (In those days, almost invariably, Good Night Sweetheart,) with her head comfortabley on my shoulder, and then I took her home. When I took her home we talked for a moment, then I told her how much I had enjoyed the evening (as did she), then I put my hand out and shook her hand goodnight. It wasn’t till I was out at my car that I realized that, the way she was standing, she had expected to be kissed goodnight. I had ignored those two luscious lips that were available, even though they were backed up with new braces. What can I say? You don’t get over being terrified of girls in one moment, and my kissing experience, up to that time was limited to my mother and older female relatives. I did ask her out again, and she did accept, and I did (carefully) kiss her goodnight, but for some reason we never got back the easy camaraderie that existed for the five or six days between asking for the date and going out on it.

Anyway, the asking experience was so pleasant that I found myself doing it more and more often to more and more girls and the remainder of my junior year was rather different than the beginning.


At 9:03 PM, Blogger Fish said...

Dating trauma would best describe my high school years. I wasn't an athlete, and by the time I was a Sophomore in school I was six foot five and a hundred fifty pounds. One of the locals called me Abe. He said it wasn't that I reminded him of Mr. Lincoln, but more of one of the rails he'd split.

At some spot I got past that, married a wonderful woman and that's still working after 45 years

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

Here, here. My first real date wasn't until later on in my college years. The "dates" before that ended up like the ones that you mentioned.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Norma said...

With stories like this you should join the Monday Memories Meme--you'll have ladies all over the internet swooning.

I went to all the dances in h.s., but none of the guys seemed to know how to dance!

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

That is a VERY sweet story. I remember MY first kiss and how terrifying it was. I had NO idea how to kiss a boy on the MOUTH! Cheeks were OK, but I'd never kissed anyone on the mouth, and mirrors aren't a great substitute when you're practicing... ;o)

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

NORMA, I hate to sound like an idiot (though, year by year, it is getting easier) but what is the Monday Memories Meme??

At 9:57 AM, Blogger t_cole said...

oh Richard, that was just lovely.
i am sitting here grinning ear to ear. i know what all this feels like from a female perspective - it's just nice to see it from the other side every now and then. and you put it all together so beautifully.
another, please.


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