One of the most daft and poorly thought-out things that happened to me as a child was being entered into the American school system, in the senior year of a large high school. It was a mind bender. I felt all the time as if I was running to try to jump onto a carousel that was spinning at top speed.
It would not have been so bad if I had ever had any kind of socialization with kids of my own age and particularly boys, of which I knew nothing. I knew that grown men were not to be trusted, so I could only assume that young boys were no better, but now I was in a very different country. Maybe society here was different? But then if my uncle was an example to go by….I decided to “proceed with caution”.
Not that I had to worry, as none of the boys ever spoke to me. I, unfortunately, have a very expressive face and probably already did then. It apparently warned most guys to stay away. Except the weird ones who read it as an invitation.
After a few months, I think Kay and Ray became concerned about my lack of friends, and decided to set me up with a neighbor’s son who had graduated high school the year before. Kay and Ray had known this lad since he was a small boy and they assured me he was “a nice kid”.
In due course this lad came to the door and asked me out on a date. I didn’t think I could really say no and I knew I should try to meet some people my own age. So, on the day, trying to ignore the butterflies in my stomach, and with Kay’s guidance, I made an effort with my appearance.
Kay and Ray were apparently out of touch with the times. The state of my nerves was not ameliorated when they watched by the window to see my “boyfriend” approach from across the road. They cried out in unison when he emerged from his front door. Kay said she thought he was coming to tell me that he was running late, and needed to change his clothes. But no, Ms Prim was collected for her first ever date by a lad in scrufffy cut-offs.
If memory serves, we went to a movie on that first date, and afterwards to a pizza parlor where I drank a sloe gin fizz. (No-one ever carded me) I forget what my date drank. The fact that I was basically silent didn’t much matter, because my companion rattled on and on, occasionally asking me something about high school, but I had not met any of his old friends. In fact I was hard put to offer the names of anyone I had met.
Out of the 500-odd other kids in my class, only two had attempted to befriend me and this, I quickly realized, was because they were intrigued by my accent and wanted me to attend an upcoming birthday party. This was another social disaster for me as, in England, if you were invited to the birthday party of someone you barely knew, you would take a small token gift. In any case, that was all I could afford.
Off I went, dragging my heels, to the dratted party, mostly to please Kay and Ray. I was so out of place in the modern, no-expenses spared house of the birthday girl. It was a sweet-sixteen, so another “big deal”. If I had had some clue that turning sixteen was so special, I would probably have strained my sad budget for a better gift, but what did I know. No one made a fuss when I turned sixteen!
As the pile of gifts grew bigger, my heart sank lower. How was I going to escape this embarrassment? Cake and punch laid aside, the giggling girls all gathered around to watch the opening of the gifts. The boxes were all beautifully wrapped, with yards of ribbon and sparkles and as each was torn open, all manner of beautiful items were revealed. Silk pajama sets, plush robes and sweaters and on and on.
Then they came to the feeble little box, hastily wrapped in a scrap of paper Kay had provided, with no ribbon. Unfortunately the card was still attached, no way I could disassociate from the pathetic offering or the sad little bottle of My Sin, or whatever the horribly cheap perfume was. In England it would have been appropriate, but not here. I was thanked, of course, but I wanted to crawl in a hole and after this social disaster there was no further communication from the two girls who had invited me. I was obviously a miserable failure to them.
But I was done with parties and socializing, so I was happy about that at least!
Except there was the “boyfriend”….
When he asked me for a second date what I really wanted to say was “no thank you”, but he lived across the street. His parents were friends of Kay and Ray. How could I be rude to this “nice kid”? He had brought me home and pecked me on the cheek, so it was all very “proper”. So of course, I accepted.
Well the second date was a bit different. I don’t remember how it started out, but I found myself being driven to a “quiet spot” where the car was parked and suddenly I was in a full (uninvited) embrace, which was bad enough, but then I had a tongue down my throat and no, that was definitely not invited. I was rescued by a policeman who suddenly knocked on the window and told my amorous friend to “move the car”.
I was a convent girl, remember? The truth is, I didn’t even know about that sort of kissing. If it had been some chap I day dreamed about, I could have entered into the spirit of the exercise, asked for further instructions….but I hardly knew this lad and really, he was not my type. So I clammed up, but I guess that was considered OK for a second date, because there followed a third invitation. Oh groan.
The following Friday I discovered we were on a double date….ah hah…I had heard of those, but afterwards I wondered if all double dates ended up the same way. I didn’t think so. We went to a drive-in movie. I’ve no idea what was showing. I only know what was happening in the back seat, which was way too close for comfort, and when my partner made it clear that he had the same intentions….Wow, no, no!!! Not ready for that!!!
I am sure my name was MUD. Cold, repressed British bitch, etc. Frankly, I didn’t care what they called me. I was not having sex for the first time with a guy I had only met three times, that I didn’t especially like, in a car with another couple having it on in the back seat. I didn’t know quite how I wanted to lose my virginity, but that was certainly not it.
The other couple disembarked, or fell out of the back seat, I’m not quite sure which, and my ex-boyfriend and I drove home in silence. He opened the door and just about threw me out, except I had already propelled myself toward my front door.
And that was that. Almost. Quite some time later my “ex” (does he qualify as an “ex” after only three dates?) drove around the corner one night and hit my car. I doubt he reported the accident but he paid for the damage and I was so broke at the time I never got the car repaired. I always felt a bit guilty about that, but you do what you have to.
Years later I actually got invited to dinner by this same chap, more mature and less expectant. He talked endlessly about clamming which was his big thing. That was the last time I saw him.
And then there were the SATs……