One of my first “Big Dates” was a Cotillion dance in 8th grade…or was it seventh? Cotillion was an attempt by a local “grande dame” to nurture refined manners in a group of young teens along with ballroom dancing instruction. I think it was a truly nerve wracking experience for most of us! Once a week we would walk a couple blocks from the middle school to the K of C Hall located on the 3rd floor of a downtown building. A virtual skyscraper in our town! Guys wanting a little money would hang about by the door and help the instructor out of her car …open the door. These kind of brownie points paid a couple bucks cash! If you were really good you would carry some of her stuff up the 3 flights of worn wooden stairs. It was one of those buildings that are mystifyingly old…the major mystery to me being that they haven’t burned down!
We would then partner up and learn the rhumba, the foxtrot, the bossa nova, jitterbug, waltz etc. Every so often we would switch partners and during the session you would dance with each of the 50 girls a couple times. All very open stance and supervised…but still at that age, and for a nerdy guy still in his Clark Kent frames it was something of a thrill.
Jenny (names have been changed to protect the sweet and innocent) was a cute little girl from my neighborhood. She lived about 4 blocks away so I only saw her when I was walking home. Her family had a tree between the sidewalk and street with a trunk that was curved from years of kids passing by and jumping up to hang from it…at least I think I wasn’t the only one! Many days Jenny would be waiting by that tree till I passed by and smile nervously saying “Hi”. I too would say “Hi”. Sometimes I even said it first! But always continuing on my way. God only knows what disasters would have occured if I had stopped to talk any further! But this was earthshaking stuff making my head spin on the rest of my walk home.
Well this brazen flirting continued and the pitch of her “Hi’s” became higher and happier. When it was time to invite someone to the dance I found the number in the phone book and spent an hour or so making myself nervous. One of Jenny’s 300 sisters answered the phone and I heard much yelling for her and thumping up and down stairs…I nearly hung up in fear! This was much worse than when the german shephard down the street was chomping on my leg as I rode past on my bike!
I don’t remember the conversation with Jenny…I may have blacked out. But I know it was successful because weeks later I found myself at her house in a suit in this predicament with an enourmous corsage and no clue of how to pin it to her dress. Thankfully her mother came to the rescue. Her mom still laughs about that when she see’s me.
After that awkward scene things got better. We sat with friends and ate, all joking around. Jenny and I actually remembered the different dances and impressed the leader of the orchestra a little. Music, friends and dancing with a childhood crush. There was nothing more to it than that. Really when compared to some of my more recent dates, it is perfect in comparison.