My First Date - 1968

I have assigned this topic to my OLLI class but I am struggling to remember my own first date. I know that I hungered for a first date, a first kiss, a first someone, some prince charming to notice me and I suspect that is the deepest desire of every teenager and perhaps of every ager.

I do remember being asked to dances, probably in 8th grade but I hadn’t thought of those in the date category probably because I was invited by someone I didn’t like at all and told him my mother wouldn’t allow me to go. I think I did go anyway, by myself, and made up some lame story about how she changed her mind at the last minute.

I was tall which was new for me. I had always been one of the smallest kids until 7th grade when I grew 9” and gained no weight. At least for a few more years, boys were mostly shorter than I was. Going out with shorter boys was just not cool. There is something written into the code, even for tall, gangly girls who were not asked on a lot of dates, that going out with a boy shorter than the girl was humiliating. This almost negated the date. How can you count it as a date if the boy was too short, or too pimply or uncool? In the late 1960's, these were serious questions of teenage angst.

This concept of not going out with a shorter boy was a rule - a rule of dating. I feel sheepish about this now. My father was a short guy 5’6” and my mom was taller at a whopping 5’7”. Even one inch was too much. The first time they went out, she appeared in flats so that she wouldn’t look so tall next to him. He liked that she was taller and asked her why she had on those ugly flat shoes and asked her to put on heels. He was proud that a taller woman would go out with him. In spite of her own mother’s advice not to marry the short Irishman, they were happily married for 63 years. Rules are made to be broken, but I hadn’t learned that yet.

I went to the 9th grade prom but, and my apologies to the boy, do not remember who my date was and I wonder if he remembers who he went with, and if he does not, we are square. I am pretty sure he was short. Was I his first choice or way down on the list of alternates? I suppose this prom may have technically been my first date. I believed I was dressed to the nines, as much as a 9th grader in suburban Virginia in 1968 could be. I vaguely remember I had my hair done in some awful huge updo so that my head was horribly out of balance of my Olive Oyl body – picture a Tootsie Roll Pop. My dress was undoubtedly so short that I would have been wary of bending too far in any direction. No wait, that would have been high school. I wore a long, sweet, virginal yellow and white empire dress, with even sweeter daisy trim around the neck and bodice. I made my dress on my Mom’s black workhorse Singer. The Tootsie Roll Pop comparison still stands.

As I said, I do not remember my poor date. Other than the dress, I remember standing in front of the band. I remember standing in front of the band and the image in my memory is of me in the middle of the cafeteria and the band on the stage and the rest of the students having disappeared from the decorated cafeteria into a dark mist leaving just me and the band.

This was a popular local band. The musicians were older – high school boys, meaning tall and very cool. The lead singer was a friend of my sister and he was cute. I believe his name was Richard. He had been attentive to me and I had suspicions that he liked me but reasoned that was implausible – I being 14 and awkward and him being 16 and very cool and attractive, and nice and a singer and Oh my God, it was just too much to contemplate! At one point during the evening, he dedicated the song, “Younger Girl”, by the Lovin' Spoonful to me. I don’t remember if he mentioned me by name or not but there was some clue clinching in my mind that I was THE younger girl. That was when my memory cleared the room. I know it is a cliche but that is how I remember it. Just me and Richard and the band. This was a new place in my life, presenting with possibilities of being desirable or attractive or adult. I don’t remember any further interactions with Richard. I had no idea what to do in response. He was so much older and more mature - like Paul McCartney - and I was so out of my league in navigating romance that I believe I stayed in the shadows. He probably thought I was not interested in him because I did not respond to what I saw as his very overt flirtation. Then again, there was always the possibility that he was just being sweet to his friend's younger sister.

This is what I have learned of love: Love is not easy and humans are very complicated and confusing and more often than not, tender and inept.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Jean McGavin
Bethlehem, CT © 2013

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