The wonderful, brilliant guy named Joe at "Cranky Old Man" has posted a lovely blog describing his first date and it conjured up memories of my own first date .....to call them bittersweet would be a lie....there was nothing sweet about them and unfortunately I recall it all too vividly. On the other hand, it wasn't really horrible....it was just not what you would call a success. You will see why below as I expound on the subject. By the way, I offer up my sincere thanks to Joe for inspiring me to emerge from my fetal position under the blankets and take to blogging again.
Well, first, I think I must have been about 10 or 11 years old which is pretty young to begin dating I admit. And it is not that I was some hot to trot 11 year old who had boys lining up at the door. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was fat, unlovely, shy to a ridiculous degree. Not date material at all. When confronted, one on one, with a boy, my mind would go blank, my tongue would freeze to the roof of my mouth and my muscles, too, would cease to function. You could not differentiate me from a statue or a department store dummy except that my expression would not be as lively as either of those objects......think wide staring panic stricken eyes punctuating a complete expressionless face sort of like a snowman with coal eyes and no mouth or nose applied yet. The only time this condition did not apply would be when I was engaging in some kind of sports activity and then I would perform like a nearly normal person. Consequently, it came to pass that one day while roller skating with Arthur Silver, a boy who lived around the corner on Carpenter Street, I happened to mention that on Saturdays I generally went to a Roller Rink in Upper Darby, whereupon he suggested that he might like to join me at this activity on the next Saturday.....would that be OK. (uttered very offhand and casual like because none of us had acquired any social skills as yet.) I agreed, equally casually, and we made a pact to carry out this racy plan ......well I like to think of it as a date. Wow! The week passed in a blur and I alternated between exhilaration and terror, both states causing me to wet my bloomers frequently and then, before I was quite ready, it was Saturday.
Since discussing the details had been beyond either of our abilities, I assumed that Arthur would show up at my door around noon and we would then take the street car and the subway and arrive at the rink at about 12:30 or 1. Hours were from noon to 4 or 5 as I recall. Noon came and went. So did 1 o'clock. Oy! I was being stood up. Overwhelming waves of both indignation and relief swept over me. I stopped wetting my bloomers. I was pondering whether to go off on my own when suddenly, from around the corner a red-faced, perspiring Arthur came trotting and arrived, gaspingon my doorstep. It seems he had failed to tell me that he had a violin lesson every Saturday and could not be available before 2 at the earliest. By this time it was after 2 but there were still a few hours left and I decided I would forgive him and we would make the trip. Not very much meaningful conversation ensued because He was ashamed and too shy to talk much and I was both indignant and terrified and too shy to talk much, but I figured that when we got to the rink and started skating, what with the blaring organ music and the whirring of wheels on the beautiful hardwood floor not much conversation would be required.
Finally, we arrived, gasping and perspiring, and were greeted by the keeper of the door with a horrible pronouncement. Admission denied! Dress code was skirts for females (that was OK......slacks had not yet been invented) and jackets and ties for males. Jackets? Ties?? What was this, a Prom? I doubt if Arthur owned either because he hadn't even had his Bar Mitzvah yet. The rules were sure different back then, weren't they? To say we were devastated would be the understatement of the year. We slunk away like two petty criminals and rode home in silence......parted with nothing more than a feeble wave of the hand and, sadly, never tried that again.
I wish I could say that my next real date came out better, but if anything, it was worse. The guy I used to beat regularly at Ping Pong asked me to a party later the same year, and in a moment of madness I accepted. If there were anyone in West Philadelphia who was more tongue-tied, insecure and awkward around the opposite sex than me, it was Nicky. What could either of us have been thinking? Obviously NOT thinking. Anyway, I can barely stand to recall THAT wretched occasion, but I do remember that neither of us were able to utter more than 4 or 5 words the entire evening, except for the worst moment of the night when Nick managed to stutter, "Would you like to dance?" and I groaningly replied, "I'm sorry I don't know how." Thunk!
Is there anyone out there brave or foolish enough to ask me out? Please think very carefully before replying.
The New Yorker covers: July 7 & 13, 2008
7 hours ago