The memory is still fresh in my mind, 42 years later.
It was my high school’s end of year dance for the sophomore class, and as you might have guessed from the photo above, I did not have a date. However, a friend of mine said that his girlfriend knew a girl who was looking for a date, and so we were briefly introduced to each other at lunch one day. The next day my friend told me that his girlfriend said that her friend would like to go to the dance with me, so all I had to do was ask.
Somehow I got up the courage to ask her, she said yes, and plans were made. The big day finally arrived, and my dad drove me to the girl’s house to pick her up. From there, it was about a 15-minute drive to the dance at my high school. I’m fairly certain I never said a word the entire drive. It was also probably the longest I had ever sat next to a girl in my life.
We arrived at the dance, and as I was getting out of the car, I heard my dad say to my date as she was getting out of the car, “If you run out of things to talk about, he likes to talk about bowling.”
Now while that was certainly a true statement, I certainly wasn’t so naive as to not understand where bowling stood on the coolness meter, if in fact it even registered on such a meter.
Plus, it’s one thing to talk about bowling with others who enjoyed the art of kegling, but to talk about it with a complete stranger, and a girl to boot, well that was really pushing it.
As the evening dragged on, and we eventually ran out of things to talk about (in reality probably only 20 minutes had passed), I knew the night had reached its low point when she asked me “So what’s the highest score you’ve ever had?” I mumbled some answer, she responded with some reply, and then a couple minutes later she went to hang out with her friends. We were probably both happy that she did so (I know I was), and I didn’t see her until it was time to split.
I’ll spare you the details of the car ride home, but needless to say when I walked her to the door of her house, I struck out – no peck on the cheek.
So there’s no doubt that the date was a failure, as were my other annual dates in high school. But I’m sure that subconsciously each date was building up my confidence a little bit, until I got to the point where I could talk about other things, like explaining how a bishop moves in chess compared to a rook.
Fortunately, high school only lasted four years, and then as a freshman at college I was blessed to have a roommate who was my exact opposite when it came to girls. He was good looking, confident, and charming, and I was, well, refer to Exhibit A at the top of the post again. But he was kind enough to teach me the ropes and became a mentor to me.
It must have worked, because I met a young woman during my junior year who was way out of my league, but we hit it off, and 37 years later we’re happily married with three grown children.
I never saw that girl again after I walked her to her doorstep (my high school had separate buildings for boys and girls), but every once in a while I wonder if she ever thinks back on that night. Was it as awkward for her as it was for me?
Did she ever have nightmares about our date – dreaming of a big bowling ball that kept trying to knock her down?
So here’s to the awkward teenage blues, to mentors, to my wife, and to all of you who love to talk about bowling.