When I was in the ninth grade, I was a douchebag. I was constantly yearning for attention from my upperclassmen, while also feebly attempting to "get laid;" a combination of goals that no female with a brain stem found inherently attractive. I hadn't experienced anything sexual outside of my failed blowjob from Ashley the previous summer, and was beginning to get anxious. Not from sexual repression, but from the sort of oozing bog of loneliness that those like myself find themselves sinking in when young and filled with angst.
Thankfully, this slump didn't last long, and by that October I'd already set my sights on the next girl I wanted to pursue. Her name was Megan, and she was a junior at my high school. She was sort of tomboyish; the type of girl that would always wear her hair in a ponytail, who would come to school in a different band t-shirt every day. She wore all-green Chuck Taylor high-tops, and she was the most attractive girl I'd ever seen. Needless to say, I was smitten.
I'd managed to enter her social circle through a few mutual friends we had, and began talking to her at school on a regular basis. She was incredibly flirty, a trait I hadn't yet learned to protect myself against at such a young age. We eventually made plans to hang out beyond the confines of the school walls, with her offering to drive me to the mall to "hang out." Not well-versed on teenage relationship etiquette, I assumed that this was to be the first of many actual dates. I was thrilled, and told my parents all about it over dinner that night. My mother was excited and began fussing over my hair, offering to take me to get it cut after school the next day, hours before Megan picked me up. I took her up on her offer. We went, and I ended up getting what I thought was a cool hair cut. I walked out of the barber shop feeling confident with my new look, excited to show it off.
Aside #1: I should mention right now that at this age, I had no friends that drove, and didn't (and still don't) drive myself. This was a sort of monumental moment for me, being the first time I was actually allowed to be driven in a car piloted by a teenager. Sadly, this detail is probably what set this mall "date" apart from my previous, parent-driven mall "non-dates" in my young mind.
I spent the next few hours nervously picking out clothes that I felt suited the evening, trying on several dress shirts before settling on a "cool and collected"-looking black turtleneck my mom had bought for me, paired with my favorite jeans and a brown leather jacket that I'd received three Christmases earlier (that was three years too small). In my mind, I looked awesome. I thought of myself as a sort of James Dean-ish character, and was positive that she'd immediately want to make out with me upon seeing my outfit.
Of course, she didn't. But that didn't bother me, because I'd have the whole night to win her over with my unmatched wit and charm. Except I didn't have any wit and charm. Nervous and unwilling to fail, my first mistake was made shortly after getting into her car. After exchanging greetings, her eyes lit up.
"Do you like ska?!" she asked, grinning.
"Er. Well...yeah, I like ska," I replied, nodding my head.
Aside #2: This is the only time I've ever said the term "I like ska" in my entire life.
If she were more intuitive, she would have realized that I'd very clearly never heard ska music before, and was completely lying to her. But, her excitement clouded her perceptions, and she excitedly pushed a tape into the stereo. The sound of horns started blaring through the speakers as I awkwardly bobbed my head along at a pace that was nothing like the one in the song, pretending to enjoy myself. Megan, however, was drumming her steering wheel furiously, singing along with a sort of crazed fervor that only ska fans are capable of.
I was terrified. Having never driven with a teenager, I was completely unaware that most of them act like fucking maniacs when behind the wheel. After a few minutes of hiding my fear and feigning interest in the music, I began to feel itchy. You see, I hadn't taken a shower since I'd gotten my hair cut, for fear that I wouldn't be able to make my hair look as cool as the barber had.
Aside #3: You've all done it before, shut up.
Of course, this meant that I had residual hair clippings sprinkled over the back of my neck and shoulders, irritated by my unfortunate clothing choice. Trying not to look too obvious about it, I began rubbing my shoulders against my seat, soothing my uncomfortability. It started out with a sort of gentle rub, but over the course of the next few minutes it evolved into a sort of free-form homage to the way bears shamelessly scratch their backs along tree trunks. Nothing subtle about it.
