The First Date

Yes, I’m talking about my first date. No, not the first date with any particular girl; the first date itself. Sixth grade, that time when boys typically think they know all about the opposite sex and decide to enter that world of understanding them.

Some background is necessary, especially for you of the opposite sex who may not understand how twelve-year-old boys act. First, I had never spoken to the girl. What would I have said? Boys and girls just did not talk to each other. Did NOT. But among the boys in my class, they all knew that she was ‘David’s girl friend.’ Did the girl know? Do sixth grade grapevines work or not? Of course, she did.

A month or more went by, while I discussed with other boys what dates were like (although, since none of us had ever been on one, you can imagine the advice I received wasn’t that useful). And the day finally came; my D-day. With sweaty palms, I picked up the phone and dialed her number. When she answered the phone, I hurriedly mumbled my name, something about going to a Saturday afternoon movie, my dad driving us, and a date and time, probably all spewed out in one incoherent sentence. She apparently was able to interpret my invitation because she agreed to go. I was now committed to the date. No more talking about it, the date was set.

The day came and I was already wondering why I was doing this. Dad was encouraging, promising to not tell any of his jokes while driving us to and from the theatre. Mom gave me several tips on being a gentleman, opening doors for the girl and the like. A high spot was standing on her front porch and watching her come out, wearing a pretty dress and a smile. Maybe this wouldn’t be a bad idea. Dad had a four-door car, so she and I sat in the back seat, she on one side and me, far way on the other side. The silence was deafening and it seemed we would never get to the theatre. Oxygen must have been in short supply because I couldn’t breathe at all. She seemed so relaxed, and I was a mountain of stress.

Once at the theatre, although my friends’ advice (remember them? the guys who had never been on a date?) was that we should sit in the balcony where we could have privacy, I decided to find seats on the main floor, feeling that leading her to the balcony may send a message I wasn’t ready to do.

Finally, a milestone reached: sitting together in the theatre. What now? My friends’ advice was to put my arm around her or hold her hand. That sounds easy when sitting around with the guys, talking about girls, but when I was actually there, actually THERE, nothing seemed right except to sit with my arms at my side. This all felt spooky. For the next hour, all I could think of was what I should be doing. Eventually, I decided that if I placed my arm around the back of her seat (without touching her, of course), it would be a romantic sign. And that went better than I anticipated. Stress was diminishing slowly.

In what seemed hours and hours, the movie ended. No, I have no idea what the movie was about, not now and not then. We emerged onto the street, where Dad had agreed to the time he would pick us up. There we were, standing silently on the sidewalk, waiting for my Dad, just like we were two children. (Well, we WERE two children, being just twelve years old, but that awareness escaped me at the time.)

The ride to her house wasn’t so bad. Dad asked about the movie and she happily shared some of the story with him and I managed to chime in here and there with a mumbled response. When we arrived at her house, I walked her to the door (as Mom had instructed me) and thanked her for the date. (No, I didn’t hold her hand and kissing her was not on my mind, and I’m sure not hers.)

We never talked again, although she remained ‘David’s girl friend’ through the rest of the school year. Her family moved away that summer and we never spoke again. Her name was Sandra Kidd and, although that date was stressful, I’m glad I attempted it. However, it would be three more long years before I ever asked a girl for a date again. That early exposure to the world of girls taught me that there were other activities I much preferred at that young age. Girls could wait.