Monday, 9 September 2013

First date movie: “Secret of My Success”

There could never have been a more ironic movie to describe my first date than "The Secret of My Success". Do you remember your first date? As strange as it sounds, I was thinking about mine the other night then, an hour later, the movie I saw on that date was on AMC. And it brought back all those awkward moments.

Passing notes
Grade 12 had been a strange year. It was the spring, mid-May to be exact, maybe even early June. I had mooned over the same girl for close to two years, and that had abruptly come to an end.

Another girl, in Grade 11, caught my attention. Being a shy, awkward teenager, I was not sure how to proceed. As always, my best friend Chris Vining urged me to ask her out.

I always had the same reply.

"What if she says no?"

He just scoffed.

Instead, being the coward I was, I slipped her a note before she headed off on a week-long band trip. I really didn't expect any sort of reply for at least that long. However, a day later I was approached by one of her best friends bearing a note. She would be happy to go out some time.

Shortly after they returned from their band trip, I was in Vining's room in his mom's basement and gave her a call.

When she asked me what I had in my mind, I said, "We have the world at our feet." Another buddy, Mat, had suggested I say, "A night of wine, woman, and song."

Then I suggested perhaps going to a movie on Saturday night. That was fine by her. She dictated her address to me. I repeated it back to her as Vining wrote it down.

Return to sender
All day Saturday, I was on pins and needles. There were a couple times I thought I'd barf. Finally, the time had come. I got ready, and drove my parents' 1974 Oldsmobile Omega to Coaldale. Sitting in the front seat beside me was the piece of paper with her address in Vining's writing.

She said her place was right by the water tower. I wound my way through the neighbourhood and pulled up in front of her house. With my heart racing, I walked up the stairs and rang the door bell. I was greeted by this old man. I asked for her.

"There's no one here by that name," he replied kindly. "I've never even heard of her."

I just froze.

Once I composed myself, I went back to my car, cursing Vining for writing down the wrong address. I angrily grabbed that piece of paper and discovered – I had misread the address.

"Sorry buddy," I muttered.

The correct address was across the street. I pulled around and parked in front. I took a deep breath and I went in.

Meet the parents
She was waiting at the door when I knocked. She invited me in to meet her parents.

Her dad was about the same size as mine, blue collar like mine. Then he totally surprised me.

"Do whatever you like with her, she's crazier than I am," he said as he shook my hand, laughing.

Her mom was in behind, and I spotted her older sister going out the back door. I'd actually taken accounting in Grade 10 with her sister, but she was in Grade 11 and completely ignored all us Grade 10s back then.

"One daughter out the back, one out the front," her mom said. She seemed so excited.

I shook her mom's hand then escorted the girl to my car.

We were all alone now.

The silent treatment
Every time I had seen her, she had to be the centre of attention. She was this loud, outgoing, ebullient girl who was full of life and energy. When I started taking an interest, I would go see her in her social studies class before it started. The teacher had been one of my favourites, and he still welcomed visitors before class. I always suspected she had a crush on him. One day, just before I sent that fateful note, I paid her a visit, and she was horsing around with her friends. She saw me and actually gave me these strips of paper she had torn and formed into what she called a "pumpkin". I couldn't see it, but loved the gesture. Vining was there and said she had to like me.

Anyway, once we were in my car, I had no plan for the evening. I thought, naively, we'd figure it out together. So I asked her if there were any movies she wanted to see. The whole conversation on her end consisted of one-word answers. We headed to the Coaldale Mac's to get a "Letbridge Herald" with the movie listings. I read the movies out to her and, again, there was little response. The car was kind of small, and I was tired of wrestling with the newspaper so I crumpled it up and threw it in the back seat.

"The Secret of My Success" seemed like the logical choice, given she gave me little feedback.

That was until it was time to get to the theatre. I forgot which theatre it was. She replied, "I'll look, but you did destroy the paper."

That was nice.

The secret of my failure
I tried everything I could to bring her out of her shell, but it just got worse and worse. I don't know if she was nervous, or what, but it really was like pulling teeth.

We got to the Paramount Theatre and, as it turned out, she was still a youth and her ticket was cheaper, although that really did not matter. I absolutely loved the movie. Michael J. Fox is one of my favourites.

After the movie, we cruised Lethbridge, as teenagers did, but there really was no spark between us.

"Do you just want me to take you home?" I asked.

"Yes," she said softly.

I dropped her off, and it was right around 10 p.m.

Vining had asked me to phone him once the date was over with all the details. Usually we were hanging out together on Friday nights.

I really did not want to go home, so I found a pay phone in Coaldale and phoned him. His mom answered.

"Why are you phoning so soon?" She knew about the date, and could hear the sadness in my voice.

"I really need to talk to him," I said.

"He went out with Kent. I don't expect him back until midnight," she responded.

I told her to tell him I'd call the next day.

Then I went to Corky's, a restaurant in downtown Coaldale run by the older brother of a classmate of mine, and had the biggest, greasiest steak they had. I had not discovered beer yet, so as a 17 year old, I ate to forget. Gorged myself in fact.

My first date had been a complete failure.

The days after
There actually would be more dates, better ones with that girl and she would be my escort to grad, but that is the most memorable because it was the most surreal. To this day, I have no idea why she went from party animal to wall flower in my Oldsmobile Omega. But every time I see "The Secret of My Success", I ask myself that very question.

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