(BLOG NOTE: I’m sorry this tale is so long, but it is what it is.)
In my senior year of high school I had two extra elective courses on my schedule due to completing my requirements for science and math during my junior year. One class was drafting (technical drawing) where I met my first long-term girlfriend and the other was home economics. “Home Eck” had about twenty students in it, and I was one of two guys in the class. The room had seven tables with four chairs at each table. I sat next to my friend Barb, who worked at the neighborhood McDonald’s with me. Across from us were her friends Jen and Sara. In early October, Jen started a conversation prior to class about a friend that couldn’t find a date for the homecoming dance in mid-October. I’ll call her friend “Millie” for this story.
At the time I wasn’t dating anybody. To be completely accurate, I never dated at all. I had bad acne between 7th and 11th grade and socially I was immature and awkward during that same time period. I also had no style, no money and no direction. So in hindsight I can see why the girls stayed away from me for so long. All of the senior girls wouldn’t date me because they assumed I was the same person they were around the last three years.
Millie came to our school in her junior year. I saw her around school but I never talked to her before. We had 1,200 students in our high school, so it was easy to attend four years there and not interact with someone (I actually met a girl at my graduation because our last names kept us next to each other in the procession line). Since Millie didn’t see me before 11th grade, I knew I had a chance to go to the dance with her.
“Hey Jen, I’ll go with Millie if she can’t find anybody.”
“OK, I’ll let her know.”
THE BLIND AUDITION
About ten days went by, and the possibility of me going to homecoming with Millie seemed slim since I did not get a confirmation from Jen that Millie wanted to go with me. I saw Millie a few days prior but she didn’t go out of her way to talk to me, so I assumed she found a date. With this moment in mind, I thought Jen was avoiding the topic with me because she felt bad that my offer was rejected by Millie. The dance was on Saturday night and here it was Tuesday, so I decided to carry on with my normal routine for the remainder of the week.
On Thursday night I stopped by McDonald’s to check my schedule for next week. When I came in the door, I saw Barb behind the counter.
“Hey Barb! All ready for Saturday?”
“Yeah, how about you Lar?”
“Oh, I’m not going. I didn’t find a date.”
“Um, YES YOU DID!!! You said you would go with Millie! She already has her dress! You HAVE to go now!”
Stunned, I explained to Barb that I would have gone if she could not find anybody. Apparently Jen took my answer as an automatic yes, and Millie was content on going with me. Millie had spent money on the dress, shoes, etc., and I had no decent clothes to wear to homecoming. It was a good thing I ran into Barb that night, because Millie might have gone to homecoming alone. If Millie walked in by herself, the mean girls would have preyed on her and I would have been locked in the “Friend Zone” by all of the girls until the end of high school.
I cut school that Friday to buy shoes and clothes. I had no flippin’ clue what was trendy in regards to dress clothes, so I tried to keep my look basic in case I made poor fashion choices. Having said this, the first thing I bought was a $40 pair of black WINGTIP shoes. In 1993 this look wasn’t completely “old man” yet, due to the mid-nineties fad of swing music bands. At least I wore them for the remainder of the nineties without TOO MUCH ridicule. The rest was plain: Black pants, white shirt, black tie. After three hours and $95 spent, I was ready to hit the flower shop.
I got a nice corsage for $15 considering it was the day prior to the dance. When I got home, I called Jen to get Millie’s phone number and to find out when I was going to pick up everybody. My car at the time was one of the cooler rides with its chrome wheels and sunroof, so I didn’t mind showing it off. I was responsible for my expenses, so I was already out $110 before talking to Millie! This was to be my most expensive blind date of my life, and it was my first one ($110 in 2016 dollars is about $185)!
Friday night I talked to Millie on the phone. We talked for over an hour until my dad needed to make a call to my grandmother (remember, no cell phones then young whippersnappers). Out of all the teenage phone conversations I ever had with girls, this one was the most engaging. It was like I knew Millie already. We laughed, shared the usual high school gossip tales and she even let down her guard and told me about an old family tragedy. I was really touched that Millie would share such personal information with me and it came across that she was interested in me. I made sure she knew that I was coming by her house with Jen and Jen’s boyfriend Bill around 6 p.m. Saturday to pick her up.
I headed over to Jen’s house at 5 p.m. to meet her and Bill. I met Jen’s parents and immediately Jen takes me into the bathroom. Apparently my hair didn’t look very appealing so she remade my hairstyle. I didn’t mind because she made it look better. It was an odd start to the night, but I wasn’t used to the correct protocol concerning school dances and fixing my hair to be neat. After Jen and Bill took photos with their families, we went to pick up Millie.
THE BATTLE ROUND
We got to Millie’s house at 6 p.m. and I met Millie and her family. Everyone at the house took photos of both couples and I was aware by 6:15 that this wasn’t going to work. Millie was ignoring me to the best of her ability and the outgoing, interesting girl I spoke to on the phone 24 hours ago was gone. I assumed she didn’t like the way I looked, but I know she had seen me at school before! Maybe Jen should have kept my hair the same way?!?
