Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Perils of Dating in the 1980s

The other day, I picked up a book called 'One Continuous Mistake.' I liked the title. I have yet to read the book but I have to say that the title is brilliant. I could have lived this book. I remember a decade that ran between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six that could have the same name. I promise you that when I find out why this book is called 'One Continuous Mistake,' I'll tell you but in the meantime, I have to tell you that dating, for me, was a minefield, what seemed like one continuous mistake.

I'm not entirely sure if it was relevant to dating, but I was a cute girl, absolutely not beautiful, but cute in an awkward, doe-eyed way. And the other relevant fact about my dating experience was that most guys were really horny for girls that were at least cute if not attainably beautiful.

So, it seemed like dating was this slippery dance between keeping some guys out from under your clothes while maintaining hope for discovering a good one who might get there and stay there for longer than a few weeks. It was hell.

I remember the time I reluctantly agreed to join my boss' new venture. Is it sexual harassment when a man pressures you to join his online Jewish dating business? Is it harassment when he says you get to join for free because there aren't enough women signing up?

In retrospect, it might have been because this guy once approached me with this, "That dress looks nice on you."

"Thank you," I said, genuinely pleased.

"You know what would look better on you?" he went on.

"What?" I asked. What a dork, right? You know this one, don't you? I didn't.

"That would be me," he said as he leaned in a little bit.

So yeah, it qualified as sexual harassment. But I'd experienced so much worse that I didn't call him on it. I never really called anyone on it. Those were the early eighties and I worked in technology. Calling foul would have jeopardized my job. I knew it.

The other problem with his dating program, I told my boss, was that I wasn't Jewish. He said it didn't matter and so I agreed because I thought I had no choice. I'd find a way to worm my way out of this kind of trouble too.

The first guy that called, I was assured, was a nice Jewish boy who'd been entered into the system by his mother. This was the beginning days of the Internet. There were no pictures. I don't even remember any answers to questions. I think my boss set it up for me straight from the first applicants.

He called. I listened. He sounded to eager, a little dorky, but I agreed to let him pick me up since he'd been vetted by my boss.

That was my first mistake. Or maybe it was my second.

When my door rang, I opened it right away. I was ready. The boy on my front porch was a genetic anomaly. I'd expected dark curls, thick lashes, that handsome crook in the nose. I could tell this guy would have no idea how to carry on a conversation. How can you know that from one glance? You know what I mean, don't you? There are some people who's looks are directly connected to that awkwardly-social gene buried in every cell.

This guy was puffy with dull brown hair. I didn't want to look into his eyes to see what color they were. He carried mitts for hands that fumbled at buttons at his belly. He was puffy there too. And I couldn't tell that his skin had ever seen the light of day. How could that many mistakes not have been fatal. Oh, that's so mean, isn't it?

But in high school, I had some fascinating ugly friends who were guys. So, I tried to be nice and see what came of it.

He drove an incredibly wide car, an old brown Buick with extra-wide bench seats. I couldn't find a seat belt. We began the 'what do you do' routine. I shut him up when I said I was an engineer. He never did say what he did or maybe it just didn't stick. To tell you the truth, nothing he said stuck because I was immediately too busy.

It was his right hand. He was more confident in his own car so he grabbed my shoulder and slid me across the seat and pinned me hip to hip with him. I could feel the sweat-slick on his palm and smell the stench of his nerves. Then his arm squeezed me tighter, as if I were in a head-lock and his hand ran down between my breasts. He couldn't quite manage to drive and grope, so I took advantage of a turn to slide out from under his arm and move to the other side of the car. He tried to carry on his lame conversation and drag me back, but I shifted my should every time he seemed about to get a grip on me.

When we arrived at the club, I leaped out of my side of the car and walked through the parking lot with one car between us at all times. This night was going to last forever.

Then, instead of getting cozy in the little booths, I jumped up to get to the dance floor. I didn't figure much could happen out in front of a hundred other people.

