Another Valentine's Day has come and gone. I began thinking of my earliest forays into romance, all were met with limited success. Apparently, I watched way too many exploits of the love-lorn Alfalfa on The Little Rascals always pursuing Darla and considering himself a Ladie's Man.
Love has gotten me in trouble since the first grade. I was called into the Principal's Office for the first time for kissing girls at recess. After a stern lecture, the Principal sent me back to class with my promise not to do that again.
Valentine's Day in grade school was a great time to exchange cards with class mates to show them how much or how little you cared about them. Those fifty cards you bought for ninety nine cents were all you had to express your emotions. Of course, you would save the best ones for that particular someone who made your heart flutter. The cards with pictures of Skunks or farm animals were reserved for your buddies or the Nerd that's constantly picking his nose in class.
Each class spent Art Period for weeks, decorating shoe boxes or oatmeal containers with red construction paper and white hearts and lace. All the completed mailboxes were placed on the window sills that ran the length of the room. At the appointed time, each kid would pain-stakingly place a card in each box. So no one would be slighted, the rules were that each child must get a valentine card from each class mate. A party was held in the afternoon to open your cards and consume mass quantities of cookies, candy hearts, and heart-shaped cinnamon Red Hots. Much of the time was spent going around the room thanking one another for the cards or shaking your fist at someone for getting a not-so-nice one. The ultimate was getting a mushy card from that certain someone that made your heart go pitter-patter.
Relationships in grade school changed like the wind. No sooner would a boy write some girl's initials on his notebook, then she'd change her mind and like someone else. By the end of the school year, my notebook had every square inch scribbled out of some body's initials. Sitting with someone at a football or basketball game constituted a relationship. Walking home with them meant things were getting serious.
My first "Real" date was in fifth grade. We walked to the Struthers Bowladrome and bowled a few games. After my date soundly beat me in every game, we walked to the Isaly's dairy Store for Sundaes. After one bite, my date decided she wasn't hungry and didn't want it. I thought to myself how many yards I had to mow and driveways I had to shovel to raise money for this date. This couldn't be the girl for me if she wasted a perfectly good sundae without any thought to who was paying for this anyhow. I immediately walked her home and that was the end of that relationship. The nerve!
In seventh grade, I was one of three boys that were always invited to parties with girls in my class. Usually, eight to ten girls and the three of us boys. Not bad odds. We wound up playing Spin-The-Bottle in the dimly lit basements. After several rounds, it always seemed to break off into couples with each boy getting into a serious make-out session with a selected girl. It wasn't exactly the "Days of Wine and Roses", but I wasn't complaining.
I don't know why the mind-set developed in my class, but dating outside of our class was taboo. Everyone had nothing good to say about under-class men, over-class men, or people from other schools. I broke that mold in high school after figuring out it was a conspiracy by the girls to keep all the boys to themselves. I exhausted all the possibilities in my class anyhow. By now, a lot of the girls in my class were more like sisters.
I could go on and on about dates I had in high school. Maybe I'll write about some of them at some point. I just can't go into great detail. You know, hormones start to run amok in teen-age boys. The best piece of dating advice I ever got was from my Mom who told me that,"Gentlemen Never Tell Their Secrets." I always honored those words. Even all the locker room banter where boys often boasted about their latest conquests, found me strangely silent. I wasn't one to kiss and tell. It served me well. I always had a date lined up for the weekend.