So, it's April of 1995, I've fallen in love with this dress, I've fallen for a boy I can't have and I have no idea who I can get to take me to prom. I cannot let the dress go to waste, though. I get shot down by the first two guys I ask, but at least neither of them goes to my school so no one finds out. (In retrospect, they weren't especially good choices.) The public high school's prom rolls around in late April. The girls who go to school elsewhere or don't have dates and the guys who've moved on to community college are working that night. I'm trying not to think about NotMine being at said prom with his girlfriend.
Now, there's a certain grocery boy who is kind of a pothead, but also kind of a hottie. NotMine nicknamed him "GQ", because aside from only being 5'9" or so, he looked like he could have modeled for them. He and I were both working that evening, and I imagine he noticed the wistful look on my face as guys picked up their dates' corsages. "I would've taken you to prom, Red," said GQ. My eyebrows went up. He would fill the "looked good in a tux" part of the equation nicely. "Really?" I asked. "'Cause my prom is in two weeks." Deer in the headlights look from GQ, but I took an order out just then and let him off the hook, for the time being.
I got off work in the early evening. I needed to pick up my check, but first I went home and changed into jeans he had seen me in before. On that occasion he really seemed to enjoy ogling my ass. I put on makeup and headed back to the store. To make an incredibly long story marginally shorter, he agreed to be my date, though he did tell me to check back with him; he needed to see if he could afford the tux rental.
Prom tickets wouldn't be sold after the following Wednesday. Tuesday night I called GQ to confirm. He told me he was sorry, but he just didn't have the cash. (I've always wondered if perhaps NotMine took him aside and mentioned that going to prom with me was in no way a guarantee that I would put out. He was rather protective of me.) Panicked, I called a friend, who we'll call Susie. She and I were in the same computer class with this junior boy (who we'll call JB) that I had run into after school that day. I knew he hadn't planned on going to prom, and I mentioned this to Susie. She commanded me to call him and call her back when it was done. So, I called him up and got myself a date for prom. I barely knew him, but at least he was thoroughly innocuous, and sweet to boot. He even paid for our tickets.
I went to the diocesan Catholic high school, so students came from all over town, but JB and I only lived a couple of miles apart. Our brothers were even on the same little league team. My mom brought his mom a fabric swatch from my dress at practice so my corsage would match my dress.
When the day of prom rolled around, I was in rehearsal and would be dancing most of the day, learning choreography. I got my hair done in the morning, told my hairdresser that my hair had to stay put come what may, and threatened the boys in my cast within an inch of their lives if the messed it up. (The choreography involved plenty of lifts and other partner stuff.) I dashed home after rehearsal, showered carefully without messing my hair up, slapped a coat of clear polish on my nails and put on a bit of makeup, squeezed myself into the dress and was ready just in time for JB to show up. He brought me a gorgeous corsage, and his mother had ordered a matching lapel flower for him. It was much nicer than the one I had picked up for him at the store, so we pinned it on and then stood stiffly through pictures. It was pretty easy to cut him out of the photo above; we're not touching in it. Really, prom is not a good first date, but it happens.
We went out to his car, a white minivan that his mother told my mother he was embarrassed to escort me in, because of the Harley-Davidson sticker on the back window. I barely noticed. The hotel was about 45 minutes away. I remember it as a rather awkward drive. I remember that "Always" by Bon Jovi was on the radio at one point and I remember that we somehow got on the subject of his father. A very awkward subject since his father had passed away in the last couple of years due to Vietnam-related health problems.
We were seated at a table of ten. There was Susie and her boyfriend, then Susie's best friend Jane and a guy she was with. His name was Frank and he was a couple of years older than we were. He worked at a restaurant with a classmate of ours I couldn't stand, but due to Frank he was at my table. His date's name was Sarah, and her little sister was there with a guy named Kevin, so that was the ten of us. Probably no one at the table knew more than two other people well. Good times! While we waited for dinner, we made fun of the things that were misspelled on the program. ("Box tie pasta with herb's"? Herb's what?)
The other couples at are table were all at least a little bit established; Susie had been with her boy for more than a year. Susie and her best friend, who was also a friend of mine, were very amused by how nervous I was around JB. He was similarly nervous, though he was looking at me with puppy dog eyes pretty much the whole time. Susie could tell by the look on my face that despite JB's attentiveness, I was having a hard time not thinking about NotMine and she kicked me under the table and gave me a Look.
Frank was a rather obnoxious fellow. He kept saying, "So-and-so, I'll give you five bucks if you such-and-such." There were several such statements. One I remember is him telling Kevin he'd give him five bucks if he would stand up while the poem was being read (an idea of the prom committee comprised of Juniors; one of them had written it) and yelled, "You spelled 'pedals' wrong!" I think Kevin actually did, but there was so much ambient noise and so little attention being paid to the poem that no one really noticed.
JB and I were sitting next to each other. Our hands were both on top of the table, mere inches apart, but we looked more like criminals who've been told to keep their hands where you can see them than two people on a date. Jane got up, walked around the table, and put my hand in JB's. We both smiled sheepishly. By this point, everyone at our table had noticed how nervous we were around each other and they were having a good time laughing at us, though they weren't especially mean about it, just glad the awkwardness was happening to someone else. Then Frank pipes up, "JB, I'll give you five bucks if you kiss Red." He held out the bill. JB snatched it from him and planted one on me eagerly. I was mortified, and looked kind of shell-shocked. By 18, I'd had years to imagine what my first kiss might be like, and neither JB, money, or witnesses figured into the equation. JB gave the five to me, making me feel a little bit like a hooker. Rather a ludicrous feeling for someone whose just had her first kiss at 18. I truly hated Frank right about then. JB and I went back to holding hands and not talking much, but we danced a bit, and I also danced with Susie and Jane, the way girls do.
Fairly late in the evening, JB and I were slow dancing to "When I Fall in Love." (Sadly, it was the Celine Dion/Clive Griffin recording, but Sleepless in Seattle was fairly recent at that point.) As the last strains of the song played, he kissed me again. It was much more the type of Molly Ringwald moment I had envisioned. He wasn't a very good kisser, but I didn't know that then, and as I've mentioned, he was very sweet. When he dropped me off that night, we kissed again.
I woke up the next morning, feeling like I was walking on air. It was "dress like a farmer" day at the store for some reason; something to do with corn, I think. I walked in in my braids and flannel shirt with a big smile on my face, and then I looked at NotMine. JB was nice and all, but he couldn't hold a candle to the man I couldn't have. JB and I kept dating for four to six weeks after that, mainly because Susie kept inviting us to double with her and her boy. We weren't a particularly good match, though. When we stopped seeing each other, he went out with my best friend, the daughter of our computer teacher and a much better fit with him than I was. We went off to college and they dated long distance for a while, about 8 mos. I think, but she eventually broke his heart. I saw him a couple of years later and we went to Friendly's on a sort-of date, but I never really got attached to him that way so it seemed wise to just lose touch. Wherever he is today, I hope he met a nice girl and I hope for her sake that he learned to kiss somewhere along the line. I'm betting most guys aren't at their best at 17.
EG typically hates it when I mention other guys, but this was a long, long time ago and there's no one in this story he should worry about since I've never loved anybody else more than I do him. Anyway, kid, if you don't like it, c'mon back and blog! And for the record, all the best kisses of my life have been with you.