Oh, I was so wrong. The guy couldn't dance for shit, but I knew that when I set eyes on him on my front porch. Remember how that gene connects looks with the ability to socialize? It's connected with the ability to dance too. But that wasn't really his problem. I'd danced with a lot of great guys who couldn't cut a rug with a pair of pruning shears.

No, this guy began the first dance by grabbing me by the hips and dry-humping me on the dance floor in front of a hundred other people. What the hell was that smell? Plus, I was afraid my little blue skirt was riding up in the back under his hands.

Again, I broke away from him.

"I have to go to the ladies room," I yelled over the music. Then, I literally ran away from him and into the restroom as if he were a vampire flying after me. You know, those pumps with four-inch stiletto heels? Girls worth their salt can really run in them. It's a gift. It's a necessity sometimes.

Some genius had put a pay phone inside the ladies room for emergencies like mine. That was before cell phones. People didn't even have those huge bricks in their cars yet. I put in a quarter and dialed my friend, Liz. It was too bad the ladies room didn't have a back exit too. I really needed one. When I told Liz what was happening, she said she'd come get me. I said I was okay.

I wasn't okay.

I told her that I needed her to help me fabricate a good lie to get me home. My period? No longer an excuse and I lacked graphic evidence. A stomach bug? I wasn't sure I could vomit on command. A headache?

A migraine! She asked if I could fake a migraine. I could fake a migraine after watching my college roommate use that excuse to get out of spending time with my family the only time I ever roped her into visiting for a weekend. I could totally fake a migraine. And that way I wouldn't even have to talk.

Liz made me promise to call when I got home safely and I hung up, took a deep breath, and squinched my eyes before leaving the ladies room.

There he was, waiting too close to the women's room door as if he'd been about to come in. Gross. He had to back up a little for me to get through the short hallway. Was I going to have to brush his body to get past? I brought my elbow up, put my forearm across my forehead and declared, "I'm getting a migraine. Can you bring me home?" I forced him to back out of the hallway.

My acting career was born.

"Now?" he asked. He looked at his watch. It was only 9:15. I resisted the urge to look at my own watch. I moaned. I kept my eyes averted. No eye contact.

"I get pretty bad ones," I said. "I could throw up."

That was it. He spun on a single heel and led me back outside to his car. He reached for my hand, but I'd gone to the other side of the row of cars again. He hurried over and opened his car door for me but didn't step back far enough for me to get in without touching him. The creep. I might have to either brush my chest against him or my backside. I chose instead to roughly graze my elbow across his ribs pretending to be dizzy. I pulled the door handle to slam the door as he jumped out of the way. He got into the driver's seat and reached for me. I moaned again. It wasn't hard to imagine throwing up either. It really wasn't.

I curled into fetal position against the cold metal of his passenger door.

"Please, hurry," said hoping he'd just put the key into the ignition and go. "I think I'm going to be sick."

"I thought you had a migraine."

"Yeah, and I always throw up all over the place."

He started the car. His right hand reached out for me and I flattened away from him, partway off the seat, against the frigid door. A bit of air from the window leaked into my face, but I held position until he pulled in front of my house. I had surreptitiously pulled my keys out of my purse and held my house key in my right hand.

Then I realized - he knew where I lived. I groaned for real this time. Before he was completely stopped, I used my left hand to unlatch his door and I jumped out of his car and ran up my steps.

"Good night!" I tried not to sound too cheerful.

For a bumbling idiot, he was pretty quick. He ran up my steps and tried to pin me against my front door and lean in for a kiss, but I was too quick. I rolled into my apartment and jammed a foot behind it with a little gap I could talk through.

"Can I see you again?" he asked as he tried to pry the door open and come in. "We can still be friends, right?"

I kept my foot firmly behind it and I said, "I don't think that's going to work out. Good night." I closed the door firmly in his face.

Finally, one move that wasn't a mistake.

Thank you for listening, jules

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