In sixth grade, one’s options for a date location are incredibly limited. Without a driver’s license or an ID to actually get to or into anywhere, one can have his/her parent drop them off at either a.) A Restaurant, b.) The Mall, or c.) The Movies. In Solon, the suburb in Ohio where I grew up, The Movies was most popular.
The first time I went on a “real date,” that is, hung out with another girl outside of home or school, I was 11 years old. My date was 16. I can’t remember how we met or started talking, I remember our first date like it was just yesterday. The movie time was established through a series of AOL Instant Messenger and text messages. Her buddy profile, in large pink font, read “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number,” which, in retrospect, seems incredibly strange, especially for a 16 year old, but when one is going through puberty most everything can be overlooked or ignored in the name of a potential make-out session.
Due to the unconventional nature of our relationship – five years is a considerable difference when you’re that young – I didn’t, couldn’t, tell anyone besides a few close friends, who’d never been on dates before. Everything I knew about going to the movies with a girl was based on my relatively small experience with watching TV.
On the way to the theater, I ignored my mom’s irrelevant-seeming questions about what time the movie would be over and how much money I would need, as scenes from Drake and Josh, Boy Meets World, 7th Heaven, and other Disney/Nickelodeon shows flashed through my mind. Would I pay for her popcorn? Put my arm around her? How? Pretend to stretch? Everything felt new and exciting to me as we pulled into the parking lot a half hour early – I made sure to get there before my date so she didn’t see my mom and my mom didn’t see her – and I got out of my mom’s minivan with a twenty in my pocket and a young, nervous energy in my chest.
I met my date in the lobby where we stood together speaking shyly about nothing and grinning at each other awkwardly, like two puppies staring at an unattended plate of human food, practically salivating. The good thing about TV shows and movies, especially in situations like that, is that it takes a lot of the pressure off of actually having to do or say anything interesting. One simply shows up, does his/her best to look/smell/feel good and lets the screen take care of the entertainment aspect of the date, while s/he waits for The Right Moment to go in for the kiss. I, however, was too stupid to realize that Any Moment is The Right Moment – even during Coach Carter – when you’re young and on a date, because that’s what young people do on dates: they half-watch whatever’s on and make out as much as possible.
The movie ended and the lights brightened. The credits rolled. Our hands, which were clasped tightly in one another’s for nearly the entire duration of the movie, were beginning to sweat. Her fingers lightly trace the outline of mine. I looked at her face. “Do you…want to make out?” I said stupidly. “In the future,” she said, “you’re not supposed to ask; you’re just supposed to do it.” She leaned over the armrest and we made out until the credits were over and the theater was empty and the house lights came on.