Being a teenager who was gay and not ready to come out of the closet was extremely difficult. It meant that I frequently went through the motions to try and convince others and myself that I was not gay. This included dating a few times.
My first date was with Toni Taylor. Toni was a nice girl, but a bit awkward. She looked very much like Shelley Duvall, but without the big eyes. She was a couple of years older than me and was much taller so I found her intimidating.
When I arrived to her house she invited me in. I wasn’t sure what I was suppose to do. Should I sit close to her, should I sit next to her, should I sit across from her. I just didn’t know. In all honesty, I wasn’t even sure if she knew it was a date. I wasn’t sure myself. She suggested I have a seat before she sat down so I was off the hook. The ball was in her court. She chose to sit close to me.
We chatted for several awkward minutes and then she got up to turn on music. I was nervous at this point. What was she going to put on? Was she trying to get romantic? What occurred was the last thing I could imagine. Toni put on music and began singing and dancing to “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” She even wore a top hat that she tipped as she sang. Granted, this was my first date, but I was reasonably sure this wasn’t typical.
After her song and dance routine, I suggested we head out to dinner. My choice of locations and entree were a bad idea. I had spaghetti. Little did I know that spaghetti was the kiss of death in job interviews and first dates. As you would expect, sauce wound up all down the front of my shirt.
This was not going well.
When we arrived back to Toni’s house we went to her backyard and sat on the hammock. We chatted and laughed for awhile, but the entire time I was thinking that I had to make my move. I knew if I didn’t she would think I was strange. I knew it’s what she was expecting. Afterall, she’s the one who brought me back there on a star filled night. Being the Romeo I was I reached my arms to embrace her. This was no sweet embrace, though. This was the type of embrace you give a frail old woman who’s bones are about to snap. I clutched her closer and she grew rigid. Clearly I was not doing this right, but I kept doing the best I could. I pulled her down onto the hammock to give her a kiss and as expected we both flipped out and landed heads first on the ground. I laughed to break the tension. Toni saw no humour in the situation.
Soon after the hammock incident we were at her door and I was telling her goodnight. I leaned forward with my lips puckered like a little girl to kiss her. She leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek.
For the next year we would pass each other in the hall at school. We would be cordial and say hello, but that was it. Never again did we mention our “date”. I’m sure she did her best to forget it. I know I have. Fortunately over the years I became much better at dating. I don’t know if it came with age, or if it came from dating men, but it certainly couldn’t have gotten any worse.