Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town: The First Date

Texas Style

Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town: The First Date

This topic has been bubbling up from the miasmic depth of my brain. Several attempts to stuff it back down have failed. It grew like a bowl of kolache dough given too much yeast. So, here it is: How many of you remember your first date? Silly question, I know, because all you women readers will probably answer with a resounding yes. The men, I’m not so sure.

But writing about this scares me. Many of you know me from my childhood, so you might be thinking; is she going to name names? Relax. The answer is no because I don’t remember what would be defined as my first “date.” One minute I was an unpopular teenage girl afraid of boys, and the next I was an unpopular teenage girl in love. No date ever really occurred.

My dad had instituted the traditional daughter rule of my generation: You can’t date until you’re sixteen. At the time, I thought, no big deal, no one will ask me out anyway. But then something happened at my first Sadie Hawkins dance when I was a freshman. This I remember clearly. I didn’t ask a boy for a date like the tradition suggests. And I wasn’t even going to go until a few friends and I agreed that we’d go stag. We arrived at the high school gym and hovered at the edge of the dance floor, lined up like Barbie Dolls on display. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed this boy looking at me. That’s all it took. One look. I was a goner. I didn’t know him. He was from the other side: the non-Czech, non-Catholic population of West who attended the public school. He sidled up and asked me to dance. I learned his name and that he was a junior. After our fourth dance, he asked me to “walk him at graduation.” That was the thing back then. I’m not sure what it meant, all I know is I was so excited I almost peed my pants.

I was fifteen and months away from being allowed to date. But my dad did occasionally allow me to go for a ride with this boy. I can’t see how the pseudo dates were any safer than a real date to the movies. Did Dad know that we’d be in a car — alone, driving to lord knows where? As time when on, I managed to meet him at the Best Theater under the guise that I was going to a movie with my friends. The movie was about race-car driving. How romantic is that? As the credits ran, he asked me for my St. Mary’s graduation ring so he could wear it on a chain. I gave it to him.

For him, our “dates” must have been utterly boring because I had no clue what to talk about. I was grossly aware of my silence and embarrassed by it. Living in a household with four other females, I wasn’t used to boys. I had boys for neighbors but didn’t give them much thought.

By the end of that summer, we’d apparently broken up. Total surprise to me, but I figured that must be the reason he was with another girl at the swimming pool. So all of a sudden it was over; done with, ended as quickly as it began. I was too scared to ask for my ring back and my mother was furious. So much so, that she reminded me of my blunder all too often, and I know she took her anger to the grave. After the break-up, I moped around the house for weeks. Mom kept telling me to snap out of it — I wasn’t the only girl who’d had her heart broken. Thanks, Mom. That really helps. I feel so much better — not!

He graduated. I graduated. Life moved on. I ran into him once a few years later at a convenience store, and he told me that it was a mistake breaking up with me. “You’re damn right it was,” I wanted to say, but the still-young Kathleen was too nice. Today’s Kathleen would have said it right before she dumped her Slurpee down the front of his pants.

Message to old “boyfriend”: if you are reading this, I want my ring back!

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Kathleen Kaska

Kathleen Kaska

Metaphor Writing Coach. Author of the Sydney Lockhart mysteries and the Kate Caraway mysteries. I blog about, “Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town.”