There were love letters hand delivered by my friend who had the most adorable little brother who had a crush on me. Larry, biological brother to my friend Valerie sent this card that still tickles me. When we were close enough, Larry would sidle up beside me, reach his arm up, and put it around my waist. His mama said she knew he was a heterosexual from the get-go because he loved me so. In addition to the cards and occasional letter, he made me hand-crafted campaign signs:
(In a scant three weeks, I’ll be acting as toastmaster and standing in for Valerie to deliver the toast as her adorable little brother (now my Other Brother) takes the equally adorable Becky to be his lawfully wedded wife. I wish her notes and love letters on her pillow at night that are so sweet, she’ll find a beautiful box to keep them in.)
The days when a male showed his affection by clubbing a woman on the head and dragging her off to his lair by the hair on her head were (fortunately) long gone by the time I cared if boys liked me or not, but that doesn’t mean that when boys of my own age first began liking girls (and vice versa), there weren’t mating calls and rituals to be had . . .
When we got old enough to take an interest in boys, we’d kick the school year off with a denim-covered three-ring binder with a clip on the inside front cover and, using our new ball point pins, we graffitied the cover with declarations of our love for the boy du jour. Those of us who liked to plan ahead would even practice writing our married name – Mr. and Mrs. The Engineer – and get used to writing our new initials that would eventually appear on luggage and pinky rings. Of course when the inevitable break-up came, well, that was a problem requiring a new notebook or finding a new boyfriend who happened to have the same initials as the old one.
Teddybears and other trinkets were won at county fairs to show a guy’s undying love for his girlfriend. In second grade, Jeff C. was out for a week while his family went on vacation. The day he came back, I took my seat to find a set of wings – you know, the kind the
stewardesses flight attendants would give well-behaved children as a reward or badly-behaved children as a bribe – waiting in the pencil trough of my desk. Though he never said a word, I caught him watching me and smiling that big goofy smile of his, so I kinda’ put two and two together and figured this was from him. And who could ever forget that ill-fated box of chocolate covered cherries intended for me as a gift from Allen S. and Kent J.
Speaking of candy, back in Those Days we gave valentines only to those we wanted to give them to, and it was always a thrill to take possession of the white lunch bag bearing your name and the red hearts you’d attached to festoon it and see who all had given you a valentine. Dan W. and I shared a Valentine’s Birthday – in fact, our mothers met in the hospital after giving birth – so every year he gave me a big ole’ heavily-decorated box of candy, and I gave him a model car I bought in Scarbrough’s drugstore. We stopped that practice about 10 years ago when I no longer needed the extra inches around my waist and his eyesight got so bad he couldn’t see the little tiny car parts.
The older we got, the most public we became with our love-interest allegiances. When smitten with Dana in high school, Teevie Lee (a.k.a. Steven S.) declared his love by spray painting their initials on all three 4-way stop signs in the county. (Steven is an artist now. I think we can see where he got his start.) And Gordon K. took up a lot of our time in Mr. Mac’s Advanced Algebra-Trig class ranting about how unfair it was that he and Terry G. couldn’t get married at the ripe old age of 17.
Possessives were fine in those pre-feminist days when a boy could make a girl swoon by calling her “my girl”. “Nobody talks to my girl that way,” he’d say. or “How’s my girl doing?” and yes, to know that you belonged to him would bring on a swoon. At least on the inside.
Boys also showed their love by walking with their arms around their girl’s shoulder. And in the days of bench seats in cars, we girls would slide over and sit real close to our guy who’d rest his arm on the back of the seat behind us. He’d handle the steering and clutch, we’d shift the gears – that’s how we got to where we wanted to go.
One way we’d let a guy know we liked him was to pull the tab off the back of his oxford cloth button-down-the-front shirt. This wasn’t necessarily a declaration of love – especially when the tab came off with shirt attached – but generally a girl didn’t bother to collect tabs of guys she wasn’t interested in.
Of course there were the couples who went to the drive-in theater or parking in certain secluded pastures and woods, but I wouldn’t know much about that. Moving on . . .
