Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shy Young Man on the Dating Trapeze

Yeah, that's The Kid, age 2, surrounded by a bevy of girls. He looked pretty confident then. Who would have guessed a few years hence he would become a shy guy. He used to beat himself up over this, bemoaning to the air that he would never have a girlfriend. Somehow this klutz who saw himself as the permeant lonely guy, who didn't muster up the nerve to get his first date until the junior year of high school, managed to have eleven girlfriends between then and his marriage five years later. This is the story of those dating years.


The Kid never dated while living in the town we'll call Wilmillar. Oh, he had chased  Michele around the seesaws for a kiss early on (her father was very upset about this, but I don't think his daughter was in much serious danger from an eight-year-old) and he carried a torch for blond-haired Mary Jane  and dark-haired Judy in those the wonder years of grade school, and like several other guys felt a lust for buxom Carol in eight grade. Although he had kissed Michele and had puppy love for Mary Jane, by the time Carol became buxom he had grown to shy to do much about it.

Now he had been a close friend with Iva almost all his life, they use to bathe together [in washtubs on the lawn on hot summer days]and he had a number of friends among the girls in Grade School, he never had a "girlfriend" or even considered dating until his family moved further north in the county and he started going to high school in Pottstown.

They moved in spring 1956 when he was in ninth grade at Wilmillar Junior High. His parents didn’t want to make him change schools in mid-year, so he moved in with his grandparents and spent the weekends with his parents.  This was a sudden reversal of how things had been in all the prior years when he lived weekdays in whatever home his parents occupied and got dumped at the grandparents on the weekends to let his parents have the time to themselves. (His father was a long-haul trucker, who was away except on weekends.)

The Kid made his first friend (male) at the new home on a weekend before he officially lived there. This was Rich.  He was the nearest neighbor The Kid's own age. Their homes were pretty much out in the country and Rich lived a quarter mile up the road.  Rich and The Kid became good buddies and went stag to the school dances together.  Rich was very aggressive toward girls, but The Kid was shy. Rich would walk in, grab a girl and be dancing all night and probably stealing some kisses along the way. The Kid would hang near the sidelines too shy to ask a girl to dance.

The Kid thought too much about rejection and looking foolish; being hooted at by the other guys. Rich didn’t give such things a thought, he just plowed in and never gave a girl a chance to say no even when she said no. She might be shaking her head, but by that time he had her out on the floor shaking to the music.

  Even when The Kid shouldn’t worry about things, he worried. He worried about sexual embarrassment a lot. Let me give an example of what I mean.

Rich threw a party at his house.  There was a bunch there.  The Kid didn’t have trouble dancing with the girls who came because he knew them all as friends, part of his crowd. And he was considered a good dancer in those days, especially doing the bop and the jitterbug. At these parties, girls wanted to dance with him.

During the evening, Rich led a group away from the house into the garage and inside were chairs arranged in a wide circle. Somebody had come up with a kind of musical chairs without music. The boys sat on these chairs. The girls then walked around in front until at some point someone would turn off the garage light and the girls had to jump on the nearest boy’s lap.

And that was what The Kid sat worrying about.

Why?

Because he was an adolescent with raging hormones and this game had him very, very, very...Well, you know, what being a adolescent with raging hormones does to a guy when girls are around being sexy.  All he feared was a girl would hop on his lap and discover his condition.  See, The Kid was too shy or too dumb to realize THAT was the object of the game. That is why The Kid remained a virgin.

Then one spring there came an important dance at school, a real dress-up affair, an institution of youth called the Junior Prom.  Everybody wanted to go and it was strictly couples only.  The Kid didn't want to not go so had to conquer shyness enough to ask a girl to what would be his first honest-to-God first date.  He was in the eleventh grade, for Pete's sake, it was about time. The question was whom, because most eleventh grade girls had steadies.  He sat in Driver’s Ed class one day pondering whom might not have a date already lined up for this spring fling.  There was a tall blond seated right next to him. He knew she wasn’t one of the popular girls, but she wasn’t that bad looking either. Her problem was just not having a sense of how to make herself look good. She was a smidge heavier then she should have been, not fat, just kind of puffy and she wore her hair in an unflattering style and glasses. The problem with glasses in those days was the frames were heavy and ugly. They were what The Old Goat’s daughter refers to as “birth-control glasses”.

Her name was Peg  and The Kid asked her and she said yes. They were to go steady for many moons after the Prom, until a certain misguided matchmaker named Ronald changed their relationship. Actually, he killed their relationship, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

The problem was he felt no real chemistry with Peg. They went to dances, to horse shows (she was a horsewoman), to many other things. They talked a lot and stayed out all night on some dates, doing nothing wrong you understand. Her parents certainly understood. Her mother adored the Kid. This was a curse he suffered. Girl’s mothers would just love him, but their daughters would care less. However, Peg did seem to care, although she proved to have  weird ways of showing it.

