I began my Saturday toilette in the afternoon hours before Mark’s seven o’clock arrival. A few days earlier, my gangly friend with oversized feet, a peach-fuzz mustache, and a voice that often cracked or rose mid word had invited me to a movie.
He had stammered, “Uh. I mean…would you like to go to the movies with me on Saturday night? Um… my father can drive us.” His adolescent voice came in bursts and broke on the word movies, rising an octave. He blushed and faced me.
I had been eager to accept. What will I wear? was my first thought, and even before answering yes I envisioned my new green pleated jumper skirt and matching blouse.
Now I laid out my outfit and strategized how to get enough time in the bathroom when only one served all six of us. I waited until my five- and eight-year-old brothers were watching cartoons on the television set before I got into the tub, anticipating a long, bubbly soak. Before filling it, I washed and rinsed my hair under the running faucet, but as soon as I closed the drain, I heard a knock on the door.
“Let me in. I gotta go.” The door wasn’t locked, but we were all trained to knock first.
Darn. I could imagine Jon jumping up and down holding onto his crotch, so I pulled the shower curtain around the bathtub and called, “OK, come on, but hurry up.”
I knew Michael would follow suit, so I waited to fill the tub since I didn’t want to spoil the pleasure of pouring the bubble powder into the running water and watching it foam up.
Finally, I sat back in a tub full of light-infused bubbles languidly raising each leg in turn like the ballerina I imagined myself to be. I lay back and closed my eyes, dreaming of a Cinderella evening.
Following the bath I set my hair in curlers and sat under the plastic hood of my portable hair dryer reading Seventeen magazine and pondering which makeup would pass muster with my father.
Dressed after dinner and awaiting the doorbell, I paced through the living room and the dining room. All of this primping was too much for my father’s brand of humor to resist.
“When will Mmm-arrk get here?” he asked, his voice rising in the middle to mimic the inevitable crack he’d hear.
“Da-aad! Don’t you dare embarrass him.”
“Why-eee not?” He mocked with a crescendo.
“Oh, you!” I stomped my foot, annoyed by his continual teasing, swerved around, and huffed my way to the kitchen to wait with Mom.
Mark rang the bell looking special in a jacket and tie. He greeted my dad with, “Hello, Sir,” and promised to have me home on time. I unclenched my fists, relieved to be out the door without Dad’s teasing.
Mark and I sat in the backseat, rigid and silent while Mr. Hirsch drove us downtown to the Fabian Theater where Mark bought our tickets for April Love. Once inside, we groped our way into seats and blinked in the unfamiliar the darkness. The sound of candy wrappers, shuffling feet, and hushed whispers filled the movie house, and the longer we sat, the queasier I felt from the smell of buttered popcorn. We sat side by side, my sensing Mark’s awkwardness, and feeling edgy in return.
I tried to concentrate on the opening credits. Photographed in CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color. I could feel Mark squirming in his seat, unsure of what to do. Other couples were settling in, arms draped over shoulders. We sat erect in unaccustomed silence.
I became absorbed in the movie, thinking how cute Shirley Jones was as a tomboy, and I tingled when Pat Boone sang the title song. Mark and I were still trying to ignore the discomfort between us when Liz (Shirley Jones) bent over and kissed Nick (Pat Boone) on the cheek. Emboldened, Mark reached for my hand. We relaxed after that, but I was afraid to move and disturb the fragile bond we had made.
Mr. Hirsch was at the curb after the movie, and when we climbed into the backseat, Mark reached out to resume our tentative connection. Our clasped hands rested on the seat between us on the way to a dairy barn outside of town. Mark’s dad waited in the car while we went in for ice cream and sat opposite each other licking our cones. I sensed that Mark was stalling, pausing between licks, perhaps to prolong the evening, but soon enough we were back in the car, our hands once again intertwined.
“What flavor did ya have?” Mr. Hirsh asked.
“Chocolate,” Mark said with a heavy stress on the first syllable, a vocal signal for Mr. Hirsh to butt out.
Mark walked me to my front door. I opened it, and he followed me into the lighted hallway. He stepped close, and when he leaned in to kiss me goodnight, I saw the dark fuzz of a forthcoming beard on his face before he pecked at my lips and vanished.
I rested my head against the closed door to review the evening in my mind, but my mother scampered toward me from the kitchen in the back of the flat.
“Did you have a nice time, Hon?”
“Mom, he kissed me goodnight, but it wasn’t anything.”
“Yeah, I know,” she said as she hugged me and walked me toward my bedroom.
“Was that it?” I thought. Where was the glamour? Where were the butterflies I expected to feel in my stomach? I didn’t feel anything that Shirley Jones seemed to feel, and I undressed for bed wondering what all the fuss was about.
Prompt: Relate the details of your first date. How did it originate, what did you do, and how did it meet or not meet your expectations? When was your first kiss and how did it feel?