In the fall, I always tried to date a football player because, well, there was just something special about waiting by the locker room door for your big hunka hunka burning love to come out with his hair wet from the showers and his clothes clinging to his body from the heat. As The Girls Who Dated Football Players, it was our unspoken duty to monitor their post-game moods. If our team won, we’d give them our biggest smile and run into their arms with all the squeal and delight we could muster. If they lost, we quietly took their hand and squeezed it hard, inviting them to tell us all about it only later in the privacy of the car on our way to the post-game party in somebody’s basement or to Dell’s where we’d celebrate or drown our sorrows, depending on the scoreboard.
For the away games, we paid our buck fifty and rode the student bus, and not that I would ever two-time my boyfriend, but on the rare football season when I wasn’t dating a player, those of us with dates or crushes would leave about mid-way through fourth quarter to get a good seat in the back of the student bus where we could
make out talk about the game the whole way home. Whether we were coming back from the north or the south, we had our landmarks that served as our cue to start singing the school’s alma mater – boys and girls alike – and I declare, to this day, I can’t think of a sweeter feeling or sound than when people would release their lip locks, sit up straight, and sing, some of us providing a little harmony on the last line.
Our strong band, can ne’er be broken,
Here at Fayette High,
For surpassing wealth unspoken
Sealed by friendship’s ties.
Alma mater, Alma mater
Loud her praises tell
Hail to thee, our alma mater
Fayette High, all hail.
Warning: this paragraph could be out of place in the chronological order of things, but . . . Eventually the kissing started – the Kiwanis-run skating rink saw many a first kiss, especially on the side where you sat to put your skates on. I didn’t own my own skates, mind you (I never did learn to pick my feet up when skating), but I did own a wicked pretty set of orange and white pom-poms with a bell in the center that I tied onto my rented skates. – and I’m kinda’ proud, in a strange way, to tell you that if the boys are to be believed, my cousin Elender excelled in kissing. Rumor has it that Webb excelled on the guys’ side of things, (but I wouldn’t know because whenever we were together, Webb and I spent our time choreographing dances to the then-popular songs). If practice makes perfect, Chris R> would take home the trophy for kissing. (At our last high school reunion, I asked everybody who’d ever been kissed by Chris to stand up. Every single one of the guys stood as did a few of the girls.)
Our mothers got together and decided that we girls could double date at age 15 and single date when we turned 16. It was a complicated rule book that allowed boys to come visit us at our house from age 14 to 16, and when I dated Joe L. before either of us turned 16, he would come to call behind the hweel of his John Deere tractor. When I turned 16, Joe was still 15, his dadd would chauffeur us around in his big ole’ green Buick, and a couple of times we were lucky enough to get his sister, Dixie, to drop us off to see a movie (the first one we saw together was Bonnie & Clyde, in case you’re wondering) while she shopped.
When it became serious enough, boys gave girls Their Senior Rings. Some girls wore the ring on a chain around their neck. Me, though, I didn’t want to invite back problems, much preferring to wear that honking big thing on my finger so it would hit up against everything I came within 3 feet of. How’d I get it to stay on, you ask? A little kitchen magic did the trick. I boiled some water in one pan, and in a separate pan went a little Gulf Wax clear paraffin that I tinted to the desired color with crayons melted in with the wax. When the wax turned to liquid, I’d pull the pan off the stove and let the wax cool till it was of pliable consistency. Then I took up a blob of it, kneaded it in my hand until it began to get hard, and put it inside the ring. I slid the ring onto my finger to shape the wax to the desired thickness and contour, then removed the ring and used a sharp knife to cut the excess wax off each side. If something went awry and the ring showed knife marks or looked like those Christmas candles we made by pouring hot wax over a milk carton filled with ice cubes, I removed the wax and started over.
To Be Continued . . .
Along with the love notes and campaign signs, Jeanne still has the airline wings, the lavalier, the fraternity pin, the engagement ring, and the wedding ring, but alas, she can’t show you pictures cause everything’s atop the mountain while she is not.
Jeanne is conjuring a story a day for 100 days, and while most are technically rough drafts, she hopes you enjoy them around, over, and through the rough spots. If you want them delivered right to your mailbox every morning, mash the button at the top of the screen where it says “right this way” and follow directions. Or you can become friends with Jeanne over in facebook land.