Note: This was written in 1991 on a dare from my wife Anne’s younger daughter Bonnie. She was asked to write an autobiographical essay and had no clue. She was whining that it was impossible and I said I thought it was a golden opportunity. Bonnie looked at me (like 14 year olds do) and said “oh yeah, then why don’t you do it?” So, I walked into her room, booted up MacWrite on the Mac Plus sitting there and wrote this in about a half an hour, printed it, and handed it to her. She read it, glared at me, and stormed out of the house. You can’t win. That’s me at 6 or 7 in the picture above. The girl was not my first date although I’m sure I had a crush on her.
I was what you might call a geek in junior high school. I didn’t date girls and I hung out with kids who were called “beaners” and “greasers” (it was a school full of blond “surfers”). My friends and I rode skateboards, stingray bikes with banana seats (later called BMX bikes), made skimboards (flat boards that you run and jump on in the shore-break like skateboards), and hung out at the beach away from the blond, wholesome surfers. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to be included in the wholesome crowd, we did, but we wouldn’t have known what to do if we’d ever been included in anything put on by that group, plus many of them seemed mean to us.
I rode to school on a bus each day. In the back of the bus were the toughest blond surfers. Those of us who weren’t really part of any group or were too embarrassed to fess up to being part of an “un-hip” group rode in the front and were scattered toward the back. But, none of us rode in the back. One time I remember getting on the bus and finding the only free seat toward the back. As I started to sit down in it all of the blond guys in the back glared at me so hard that I just stood by it and didn’t sit down. I just couldn’t, it was too hard and I wasn’t sure what they’d do to me if I did.
Anyway, I didn’t hang out with any girls at my school. Most of them went for the blond guys and the rest were geeky enough so that being associated with them would definitely hurt one’s budding reputation. My parents had some friends who had a daughter who was my age. They lived on the other side of town and when we’d go to their house for dinner, I’d spend time with her in her room. Nothing ever happened (although I dreamed); we were just friends and in time we felt comfortable with each other. One day, after a considerable amount of prodding by my father, I decided to call this girl up and ask her to spend an afternoon with me at a museum. It seemed a bit “geeky” but, hey, I was a bit geeky. I thought it would be low pressure, and it would be a real, official “date.” Sort of a “getting my feet wet” experience.
I rehearsed the conversation so many times that I knew every possible scenario. It was a bit ridiculous to get so worked up over this one call and this one date, but, it was my first and I had no idea how much energy to put into it. I went all out in the worry department.
Of course, the call went without a hitch. She was delighted to hear from me, accepted my invitation without hesitation, and I had a date for the coming weekend, just like that. I was in shock. I started to question myself (the old Groucho/Woody Allen question: I wouldn’t join a club that would include someone like me…): if this girl would go out with me either she had no taste or was so much of a dog that no one else had ever asked her. Whatever, now I’d have to go through with it. At least I had a few days to decide what to wear.
The date day came. It was a Sunday. All of the logistics went without a hitch. Once I relaxed enough to take in what was happening I realized that I was having a good time. Maybe even a great time. She put me at ease. She was funny, but not too forward. She was even cute. Wow, something might even come of this. I wasn’t thinking marriage but I was definitely thinking going steady. What did I know?
On the way back to her house I noticed one of the littlest blond surfers from my school on the same bus that we were on. I visually acknowledged him but he didn’t seem to notice me. I didn’t make much of it but it did register. We got off the bus and I walked her home. She gave me a peck on the cheek and I blushed. I walked and ran back to the bus, about peeing in my pants that I had had a date and I hadn’t made a complete fool out of myself by falling down or spilling something on her or drooling or something. If I could just make it home alive and climb into bed I could soak in the fact that I had pulled off a date for the first time in my life.
I did make it home, climbed into bed, did some soaking and fell asleep. The anxiety of the date had wiped me out. My folks were sitting in the living room undoubtedly talking about how relieved they were that I wasn’t gay or something.
The next day I walked to where the school bus picked me up. The other kids from my neighborhood were waiting already. I must have been a bit late, probably from the fact that I was still floating on air. The bus came and I climbed aboard. The only free seats were about halfway back so I crunched to the back and took one. As the bus took off and things settled down I heard my name called. I wasn’t sure where it came from but it seemed to be coming from the back of the bus. I turned around just in time to catch a peeled, ripe, juicy orange in the face. Then the same little surfer who’d seen me on the bus on my date yelled out: “he went out with a real dog from that other school across town.” Then they all started to laugh. I turned red and didn’t know what to do. I wanted to get off the bus right then and walk home. This just wasn’t right and I’d never been teased like this before, let alone caught an orange in the face. What a conflict of feelings: I was proud of the fact that I’d gone on a great date, and at the same time wanted to hide it and me from these kids. It was incredibly confusing and produced a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.
We got to school and got off the bus. I got off in the front and the little surfer kid got off in the back. I didn’t see him all day except that I knew that he and some of the other kids were in my Spanish class which was at the end of the day. I dreaded that class. I thought about skipping it for a while but I never cut classes and was too chicken to start now. Still, I was also scared of what these kids would do to me in the class. The Spanish teacher was an old fossil who had no control over the class and let all sorts of things happen. They’d probably string me up and kill me in there and no one would ever know, or, she’d participate!
The time for the class came and I sat up front so the fossil teacher would be able to see what was happening if she could see at all. The little surfer kid watched me sit down and took the seat right behind me. As the fossil got into her stride and the class started to go wild, as usual, the little surfer kid behind me started to talk to me in a low voice so only he and I could hear: “she was a real dog and you’re a geek for going out with her…” He kept repeating stuff like that, not letting up, even when the fossil caught wind of what was going on. I felt my ears getting red and my heart was beating in my throat. I had no idea what to do or what was going to happen but all of a sudden I knew what I had to do to make this right.
Right in the middle of class, I stood up, took the little surfer kid by the collar (all of his friends’ jaws dropped at the same time and I almost stopped to just soak it all in), dragged him outside and pushed him up against the wall. I asked him one time in a calm voice: “please apologize to me.” He said something nasty back. I felt my arm cock, my hand go into a fist, my other hand grab his shirt, and the next thing I knew my hand was as big as a grapefruit and full of blood and he was on the ground with blood and teeth coming out of his mouth. Later my friends who had witnessed the event told me that I hit him so hard that he raised up into the air, his body parallel to the ground, hovered there for a while, then fell flat on his back.
Later in the day I was in the boy’s vice principal’s office getting my mandatory “swats” for having hit another kid. When I got home instead of getting a lecture from my dad he congratulated me.