The First Time I Danced With A Man
I was asked out for my very first date when I was a junior in high school, to a sweetheart dance for fifteen and sixteen-year-old sophomores at the high school that I attended in Kansas City, Missouri or perhaps it was in Kansas. (Kansas City is actually twin cities and we had lived several places in both states over the years.)
One of my favorite classes, biology, had just finished and another student come up to me. He said that his friend wanted to ask me to the sweetheart dance but that he was too shy to ask me in person. That resonated with me as I was very shy then, I thought he must be very sweet. It seemed romantic of him to have an intermediary politely ask on his behalf. I remembered the play, Cyrano de Bergerac, where the ugly Cyrano pretends to be someone else, skillfully woos the maiden on someone else’s behalf, and so forth. It occurred to me that there might be more to this than shyness. Still, I was flattered when his intermediary informed me that his friend planned to buy a wrist corsage for me and I was agreeable when he said that his mother would drive us to and from the dance. So I said, “Yes.” A few days latter the intermediary caught me in the school hallway and said that he was sorry but the boy who had asked me out had a broken leg, he had found out that the cast would not come off in time for the dance, and so he would not be able to take me to the dance. I thought quickly and then I said that I would still go with him to the dance. I would not disappoint him just because he had the bad luck to break his leg. This would be my first time dancing with a boy so I did not know how dancing around a broken leg would work, but I thought that even seeing the dance would be exciting. The intermediary seemed pleased and went to ask my shy date if he thought he could manage. The intermediary soon came back to tell me that, yes, we would go to the dance, broken leg in a cast and all.
My mother said that she would make a new dress for me to wear to the dance, which made me suspicious because nothing ever came freely from her. She took the measurements of my newly forming woman’s body, and she agreed to make it out of dark blue velvet fabric as I had hoped. I thought that dark blue velvet would be romantic because I had heard Bobby Vinton's 1963 song of romance Blue Velvet.* I knew that dark blue velvet would be pretty against my pale skin and soft to hold, just as I wanted to be for my as yet unseen dance partner. It would be romantic like a warm summer's night sky. However, I knew that my mother was up to no good when she agreed to the blue velvet. Sure enough, she refused to let me see the dress that she had made until there were only minutes left for me to dress in it and be ready when my date, oh, how exciting the word “date”, picked me up to go to the dance. I wondered what it would be like, this my very first date.
But when I put on the dress that Mother had made for me, it exposed the lines of my breasts for the first time in deep décolletage─which I had specifically asked her not to do─and I objected with embarrassment. I only got a few words out before my mother grabbed me by the hand and beat me with her belt until I lay squirming at her feet and she was satisfied that I understood that I would wear whatever she wanted me to wear. When she released me she watched avidly to see if I could recover my composure in time to go with the young man when he came to the door to take me to the dance. Sadly, I was very used to those sorts of family disruptions, the violence, the obstacles, and the inexplicable emotional upheavals, so I knew how to I compose myself, and I did compose myself. Almost instantaneously I willed myself to recover from what had certainly been a sexually charged assault by my sadistic mother.
My date saw that I was flushed and overwrought but he asked no embarrassing questions. I flinched when he helped me into the little evening jacket that my paternal grandmother had loaned me because my mother used to painfully twist my arms when she put a coat on me, but this young man’s touch was gentle and attentive. He was indeed a very sweet young man, reasonably good-looking, tall and thin, and he put the corsage on my wrist with touching awkwardness. He apologized that the corsage was not an orchid, explaining that none had been available. I did not mind at all, I thought his manners and the corsage were lovely. (He probably grew into a distinguished and handsome man!) His mother was quiet and seemed happy to chauffer her son on what might have been his first date too. The high school gymnasium was decorated like a dream and lit with twinkling lights in semi-darkness. I wish I could remember my date's name, the way he conducted himself that evening made me so happy. We danced the slow dances, around and around the cast on his leg, with the other dancers giving us a comfortable space so that his leg was not bumped. It was the first time I ever danced with a man, it was the first time I was ever held in a man’s arms, it was the first time a man ever whispered sweet nothings in my ear. It was heavenly, as they used to say. I still remember the romance of it, the sights, sounds, and scents of it. We might have kissed if not for his mother in the car and my father at the door.
My family moved to Minnesota shortly thereafter, and I was too young in too many ways to keep in touch with him.
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Caption: Broken Branches-Broken Life Chances
Obstacles Flung Across My Life Path
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018