My First Date With A Guy (Kind Of)

Long before ‘Bridesmaids’ usurped ‘Hold On’ and Wilson Phillips for its own iconic ending, some of us remember when it came out for the first time, way back at the dawn of the 90’s. That’s the last century to you youngsters – hell, it’s the last millennium. And I was a wee lad of 14, enjoying the last few months of my freshman year of high school. Oddly enough, it would prove to be my favorite year of high school (I usually like the beginning and the end of things – high school and college were very similar in that respect – it was everything in between that kind of sucked – which has always proved unfortunate, as most of life consists of the in-between). As we neared the last quarter, and spring was indelibly in the air, I went on what I now see as my first date with a guy. At the time, I honestly wasn’t sure.

I know this pain,
Why do you lock yourself up in these chains?
No on can change your life except fo ryou
Don’t ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?


He was two years older than me, a junior already, and part of the older crowd. His interest in me was as puzzling as it was flattering, and would have been more enjoyable if it wasn’t so confusing. I didn’t even know for sure that I was gay at that point. I was still sort of hoping I wasn’t, and trying desperately not to be. And, it turned out, I wasn’t attracted to him in the slightest. That didn’t mean I didn’t like him. In fact, we quickly became good friends, exchanging long notes to one another (which should have clued me in to the gay thing a lot sooner, but alas…) His friendship and camaraderie shielded me from certain taunts, protecting me in a way I would only later realize when he would graduate and leave.


As the spring arrived, and Wilson Phillips ran up the charts with their California harmonies, we felt the antsy pull of the end of the school year. We wanted out. The weather had turned bright and balmy again. Trees were leafing out in bright lime green, and the bulbs were just finishing their show. He asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with him and his cousin, one of my friends. When she was unable to go at the last minute, he still wanted to do it, so I said sure.


This is when it sort of turned into a date without me knowing it was a date. And my parents, protective or curious or who knows what, had to meet him before he drove me to the movies all the way over at the Mohawk Mall. Mortified, (it was too late to argue since he was arriving at the door any moment), I braced myself for the embarrassment. He pulled up to the house and got out of the car. I blocked much of this from my memory, but I think they shook hands and introduced themselves, and then I waited in the front seat of the car. I still didn’t think it was a date. We were just friends going out to the movies, as I had done countless times, with countless girls, and boys, and it didn’t even dawn on me that it might be something more.


I still remember the movie, as notable for its awfulness as its place in my adolescent heart – ‘Bird on a Wire’ with Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn. Not exactly my choice, but at that point I just wanted to get out of my house, out of high school, and out of the small town of Amsterdam. If putting up with Mr. Gibson and Ms. Hawn afforded just a few hours of relief, it was worth it. Besides, there was popcorn. In a mostly empty theater, we sat and talked a little before the movie began. It wasn’t entirely awkward, but I wasn’t entirely at ease. I’d only hung around him when other people were present – his cousin or other kids my age. Now, in the intimacy of just-the-two-of-us, I worried over what to say, how to act, what to do. He set my mind at ease with an easy rolling laugh and a casual way of leaning back into his seat, while I remained perched upright and almost on the edge of mine.


When it was over, we walked out to the deserted parking lot. The air was still warm. I didn’t want the night to end. In the amber light of the parking lot lamps, he started the car and we sped away. I can still see it all so clearly. At the wheel was a young man – not much more than a boy, like me – who had taken me under his protective wing. I sensed something different about the way he treated me, but didn’t dare believe it was anything more than friendship. I didn’t want it to be anything more than friendship. What would I do with that? And how could I do anything? I couldn’t be gay.


On the ride home, the night wind tore in through the window, and it felt like we were flying. I allowed my hand to reach into the rushing air. He turned the radio up. ‘Vogue’ came on, and I admitted that I liked Madonna. It wasn’t a popular thing for a boy to admit. Not then. Maybe not ever. At least, not in front of the boys I used to hang out with. But he held no judgment. And then ‘Hold On’ – and I think he said he liked it. I did too. Again, not a popular thing to proclaim, but there, in that car speeding along in the spring night, it felt good to be so honest. It felt safe. If there’s one thing for which I have spent my lifetime searching, it was that sense of complete safety. It never came from hesitant, slow-to-accept parents, it never came from lovingly-misguided friends, and it had yet to come from any secret lover, but here was that sense of surety, of inclusion, of it not being a big deal that I liked Madonna – and it made me want to weep.


The night was beautiful, but drawing to its close. It was a little after 11 o’clock. I’d never had a curfew – I’d never really gone out for one to be in place. My younger brother went out more than I did. As we neared the street where I lived, my heart ached that the night had to be over. He pulled up the right side of the street, then kept going, past my house, up to the top of the little hill that comprised the road. Around an island grown thick with manicured yews, he parked the car. My house was just a short walk away, but hidden from view. And I still didn’t know it was a date.


“What are we doing?” I asked, half quizzically, half accusingly, half rudely. It was the only defense I had. Or have.


“Nothing, I just wanted to ask you something,” he began, before turning silent.


“Well?” Impatience. Flirtation? Would I always be so mean to people who were trying to be nice to me?


“Never mind, forget it.”


“No, what is it?”


“No, it’s nothing.”


“Come on, you have to tell me now.”


We waited a few more minutes in silence. He had turned the car off.


“Well if you don’t tell me I’m going to get out and walk home,” I said, starting to feel weird about the whole thing.




I still don’t know if I thought it was a date, I don’t know if he thought it was a date. But it was, looking back, very much a date. And a rather sweet first date at that. Neither of us was ready to put that into words then.


“I just wanted to know…” he paused, “If you had fun tonight.”


“Yeah,” I admitted, in one of the rare snark-free moments of my teenage years, “I did.”


And then, in one of the most tender ways anyone had treated me up until that moment, he asked, “Would you like to do something like this again?”


I think it was then that I knew it was a date. Whether he did or not, I knew, and part of me would always love part of him for that. I also knew I wasn’t in love with him, but in gratitude. No matter how rocky romance would prove to be in the future, this was a night of purity and innocence and tenderness that I would bury in a safe place which no one would ever reach. I will always be grateful for that.


“I would very much like to do something like this again,” I declared, before adding, “Are you going to bring me home now?”


He smiled, as I instantly regretted the last part, and started the car.

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