1974. We were 13 years old. That was the age my school's administration decided that due to our developing puberty, we should be separated from the girls. There were about fifty of us crammed into one classroom. That was fifty adolescent, pre-pubescent, growing boys in one non air-conditioned classroom. Similarly, the girls were across the hall in their own classroom. Once we were separated, I began to notice the classroom chatter change drastically. The girls' inane banter about Barbie, and David Cassidy was replaced with our talking about the girls themselves. Every now and again, I would overhear a boy asking another, "So what do you think of..." The cool, catch-phrase answer was, "I wouldn't go out with her, but I wouldn't kick her out of bed either." Out of the mouths of babes, often come gems! A typical, non-committal, male answer; even at 13. I suppose even at that young age, some guys were already preparing for the grown-up concept of stringing-along girls as if they were notches on a gun-holster. My world was either black or white. I did not understand them, and had no concept of what they were talking about. I wondered, "Why would a girl be sleeping with you in your bed? Isn't that against the law? Doesn't she have her own bed?" I thought every body had their own bed, and kicking someone out of my bed made no sense, because she should not have been there in the first place. Her parents should have given her her own bed to sleep in.
I recall guys talking about going on dates with our female classmates, and being aghast when they described holding hands as they walked. A few of us accompanied a "couple" from our class on their date once and I just kept staring at their hands wondering if they were going to do it! Hold hands, that is. When they didn't hold hands, I wondered what the big deal about dating was, and realized I wasn't really missing-out on any anything. Now, had they kissed, that would have been something worth seeing. Kissing, however, was only shown on television. Parents never kissed, either.
In 9th grade, I heard a rumor from a friend that a girl he knew liked me. I did not know whom he was referring to and the idea was surprising to me. I wondered what any girl would see in me, but was curious enough to investigate further. She would hang around with us from time to time. He would prod me by saying, "You see, I told you she likes you, ask her out, already!" I was hesitant, yet curious. She never associated with me prior to him telling me she liked me, so I guess that meant she did like me after all. I thought, "Here goes nothing," and mustered-up the nerve to ask her for a date that coming weekend. I recall our first date vividly. Valentine's Day was that week, so I brought a box of chocolates to her house. I also brought a phonograph record, "Toys in the Attic" by Aerosmith. As we listened, we made additional plans to see a movie that afternoon. It was, by all indications, a successful first date. I scored points by remembering chocolates on Valentine's Day, I got to put my arm around her while listening to Aerosmith, and saw a movie – all in the same afternoon. The Globe Theater would be the venue I used to experience my first, full dose of "first base." Now having no prior female experience didn't mean I was ignorant of the desires and ways of physical attraction, but I did my best given the circumstances. I wasn't very good at it, and recall "kissing" her for long periods wondering if I was doing it right. I was full of insecurity, self-doubt, and shyness. I knew she had a prior boyfriend, so she had a barometer to compare us. Guys always compared girls, so I'm sure girls compared guys. She was a good sport, and kept quiet regardless of what she may have thought. I was safe!
None of my friends had dated yet. I was the first in our circle of friends to have a real girlfriend. My friends Joe and Rob, anxiously awaited my return from the date for a progress report. What I may have told them paled in comparison to their eventual exploits. Several months or even a couple of years passed. When I would visit Joe, I noticed the wall of his basement had a single sheet of paper taped to it. On this paper was a vertical line dividing the center with the names Joe and Rob written on either side of the line. Beneath their names were tic points. Joe had four rows of five, plus a couple of extra marks for twenty-two. Rob had two rows of five for a total of ten. Every time I visited, the number of marks would increase slightly, with Joe always ahead. I was always curious what those marks meant. When I asked Joe, he told me it was the number of girls he and Rob had slept with. They were keeping score; competing with one another. I recall that I was both envious, and quietly impressed by their sexual prowess, and secretly wondered if I could ever be like them. That concept would never materialize. It just wasn't part of my genetic blueprint. Thinking of experiences with girls as acquisitions was not in my skill-set. Another friend once asked me, "Do you own a girl yet?" I never thought of girls as property, and wondered where he learned that idea, since we went to the same school and lived in the same neighborhood. As years passed, I came to understand that success with women did not entail keeping score, or counting conquests, but lied in building foundations for friendships that could carry forward into the future.
Ironically, the theater my date and I attended the movie, "The Sunshine Boys," would be transformed into a XXX porno palace shortly afterwards. The girlfriend I took to that movie subsequently left me for her old boyfriend, and Joe and Rob faded from the landscape. I've often wondered what they taught their sons when they were asked about the protocols of dating, and the proper way to treat a woman. What I hope they said, and what immediately comes to mind is a poem I once saw in print:
"You may not be her first, her last, or her only. She loved before she may love again.
But if she loves you now, what else matters? She's not perfect - you aren't either.
And the two of you may never be perfect together but if she can make you laugh,
make you think twice, admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her
and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you
a part of her that she knows you can break - her heart.
So don't hurt her, don't change her, don't analyze her, and don't expect more than she can give. Smile when she
makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she's not there." - Bob Marley
Greg Sacchet – November 20, 2012