Sunday, November 3, 2013

Flashback Cat: The First Date

Sometimes in this job, you find yourself thinking about times long past.  Most of the time, you're doing a task you've done a thousand times before, which is why you let your mind wander to the place of nostalgic recall while maintaining a focus to complete a thorough job.  The cool thing is, these tasks are usually things that seem very exotic and interesting to the onlooker.   For example, while I was cleaning the penguin habitat the other day, I had a strange stream of consciousness that went something like this:

That penguin just pooped
Wow, that other penguin just pooped
Better spray that down
Oh man, almost got that part clean
The weather is nice
Oh, what day is it?
I know it's my Wednesday
Which means it's actually Friday
But what's the date?
I can't believe it's October already
God I want pumpkin pie
That penguin just pooped

Hey, I think I need to poop.

And so on and so forth.  And while my mind took its pointless journey through my neural synapses, I suddenly realized that the following day (happened to be October 19th) had some significance.  I couldn't remember why, I just felt it was a day that meant something to me.   Thanks to the social manager that is Facebook, I was able to recall that it was the birthday of my first boyfriend.

Okay, wait, before you just close the window expecting some kind of sappy drama, remember who's writing this blog.  Then ask yourself, what the hell is it like to date someone like that?  Are you intrigued? Terrified*?  Do you wonder what happened to the poor sap whose birthday I recalled in the penguin habitat?   What was it I really recalled as I rinsed away the leavings of those flightless birds?

I remembered the first "date".

I was a nerdy, lumpy kid for all of my life.  I was obsessed with animals and anything having to do with France.  I wanted to speak french, I wanted to relive all the moments my parents could recall of their days living in France, and I was very proud of the fact that we had family friends in France.  This Francophilia resulted in my choice of instrument in fourth grade, when we were required to pick something to learn.  Duh, french horn.

Look at that embouchure!

I realized quickly I'd picked one of the toughest brass instrument, plus we never got any of the good parts (you know what I mean, trumpet and clarinet players).   Despite my protests once I realized my french horn was not actually capable of making me a bigger Fan of France, my parents wisely insisted I continue honing the skill.  

After a while, my parents opted to send me to private lessons.  Not fancy dress-up-nice-with-a-stuffy-teacher lessons, but a talented french horn musician who happened to teach lessons in her house.  I went to these once a week, and it wasn't long before I ran into Marc who often took lessons the hour before me.  

Well, he had long hair (win, I heart long hair), and he had a dark complexion, and he was mysterious (e.g. didn't talk a mile a minute like yours truly), so I knew he was the one for me.  And so began the embarrassing Eighth Grade Girl Reconnaissance Work all young girls do for their crushes.

Brandon Lee: long hair, dark, loved cats. HOT.

Let's just say my best friends at the time and I came up with a plan to use a phone book and lots of phone calls to find this Mystery Marc.  Of course, I did my recon by asking my french horn teacher what Marc's last name was.  I was about as inconspicuous as a sea lion turd, but I thought I was pretty slick when my teacher asked me, "Uh, why do you want to know that" and I replied, "Oh like, he told me once but I forgot and I have to tell my parents because they want to know who your students are before me."


Anyways, we looked up this kid's last name in the phone book, and systematically called every house with that last name.  Luckily, there weren't too many.   But we finally found the right person.  Let me clarify, my friend found the right person as I sat in the fetal position, giggling.  Side note: if anyone makes a time machine, I'm going to personally destroy the year 1997 so I never have to relive this in person again.

My eighth grade Facebook

My friend asked Marc if he knew a girl named Cat, to which Marc said YES, which of course made me just faint with excitement.  A BOY knew I EXISTED.  The conversation ended shortly thereafter, which prompted a 13-year old meeting of the minds to come up with a First Date Idea.  We settled on the three of us, plus Marc and two of his friends, going to Six Flags Great America for FrightFest.  Oh, it was perfect.   My parents okayed the idea, so all I had to do was get Marc to say yes.

I prepared for days by thinking about it incessantly, playing a lot of bass guitar (the "cool" instrument I played), and eating my feelings.   I picked up the phone, dialed the number, and asked for Marc.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey Marc, this is Cat.
Marc: Oh hey, Cat! How's it going?
Me: Oh, it's great.  Just great.  Like so great, really.  And like I was wondering if you're not doing anything on Saturday, my friends and I were going to go to Six Flags.  If you're not doing anything then, do you want to come with us?  If not, we're still going.  Like, we'll still go if you don't go, it's not like, well, a big deal, like we love Six Flags.
Marc:  Uh, sure.  
Me: REALLY? Oh, wow.  Great.  Bring a couple of your friends.  Because I'll have a couple of friends there.  And my mom will pick you up at your house at 10.
Marc: Oh okay, see you then.

And I hung up the phone and planned my wedding.

Then the fateful day arrived.  I don't actually remember which parent drove, but me and my two other friends piled into the car.  I could barely speak, my stomach was churning I was so nervous.  I couldn't believe this was actually happening, a guy had said yes to hanging out with me.   I wasn't cute, I didn't wear cool clothes (Jenco jeans? Stussy shirts? Ball-bearing necklace? Hello!), and I was into non-cool things such as Reading, Drawing, The Beatles (not cool when I was a kid), and Being Nice To People.

…and exhibit B.

We pulled into Marc's driveway.  We waited a moment, and out emerged Marc and his two pals, as his mom behind them.  His mom talked to my parent and I noticed that Marc was just staring at me.  He looked back at his friends, who said nothing, then looked back at me.  Oh, I thought. Oh wow, he's staring at me!  This is love!

We all piled in the car, everyone awkwardly silent, and drove to Six Flags.  We got out of the car, received the Mandatory Parental Rules such as: don't die, don't get lost, don't talk to strangers, don't spend more than $20 on funnel cake, meet me here at this time.  And we were off.

The boys stayed close together, and we girls did too.  Although we attempted to make conversation, the boys responded in short  (albeit polite) answers.  In fact, it took a couple of hours before they opened up to us and we wound up having a great time.  

After the night was over, my friends insisted on the Greatest Thing A 13 Year Old Girl Can Hear: that your CRUSH LIKES YOU.  And it was so, for the next day Marc called and we said we liked each other, and we should see each other again.  And my head was swirling because I thought this was the best day of my life.

And then he said, "You know, we had no idea who you were when you showed up at my house."

"What?" I asked.

"Yes," he continued. "There is a Cat I know in school.  I thought you were her this entire time.  When you guys pulled into my driveway to pick me up, I was expecting her but saw you, and had no clue who you were."

Alas, a horrified and confused Marc and his pals still piled into our minivan and spend two hours at Six Flags trying to figure out how the hell we knew who they were, but they didn't know us.   I mean, we could've been serial killers.  Or worse, politicians.

Embarrassed, I had to admit my sneaky, awful tactics to figure out Marc's contact information which at the time seemed really, really invasive.  And now we have Facebook where you can see what your crush eats for dinner every single night (thrilling!), so I don't feel as bad anymore.  Regardless, my first boyfriend was won by pure, dumb luck that only I seem to be able to manage.   It's something we laughed at later on, but still remained a small source of humiliation for me.  And over the years, I'd forgotten it thanks to a zillion other embarrassing stories I've collected.

And then, I embraced the Zen of Penguin Poo Cleanup, and the memory flooded back to me to be enjoyed, and now…shared with all of you.

* Correct answer

** Please.

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