We left Millie’s house at 6:30 because Bill had a friend that was of legal drinking age that was going to buy us beer. We met him at the store to buy a 24-pack and since I was driving, I would get to keep the leftovers. Since Jen and Millie hated beer, the plan switched to a new lemon-lime malt beverage that hit the market a few months back: Zima.
Yes, flippin’ ZIMA. Since Coors quit making Zima in the US years ago (thank God), I would describe the taste of Zima this way: Take a Smirnoff Ice and pour it into a pint glass. Next, take a piss in the toilet. Next, take a double-shot glass and fill it with the piss water from the toilet, adding it to the Smirnoff Ice. Stir and enjoy. Lucky me got the leftovers. They sat in the trunk of my car for weeks until I got rid of them. At this moment I wasn’t sure which house we were going to party at after the dance. My main concern was if Millie would actually stay with me at homecoming.
When we arrived at the dance, Millie saw a few guy friends that I didn’t know. They were better-looking than I was and she was having a good time talking to them. I figured this was the moment where I would be left to fend for myself among all of the couples. I was really disappointed how this night was shaping up. I was kind enough to take Millie, to drive her, Jen and Bill to homecoming and I was staring isolation in the face. I sat quiet, alone, thinking about leaving the three of them at the dance and taking my shitty box of Zima bottles and using them as bowling pins.
After about ten minutes of loneliness, Millie came back to me and we talked to a few other couples besides Jen and Bill. Millie danced fast and slow songs with me throughout the night, and all of a sudden things were a little less awkward between us. Jen and Bill were ready to crack open some more Zima bottles (HOO-frickin-ray), so the four of us left homecoming around 10:15 just before the dance ended at 10:30.
THE KNOCKOUT ROUND
When we got back to my car, I asked Bill where I was going. Bill told me to head over to a main road west of Pittsburgh so he could ask what the nightly rates were.
“Bill, are we getting a hotel room to booze it up? I thought we were going to somebody’s house!”
“Well, yeah, those plans fell through, so we are going to see how much money it is for rooms.”
“Well, you and Millie get your own room. You can party with us until at least 2 a.m.”
This blind homecoming date was becoming more complicated by the minute. I’m not even sure if Millie liked me, and now we were going to share a bed on the first night we met?!? Between our phone conversation Friday night and now there was no even ground with her. She would either show interest in me or none at all.
Including taxes, each room was $61. I had to pay for our room because Millie didn’t have any extra money for it. She was just as surprised as me about our post-dance plans. The four of us drank in Jen and Bill’s room until 2 a.m. and decided to split up after a noise complaint was called in on us.
When Millie and I entered our room, the tension and the awkwardness between us was tangible. When we changed into more comfortable clothes for sleeping, she went into the bathroom and I changed near the bed. We were both tired, so we didn’t turn on the television. We actually stayed up and talked for an hour on the bed. Being seventeen at the time, if Millie wanted to have sex I would have said yes, but I’m glad we didn’t do anything. I didn’t bring sex up at all because at times during the night she seemed pissed to be stuck with me!
Millie and I went to sleep and I woke up around 7:30 when I heard a crash by our door. It turned out to be our complimentary newspaper so I stayed up to read the sports section. Millie stayed in bed until about 9:30. I think she was awake based on her breathing but I didn’t look her way. If she wanted to avoid me I wasn’t going to make things anymore awkward than they already were. The four of us left the hotel around 10:45, stopped at Wendy’s for some hamburgers at 11:00 and then headed for home.
Dropping Millie off at her house was uneventful because I told everyone that I was supposed to be at work for a 12 to 4 shift. After I basically tossed everyone out of the car at their houses, I took off for home, called my work to tell them I was on the way in, and worked a 12:30 to 4:30 shift that Sunday. When I got home from work that day, I showered and went to sleep early. I ended up sleeping fourteen consecutive hours since the adrenaline finally wore off from the last few days.
THE STEAL (THE AFTERMATH)
I drove Jen and Millie home from school a few times after the homecoming dance took place, but I could tell Millie really wanted to move on from me. I quit calling her two weeks after the dance and I never spoke to her again. Not because I avoided her, but fate kept us apart during our senior year. I didn’t have a lunch period, study hall, co-ed gym class or lab with her, which was stunning since we were both taking the same caliber of classes.
Other people noticed that Millie was ignoring me after homecoming and I was glad to have friends show support for me after what went down. One particular girl in my drafting class was really pissed at how Millie treated me. This girl was “Peach”, my first long-term girlfriend (I mentioned Peach in my leather pants tale from a few months back). Peach and I started dating in late 1993 and we finally broke it off in late 1999, with the last two years being on and off. The $200 I spent last-minute on homecoming wasn’t in vain after all. Peach witnessed my loneliness at the dance when she was with her date and she wanted to leave with me instead of the guy she came with. If I would have known what Peach was thinking, maybe this tale would have been even better. It might have included desertion of friends, sex in a tub filled with piss-water Zima (eww, not really) and an early start to a relationship that shaped my life going forward for the better and for the worse.