When he was 14, my son called me one night from his mom’s house. “Dad, I have a question for you: Do you mind if I date?”
My first reaction was one of complete horror. My boy, my baby, was asking me if he could enter into the utter hell of teen dating. My mind flashed past so many faces of girls who had unwittingly stomped on my exposed heart with stiletto heels they were too young to own.
My earliest disappointment, Adele, was before my teen years. She ran away from me on the playground when we played “Boys Catch the Girls” at recess in First and Second Grades. She won my all most valuable baseball cards when we played after school in Third Grade. We moved away near the end of Third Grade, but I stayed devoted to Adele. One of my strongest memories was sitting at the supremely ugly red painted piano in our music room singing the love theme from Doctor Zhivago to her.
Someday we’ll meet again, my love
Someday whenever the spring breaks through
I wanted to tell my son Jay about Adele, and how tough the loss of a first love can be, but he was older than my Third-Grade self. Maybe he was more prepared.
Then again, I wasn’t any more prepared when I met Caron Callahan in Sixth Grade at the American School in London. She always wore dark clothes. I wondered why, but I never asked. Then, one day late in the school year she was gone (as is the tendency with American ex-pats in foreign schools). I had no idea where she had gone. I didn’t sing a sappy song to her, but I did fantasize about the day I would be elected president of the United States and could use that high office to find her again and tell her of my undying desire.
At least my son wouldn’t have the problem of girls leaving him unexpectedly. He was in a school where classmates weren’t moving all over the damn world.
But he’ll still have to deal with school dances, and that gut-wrenching feeling you have when your ex-girlfriend is dancing with some other guy and smiling and laughing. He’ll have to deal with those dates when he gathers all his money to take a girl like Kathy Poling to watch a day of tennis at Wimbledon, and then she doesn’t even know it’s a date and tells him very sweetly (because she’s the sweetest girl in the world) that she doesn’t date guys who are younger than her and that, if she’d known it was a date, she never would have agreed to it. One sentence turning the best day of his life into an embarrassing eternal memory.