Friday, November 14, 2008

The Dating Game

I have a niece who is just nearing dating age. You know this is happening because all of a sudden they stop looking like little girls or tomboys with torn jeans, oversized tee-shirts, messy hair and dirty faces and d and start looking like movie stars. They have the perfect hair, their nails are painted and long, their clothes start coming from Abercrombie and Fitch instead of Dad’s side of the closet. Yes, it is time for the phone to start ringing incessantly or the appearance of a growth looking exactly like a cell phone becomes attached to their ear. They start throwing in names like Hunter or Ryan into their conversation as in “Ryan is so cool; his dad gave him a vintage 1980’s mustang.” Your first thought is when did 1980 become vintage and second is “you’re not getting in the car with him”. You try not to vocalize these thoughts but sometimes you loose your filter and it spills out. Yes, welcome to the world of teenage dating.

I wasn’t allowed to date until I was sixteen. I was a junior in high school when I finally turned sixteen and really didn’t embark on the dating scene until late in my junior year. I was introduced to a boy from our rival high school across town at a party one night. He seemed nice and my friend who introduced us vouched for him. He seemed to be interested in me and me in him. When he asked me out for the following Friday I was thrilled, elated, heck I all but floated out of the party. I mean this guy was cool. He dressed differently than the cowboys I was used to dating. He didn’t have a dip of snuff under his lip and he quoted poetry! Be still my beating heart.

My parents were still quite strict even though they had been through this dating thing twice before. They had gone through this with my rebellious sister and the other with my elusive brother. I am sure that is why my mother set my curfews so early and my daddy insisted each boy come up to the house and meet one of my family before I could leave. I had rules. Rule number one, no boys in the house when my parents weren’t home which meant never since my parents were rarely home. Rule number two, home before 9:00 pm on school nights and 10:30 pm on weekends, because we all know that you won’t get into any trouble or have s-e-x before 10:30. Rule number three, no drive-in movies, because that was where kids had s-e-x. Rule number four, the boys had to come to the house and meet someone from my family before they could cart their daughter out on a date.

I spoke to let’s call him Craig, because that was his name, on the phone several times during the week before our date. Each time getting a more of a sense of the Rebel Without a Cause vibe from him. He was funny and intense and sort of moody. He was everything a teenage girl finds attractive; thank God we finally out grow that. He agreed to pick me up Friday evening at six because the movie started around seven that would give us time to grab a burger before the show. He got directions to my house and I told him my “house rules”. He just chuckled and said “we’ll see”.

Friday finally arrived and I couldn’t wait for school to let out so I could go and primp and prune and polish. I tamed my frizzy hair as much as I could trying to look like Farah Fawcett but instead looked more like Rosanna Danna Danna. I put on my high waisted Faded Glory Wide legged bell bottoms, my cutest tallest platform shoes lifting me up from 4’10” to 5’1” and my cutest hippest Hang Ten tee shirt. I was a vision of 1970’s loveliness. I was dressed and ready to go by five o’clock and sat in the den with my dad waiting for Craig (le sigh) to show up. My dad was entranced by something Walter Cronkite was saying on the six o’clock news when I heard a honk from the front of the house. I got up and ran to the front door. At the end of our side walk sat the coolest, hottest trans-am. It was black and gold with the big eagle on the front, t-tops and loud pipes. My heart leapt in my chest. Craig is just the coolest! I thought. My daddy on the other hand was not impressed. He yelled from his recliner. “Young Lady, YOU are NOT going out there! You can yell at him and tell him to come in and meet me or you can just sit your little butt back down on the couch and stay home.”

I did as I was told and opened the door and asked Craig to come inside. I was mortified, but I would have been more so if I hadn’t. He got out of his car very much put out to be made to come inside but he did. My daddy gave him the third degree and asked him all but what his blood type was. Then he said “Okay, then Greg, you have my little girl back home by 10:30. You got me boy?” To which Craig replied “My name is Craig and I got you.” Daddy narrowed his eyes and looked at Craig and said “Alright then Greg we’ll see you later and you drive careful.” I literally wanted to crawl under the couch and have a tea party with the dust bunnies, well if my mother would have had dust bunnies.

Craig and I walk out to the car with me chattering on about some nonsense and I walk around to the passenger door and wait. I notice Craig has already gotten in the car. Now I was raised that it was only polite and the gentlemanly thing to do for the man to open the woman’s car door as a sign of respect. I stood there dumbly looking at the door when he said “What’s the matter don’t you know how to open a door?” Well of course now I felt stupid so I opened the door and slid into his purring machine. My teenage hormones were at full tilt and I just knew he was going to be “the one”. I would have to work on his manners but hey that was just a minor set back.

I sat back ready to enjoy the evening. Craig put his foot on the accelerator and laid rubber half way down the block in front of my house. I could feel my daddy’s eyes rolling from the end of the street. Craig took the first corner on two wheels only instead of being frightened I felt exhilarated. Like I said I lived in a very strict household. We stopped briefly at the little drive-in diner and wolfed down a hamburger and some fries and then we were speeding across town again. The next thing I know we pull into the drive-in movie theater. I looked at Craig and said “I’m not allowed to go to the drive-in.” He just smirked and replied “What your parents don’t know won’t hurt you.”

We pulled into our stall and he rolled down his window, took the speaker off the stand and hooked it on the door. The movie had not started yet and they were playing some rock and roll tune that we both sat and sang the lyrics and kept the beat to. I was trying to feign comfort but the situation just felt all wrong. I kept hearing my daddy’s words in my head and I just knew my mother with her voodoo who doo or extra sensory perception would know. I had images of an errant meteor hurdling towards earth and unfortunately striking right in the center of the theater parking lot. There I’d be on the news being interviewed about a meteor hitting the front of the car and my parents would know. I was petrified!

Nighttime snuck in and the movie trailers started. Craig put his arm over the back of my seat and leaned across the console and in a very husky almost whisper said “So would you like to get comfortable in the back seat?” I was taken aback. I was shocked. I was aghast. I looked at him with my big eyes and squeaked out a “No thank you; I’ll just stay up here with you.” His mouth snapped shut, his eyes turned black and he threw the speaker out of the window revved the engine on his car and peeled out of the theater lot. He sped 100 miles per hour across town weaving in and out of cars running red lights and sliding around corners. He skidded to a stop in front of my house reached across the car and opened my door. He then spoke the only words he had spoken since he had asked me the confusing question “GET OUT!” he said.

I begged, I pleaded, and I groveled. What had I said? What had I done to invoke his ire, his wrath, his hate? He said nothing just sat there looking at me like I was covered in rat shit. I slowly crawled out of his super cool car. The next thing I knew the door was slammed and all I could see were his red cat eye tail-lights speeding away. I was crushed and confused. I didn’t understand why he was so angry. I didn’t understand why he would turn on me. My inferiority complex just tripled in size as I drug my feet to the door and let myself in.

Daddy was still in his recliner now watching a western or Nova or something. He looked up when I entered the room and asked what I was doing home so soon. I was crushed and began to tell him what happened. The slightest curl went to my father’s lips. He suppressed a chuckle or two and very calmly said “You did good kid.”

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