On one double dating with Rich and his girl friend Lenore (who The Kid secretly wished was his girlfriend), they went to the Exton Drive-in. At some point Rich and Lenore disappeared from sight in the back seat. See, Rich didn’t give such things a thought, just plunged ahead. But old polite, gentlemanly The Kid simply put his arm around Peg’s shoulder and touched her arm. And she bit his thumb. She BIT his thumb! Ow, she BIT HIS THUMB! They had been going together for months and all he did was put an arm about her and she noshed on his knuckle.  What was she hungry? Wasn't the popcorn enough? This wasn't going to bea romance for the ages that's for sure.

Then one day, his long time friend, Ronald said, “Let’s double date.”

“Okay,” said The Kid, “where?”

“There is a dance at Wilmillar High next week”

Well the problem was the Kid didn’t go to Wilmillar High and neither did Peg and there was a school rule that guests could only come to school dances with a student of the opposite sex.

 “No problem,” said Ron. “My date will bring you in and I will bring Peg in as our guests, then we’ll simply switch once inside.”

The night of the dance Ron guided The Kid, who was the one who had both a driver's license and a car,  to the home of Carmella (a girl who seemed to have two last names and The Kid never did figure out which one was official). They walked in and The Kid saw this dark angel.  He thought she was stunning and was envious of Ron.

As they left her house, Carmella slipped her arm about The Kid’s and she jumped in the passenger side of the front seat next to him.  Oh, well, he figured she was pretending to be his date until they got into the school.

But when they got into the school, she still clung on his arm and Peggy clung to his other glaring at him. It soon became apparent that Carmella considered herself The Kid’s date and he was so smitten with her beauty that he hung on her every word while Peg fumed behind.  The man with two dates wished he had two heads with at least one brain.  After he took Peg home that night, a very frosty ride by the way, she never dated him again.

 She did have her revenge in a way.

At the tenth reunion of The Kid’s class his wife and he arrived at the Pottstown Moose Hall and found a table. In the adjoining room was a bar and he went in to get drinks. Seated on a stool at the bar was a glorious blond woman. Beautiful and built and sitting with her legs bared high and her shoulders bared low in a short black dress. The Kid ordered drinks and she struck up a conversation. She smiled knowingly and then said, “you don’t know who I am, do you?”

He had to confess he didn’t. “I’m Peg,” she said and you could see she was really saying, “I’m Peg and ain’t you sorry you dumped me now, chump.”

But that was in the future, and we're still dealing with Eleventh Grade. The Kid “dumped” Peg (although actually she dumped him, and he doesn’t blame her, but he didn’t regret it either). He had Carmella.

They were dating steady now and he glowed walking with her, watching guys’ eyes swivel to drink in his date for once. Then The Kid made a fatal mistake. He had to show her off to Rich.

Carmella’s parents were very genteel. Her father had something to do with the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and they were always watching TV shows like the “Voice of Firestone”.  In fact, he was the only real live person The Kid ever met who actually sat about home wearing a smoking jacket.  One day The Kid was driving about with Rich and asked if he’d like to meet the new girlfriend.  Rich agreed and they pulled a surprise visit and what does Rich do but start using course language in front of the parents.

The Kid was no longer allowed to date Carmella.

Now it was The Kid’s turn. That summer his parents rented a place just off the beach in Wildwood NJ for a week of frolic and they took Rich along. The Kid and Rich had a ball together and right off Rich finds some birds. He went for this girl named Jeannette and he thought he had her all locked up, but The Kid was struck by her as well. She had these dimples below her eyes that made her face sparkle. They went to Dick Clark’s Dance at the Starlight Ballroom one night and in the end The Kid had Jeannette.  She lived in Langhorne and he near Pottstown, but they wrote everyday to each other for the next year.


Meanwhile, The Kid began dating Pam (Rich’s cousin). Pam had the look of a fashion model.  Why she went for The Kid is something of a mustery, because she was one of those chicks who could have had any guy in school with just a toss of her hair. 

She was another tall girl, as Peg and Carmella and Jeannette were, but there was another girl The Kid knew and had feeling for who was quite the opposite.  She was just under five foot tall and was always laughing and full of fun. Her name was Susie  and she had gone steady with a friend of The Kid’s named Jon for years.

Then poof, Sue and Jon broke up over something and she feel into The Kid’s lap so to speak.  Now he was dating two girls. Susie was a pilot and they would go flying on weekends out of the Pottstown airport. Here was this guy afraid to climb higher then three rungs up a ladder, who avoided roller coasters and stayed well back of cliff edges sailing off into the sky in a tin-a-lizzy Cessna single prop plane all for a girl.  He sat in the backseat (the plane only sat four and was like sitting in a small car), gripping the front of the seat with very white knuckles while she pushed the plane down the runway and up into the sky. Now as a minor, she had to have an adult pilot with her when she flew, to their good fortune.

One weekend they were following route 100 south, flying over nothing much than trees. They had been airborne about a half hour when Susie swung into a 180-degree turn to go back to Pottstown. But she cut too sharply or something and stalled the engine. The single prop just stood there straight up and the plane began dipping down toward all those trees. The Kid could see the speedometer and the altimeter. The speed was climbing and the altitude was dropping.  Do you know what trees can do to a thin little plane like that?

