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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: Going Steady

     Ken looked down at the shiny bronze ring with obvious reverence. “This is my brother’s ring. He gave it to me when he left for the Air Force.” I watched, silently, as Ken pulled the ring off his finger and held it out to me.

     “Oh, Ken, maybe you shouldn’t let me wear it then. What if I lose it? I’d feel just terrible.” I held the ring up and noticed the flattened surface on top; it looked like something should b on the surface but I didn’t want to ask.

     “Well, I want you to have a ring and we don’t get Junior Class rings until next year. This is the only ring I have.” I tried it on and, well, it was too large to stay on. I would need to do what other girls in our Sophomore class were doing, wrap colored thread around and around the boyfriend’s ring until it would fit snuggly. Sometimes, the bulk of the wrapped thread made the ring too cumbersome so a strand of something was threaded through the ring In order to wear it around the neck rather than on the finger.

     “Okay, if you’re sure you want me to wear it. I’ll wrap it so it will stay on my finger. I’ll be careful not to lose it.” Ken’s eyes shot open in alarm. Apparently the possibility of losing it had not occurred to him. The brightly polished bronze ring was so strong I’m not sure how I could have damaged it so what else could I be worried about when I asked for his assurance that he really did want me to have it? Nevertheless, Ken put his fears aside and let me take the ring.

     As the weeks passed, Ken and I were usually together, holding hands between classes, talking after school and I even did the break-of-dawn deer hunting thing with Ken and his parents one Saturday. The ring I wore meant that we were “going steady,” or agreeing to exclusive dating-- with each other only.

     The glitch came when a girl’s organization to which I belonged held a dance called a “TWIRP.” That stood for “the woman is required to pay” as well as to do the asking. The girl’s organization was sponsoring the dance as a fund-raiser for their group. It had been on the calendar long before I wore Ken’s ring. Another girl had already asked him to the dance. Can you see the problem coming here? He had already accepted her invitation before he had made the commitment to not go out with anyone but me so, really, he should be expected to go with her. I, on the other hand, had not asked anyone yet but could not really ask anyone now since I had Ken’s ring. I was sick and not a very good sport, I must confess with embarrassment. Well, in the end, Ken came to the dance with me but my own guilt robbed me of the pleasure of the event, which only seems just.

     When Ken got his driver’s license, we went out for a ride or to get a coke as often as his parents let him borrow the car. What a super-thrill it was for us the day we got to take the brand-new GTO his parents had just purchased. On weekends we hung out together at his house or mine. Sometimes we went to the movies; we just liked being together. It was a “no pressure” relationship. Then, two things happened that changed everything for Ken and I.

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