My kids are now all at an age where they either are, or will soon be, dating, and when I see them going out it brings back a lot of memories; sort of like what I assume the survivor of a horrible car accident feels like when he first ventures back onto the freeway.
I was the King of the First Date in high school. Dinner and a movie, or sometimes movie and a late dessert if I wanted to change things up a little; I had that first date thing down. Getting past that terrifying First Date proved to be a little more difficult, though, as a lot of girls seemed to forget why they said yes to me that first time when I called them afterwards, always assuming of course that I decided to call them again.
One thing I discovered was that it's amazing how many families had to change their phone numbers in between dates. Either we had an incredibly large percentage of people living under the Witness Protection Program in the tiny town I grew up in, or else our phone service sucked, because it seemed like at least fifty percent of the girls I took out on first dates (Hereafter referred to as "victims") didn't have the same telephone number afterwards. Strange.
And of course way back in the Middle Ages, before there were things like IM's and text messaging and all of the other conveniences of the modern world that make it impossible to escape someone's unwanted attentions, if you couldn't get ahold of them by telephone, you had exactly two choices - write them a letter (Too time-consuming) or go to their house (Too scary).
So I ended up having lots of first dates but not all that many second ones.
Some of them were pretty eventful, too. There was the girl I took to the prom, who, although she wasn't technically a first date that night, still managed to make a Hall of Fame move when she asked me for my friend's telephone number after the dance. I can imagine how Jim's girlfriend of two years would have felt about him getting a call from my prom date. Needless to say, we didn't go out again.
Then there was the girl I went out with once who later turned out to be a lesbian. I've often wondered how much I had to do with that. I mean, how bad does a date have to go to turn someone off to an entire gender?
Fortunately the story has a happy ending. I met my wife long after high school, after college even, and I immediately clicked with her like I had with no other. She refused to date me for a long time, but I eventually wore her down with my charm and sophistication - or perhaps she just got sick of saying no; there's a lot to be said for persisitence, as I'm discovering with this writing gig - and after about six months she gave in and went out with me.
Roughly a year-and-a-half after that we were married, and it's been nothing but happiness and bliss ever since. By the way, if you know us, please don't ask her, just take my word for it.
I'm not sure how I managed to avoid my typical first date magic with her, but I think my bad first-date karma somehow transferred itself to the restaurant I took her to - it later burned to the ground in a mysterious fire. Bad for the owner, good for me.
So anyway, watching my kids take part in that frightening dating ritual is bittersweet for me. Like all parents, I don't want to see my children get hurt, but I also realize that you can't ever find the right person if you don't ever look. I just wish they gave you seat belts or maybe crash helmets to protect you from the inevitable carnage that comes along with the whole dating thing.