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Monday, April 23, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: Dating

     “Ya wouldn’t want to go to the matinee with me on Saturday, would ya?” Mike was looking down at his feet, both of which were kicking the loose pieces of gravel in the courtyard outside the old North School building. “It’s okay if you’ve got other stuff to do.”

     “No, I don’t have other stuff to do. I’ll mow the lawn in the morning but, uh, should I bring my own quarter? Where should I meet ya?” I couldn’t believe it. Mike was asking me to the movies. What would I wear? What color did he usually wear; that should mean he liked that color best, right?

     “Uh, how ‘bout I meet ya at the crossroads by the park. Mike was still looking down, but now he was shifting his notebook and Math book around in his hands, waiting for my response. “Yeah, bring a quarter.” Oh good, then this wasn’t really a date because he wasn’t buying my ticket. My parents wouldn’t have let me go on a real date, but, well, this was only kind of a pre-date, wasn’t it?

     Mike turned around, books in hand and face still lowered. “Okay, bye. See ya tomorrow.” I returned the same parting to him and ran to tell my girlfriends, who were waiting near the curb for me.

     At just the right time the following day, I left the house with my mother’s cheery goodbye ringing in my ears, “Have a good time and be careful not to drop your quarter on the way.” Fat chance; it was gripped in the palm of my hand so tightly that it was probably making an imprint. In my excitement I arrived too early so I walked around the block. I didn’t want Mike to think I was there too early, like I was desperate or something. Better to have him arrive first, or to think he did. At least, that’s what my girlfriends and I had decided the afternoon before this pre-date.

     I sped up when I rounded the final corner because I saw Mike there waiting and shuffling his sneakers on the sidewalk. He looked up when I called my apology for being a little late as I approached.

     “Ah, that’s okay. Let’s go so we don’t miss the cartoon.” We both turned and started walking towards town. The sidewalk was broad enough for both of us to walk side-by-side; but, every now and then, the backs of our hands lightly brushed. I just wanted him to wrap his hand around mine, or, should I do it first. I was afraid to so I just let it go and neither of us said anything. In fact, pretty much for the whole way to town neither of us said much of anything.

     Once the lights in the theater dimmed and the cartoon started, I began to relax. It felt like Mike did, too. The news reel was boring, of course, so I had a chance to think about what might happen during the movie. Would Mike try to hold my hand? It was dark and no one would know but me. I began to get nervous as soon as the main feature started. Then, I figured out if I just put my arm on the armrest that joined the two seats, my hand would be out there and waiting for his, just in case he wanted it, an easy grasp without saying a word.

     As it turned out, my arm was coming and going on the armrest most of the movie because I was also worried that Mike wanted to put his own arm there but I was hogging the space. He was certainly enjoying the movie, laughing, clapping, and shouting when the cowboys had the rustlers on the run. It took a while but I finally came to the conclusion this was not going to be the kind of movie Mike would want to hold my hand. He needed both of his to watch it properly. Maybe next time….

     And, in the interest of full-disclosure, this was the story told by one of the girls in our little group of seventh graders. As is most often the case, the rest of us just daydreamed the story with the name of our own 12-year-old heartthrob in it!

If you missed Sojourner’s own first “boy-girl” story at age 10, you can find it here:

****Adolescent Milestones: Going Steady… Coming Tomorrow

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