Sunday, July 8, 2012

Creative Writing: My First Date

Words and photo: F LoBuono

Even though it was over forty years ago, I remember it as if it was yesterday: my first, true date.  I had some grade school crushes and girl friends but this was to be my first "adult" date.  It was 1970, I was fifteen and a sophomore in High School.  I was a man now and was going to take a date to a movie for the first time without any kind of chaperon (of course, that was after her father dropped us off at the theater!).  I had fallen for a shy girl in my own grade and, overcoming my own timidness when it came to girls, asked her if she wanted to go out on a date. To my mild surprise, she said, "yes".  We decided to go to a weekend matinee.  I have no idea why we choose a matinee instead of a more traditional Saturday evening date.  Perhaps it had something to do with the transportation arrangements.  But we did.  The movie theater in our town (Fort Lee) had closed, so we would have to look for a theater elsewhere.  We decided to see The Owl and The Pussycat at the Rialto Theater located on Main Street in Ridgefield Park, NJ.  The movie today would be called a romantic comedy.  Then it was known as a madcap farce.  Anyway, it starred George Segal and Barbara Streisand as a woefully mismatched Manhattan couple who just might find true love if they could keep from killing one another.  It had adult themes and situations - probably more than either one of us would let our parents know about!  But, after all, we WERE adults (at least I saw us as such) and we should be seeing a film suitable for adults.  The only, real problem was that neither one of us was old enough to drive!  I remember her father, a big, jovial man, volunteering to take us. He liked good food and wine and knew of a place not far from the theater where he could have some lunch while he waited for us to emerge from the theater.

So, the plan was set and, on Saturday afternoon, put in motion.  Her father had this huge, old Chrysler.  I mean a family of five could live in this thing if they had to!  I remember feeling so small as my date and I entered the cavernous back seat.  Her father would act as chauffeur and drive alone in the front.  It's about a fifteen minute drive from Fort Lee to Ridgefield Park, down Rte. 46 to the Main St. exit that would take us to the Rialto.  Ridgefield Park was (and still is) in so many ways a typical, blue collar NJ working class town with a downtown area that time had mostly forgotten.  The Rialto, although aging, still had the charm of the classic movie "palaces" built in the 20's and 30's.  I remember the small, but ornate lobby and the classic art deco carvings on the ceiling.  We got there in plenty of time to get some provisions (twizzlers, popcorn, and the like) and still get great seats right in the center of the theater.

I remember the movie being genuinely funny with a zany Streisand playing off of straight man Segal.  I didn't want to be too forward and have her catch me staring, so I kept my eyes straight ahead, focusing solely on the movie.  However, at the same time, I was very attracted to my date.  I had this kind of warm and fuzzy feeling when I was around her and I wanted to share that.  But, how could I accomplish that and not be too forward where she might think I was aiming to take advantage?  Remember, this was 1970 and we were fifteen!  I know, if I could just hold her hand, she would feel it, too!  But what about being rejected, I worried.  What if my timing was off and I came on with the hand-holding bit a little too soon? I could blow my one and only chance.  No.  I would have to patient and, when I felt the timing was right, make my move.  I would make a series of small moves to put myself in a position where I felt comfortable making the big one; actually holding her hand.

As the movie progressed, we laughed along and finished our treats.  This was step #1 - our hands would be free.  Next, I would to get my hand in a position close enough to her hand to gauge whether she would meet me half way and accept my advances or not.  So, I slowly slid my hand over the arm rest and let my whole forearm slip into the space between our two seats.  I was hoping that she would intuitively know that there was no other reason for my arm and hand to be there except to join hers.  It took me at least three quarters of the movie to muster up the courage to get it there, but, finally, I was in position.  Now, I would have to wait and see if my gesture would bear fruit.  Gradually, slowly, gently, her arm slid down between our seats and was dangling right next to mine!  She got the message and was responding.  Still, I didn't want to seem to eager:  I slowly engulfed her hand and gently squeezed it into mine.  Now I could feel that warm and fuzzy feeling again, except this time it was even more intense, radiating all over my body.  And I know that at that moment, she felt it, too.  Of course, by this time there was only about five or ten minutes left in the movie!  But that was enough.  It would be five or ten minutes of the most innocent, honest, intense, and connected feelings that I ever had, or WOULD ever have.  It was one, brief moment in time whose memory will last me my entire life.  I have not - I cannot forget it.

When the movie ended, we lingered, hand in hand, until all of the final credits had rolled and the house lights came up.  That was our cue to drop each other's hand and resume our normal, respectful roles as teenagers. We walked back up through the lobby and out into the light where her father was waiting to take us home.

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