But the co-pilot jumped in and somehow got the engine started and pulled up to level flight again.

They landed safely back in Pottstown and the first thing Susie did was throw up all over the tarmac. But they were out flying again the next week.

The Kid faced a scarier dilemma than a plummeting plane, one more painful than bitten thumbs, too, At least emotionally when a guy has two girlfriends.  The Senior Prom was looming and The Kid already had made the date with Pam, but Susie wanted him to take her.  There was one solution his good pal, Ron.  If Ron could get him in trouble with two girls, then he could also get him out of trouble with two girls. Thus The Kid arranged another double date. Ron and Suzy and him and Pam.

However, Ron also had to play his Sousaphone in a band concert that night and it ran late and it seemed they would never get to Pam’s to pick her up. Always seemed to be little twists and turns when Ron and The Kid tried to double date. Still, The Kid wouldn't have missed that pairing, of the nearly six-foot-four Ron with the four-foot-eleven Susie.

After that night The Kid dated Pam and Suzy some more, but Suzy eventually went back to Jon. Sometime after high school Suzy met with tragedy. Always the adventurous one, she took up motorcycles and one day crashed. She lost an eye and  was never quite the same after that.

Meanwhile The Kid began dating another girl, a tall redhead.  Perhaps it was some kind of strange compensation for a disappointment he had suffered that her name was Louise. The Kid had wanted to date another girl named Louise, but she turned down his efforts, so maybe he turned to one Louise as a substitute for another.  Oh, well it was a short fling for after graduation The Kid was to fall hard for a certain blue-eyed blond.

The night The Kid graduated high school, some people he didn’t even know invited him to a party at a restaurant out on Route 422 toward Phoenixville.  He barely knew their daughter, whom the party was for, but found himself sitting next to her all evening. At some point she invited him to visit her home during the summer and he said yes out of politeness.  Her name was Sonja. 

Sonja’s parents and aunt were immigrants from Russia. Her father was much older than The Kid’s parents and the man was very bright. He had an airplane in his backyard that he had built himself. They were interesting people. Her mother sort of reminded The Kid of one of the Gabor sisters and her aunt was very funky, funny and a little kooky.  Still, The Kid didn’t really plan to go to her place. He had hardly noticed her in school.  They had had no classes together. He recalled she played piano in the variety show that he had performed comedy in and she had written the music to the class song, but that was about it.

Still, he called to thank her for the evening and she invited him again and he said okay.  She said bring a bathing suit, for they had a pool. He went.
She lived out in the country.  There was a long tree lined lane to her house, which crossed a little stream that had been dammed up to form their pool.  As the Kid pulled up to the front of the house (which her father had also single-handily built) he heard classical music playing from a lawn speaker and she was waiting, her golden hair blowing in the summer breeze, wearing a swimsuit. The Kid was at once deep, deep in amour. He walked to her in a trance and she was wearing a perfume and her blue eyes were almost pastel in color and that was all he knew.  They swam and had a lunch and talked. 

When he parted in the evening, she pressed against him and kissed him, and she was kind of sliding up and down and he went to worrying again because you know why. That old problem had arisen. He was afraid she would feel it and kept trying to back away all the time thinking she doesn’t know what she is doing to me. Some years later, Mr. Naïveté finally realized she knew exactly what she was doing.

When Sonja went off to the big city to study she dropped The Kid  for more exciting friends. He was devastated.  Even though he shared mutual friends with Sonja and still saw her and longed for her, she was over him and he felt depressed and lost. He wrote a musical play during that period in hopes of impressing her.

At the time, Sonja had introduced The Kid to the son of a sculpturer who lived in Valley Forge named Bob. Bob wrote music and decided to score The Kid’s play. They would get together in the bell tower of the George Washington Chapel at Valley Forge and write the music.
 
It was an ironic partnership because Bob was a guy Sonja had a thing for, one of those she had dropped The Kid for. However, her yearning for Bob remained unrequited. Bob was Gay.

After Sonja, The Kid began dating a girl similar to Susie is stature, except she had red hair. She was only about five foot tall and was Irish.  Her name was Pat. They were getting quite serious and that worried her parents because of religious differences. They stepped in and forbid her to see The Kid anymore. (Of course, that was a relief to his own parents, because Pat was a staunch Roman Catholic. Always remember prejudices run in both directions.)

Pat met The Kid in the hallway where they both worked and told him her parents’ order and then she ran off crying to the ladies room. The Kid turned around and bumped into a tall, slim girl and she said hi.



A little after that The Kid walked this tall, slim girl, a former model, to her subway stop, and just before she stepped through the turnstile, he asked for a date. He figured if she said no, she could slip off to the platform and he to the street above with less embarrassment, but she said yes, and she was  another Irish lass, but Protestant. A year later the Kid married her.





There were two other girls The Kid dated, but that is a story for a different telling. They was Janice and Mary Ann. (By the way, if you ever run across a poem by The Kid called “Secret Girl, MAD Girl”, it is not about an angry person, it is about Mary Ann.)

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