I'm not sure how long she was looking at me before I noticed, but I think any amount of time is plenty in this situation. Luckily, we'd arrived at the mall, and the loud-ska-fused-with-weird-tension-in-the-air bubble that had been growing in the car was popped. We parked, and started walking through the mall. Stiff-legged, nervous and still itchy, I followed Megan as she buzzed about from store-to-store happily, not noticing my discomfort. But then, somehow, we were holding hands. I'm not sure when it happened, or who made the first move, but I remember being in the kitchen wares section of a department store when its significance to the future of our relationship dawned on me. This adorable girl that I liked had looked past my weird display in her car, and still liked me. It was monumental. In my pubescent mind, this was a symbol of great things to come.
Eventually we began heading towards the exit to the mall, still hand-in-hand. I'd forgotten all about my itching issues, my mind dreamily focused on thoughts of Megan and I's future together. In the parking lot, her cell phone started ringing. Her hand left mine when she picked it up, but I didn't even care. We'd have all the time in the world to hold hands.
Aside #4: If you think I'm some sort of obsessive weirdo at this point, remember that I was young and filled with hormones. I don't know what the fuck I was thinking half the time.
After she finished her call, she told me that we were going to turn around and visit one of her friends that worked at the Cheesecake Factory in the mall. He was on his smoke break, she explained, so it wouldn't be long. I cooly remarked that it wasn't a big deal, and we started walking the other way. Oddly, her pace had picked up dramatically, and she was now power-walking towards the restaurant. I thought it was really charming that she wanted to see her friend so bad, and didn't try to keep up.
I saw her friend before she got to him, and something in the back of my mind threw up a red flag. He was over six feet tall, goateed and wearing a cook's apron. If that hadn't set off an alarm in my mind, the way they hugged would have.
Imagine, if you will, the most obnoxious hug that you've ever seen, where one party picks the other up and twirls them around while making unintelligible "happy" noises. It was like that, but with an added side of soul-crushing heartbreak as her lips met his in mid-hug.
Of course. A boyfriend. Her hand-holding must have been a mark of friendship, not of any sort of attraction. My hours of preparation were wasted. I mumbled a half-assed greeting to my new nemesis, jamming my hands in my jacket pockets angrily. They decided that he was going to walk with us to her car while he was finishing his break, so we turned around for a second time. As a way to show my frustration with the current predicament I found myself in, I made sure to walk on the other side of the parking lot aisle, shoulders hunched. They didn't seem to notice. His hand was occupying the same place in her hand that mine was just minutes earlier. Seeing this made me try to brood harder, so that the end result was me looking like a pissed-off hunchback with bad taste in leather jackets.
We arrived at her car, which she didn't unlock until after kissing him for a solid ten seconds on her side. Quickly, I sat inside and crossed my arms, pretending I was cold (not seething with anger). She continued to kiss him, the both of them plainly visible through the driver's side windshield. His tall figure was craned over her small one, arms around each other's waist/shoulders (respectively). The minutes dragged on forever.
Aside #5: I'm really not sure how long I was sitting there staring at them, but I'll hope you'll forgive me for using the cliche "it felt like forever in just a few minutes" line.
Finally, their embrace broke and he departed. She opened the door to the car and sat inside.
"Sorry, I didn't know he was working tonight," she explained, starting the car.
"You didn't know your boyfriend was working tonight?" I asked, genuinely confused.
"Oh, he's not my boyfriend. He's just...my friend," she replied.
My Megan, a whorish cocktease. It all made sense (but for real this time). I shifted my body weight in a way that showed that I clearly didn't approve of the situation, and she understood the message I was conveying.We didn't talk the entire drive back to my house. Ska music came through her speakers, but at a much more acceptable volume than before. She wasn't drumming along, or singing loudly. Her hands gripped the small grey steering wheel until her knuckles went white. There was a sort of angry and confused tension in the air, until I arrived home. Immediately after she pulled up to the curb, I flung the door open and unclicked my seatbelt. I said a rushed goodbye, slammed the door, and started to walk slowly up to my front door, fishing my key out of my pocket. I was nearly there, when I heard Megan blare her ska music before peeling out and driving away. I had a lump in my throat as I entered my house, finding my parents waiting for me in the living room. After a few questions answered with no enthusiasm whatsoever, they got the hint and let me go to my room to feel sorry for myself.
I didn't see her much after that, and aside from dating one of my friends for a few weeks, never was really forced to interact with her.
I learned a lot of valuable life lessons from my first (and only) date with Megan. But what really breaks my heart is that she didn't even notice my cool hair cut.