Last Sunday, after I sang “Come To Me” at our Unitarian Universalist fellowship, I wandered over to one of the activity tables. At the other tables, kids and adults were doing word puzzles, making posters and making balloon figures, all centered on Valentine’s Day.
The table where I sat had started with folks drawing random topics related to the day and telling tales from their lives. By the time I got there, the kids had moved to other tables, and the activity had evolved to the three or four adults sharing a tale on the same topic.
As I got settled, one of the women looked at me and said, “Okay, your turn. First crush?”
I thought for a few seconds. Evidently thinking I was struggling to remember, one of the women said something like “Men don’t remember that stuff.” And I told my tale.
She showed up on the first day of third grade, Marilyn did. Her folks had bought a restaurant in town and they’d set up housekeeping near the far end of Kilian Boulevard from us. I liked her, but no more than that for a couple of years.
Somehow, by the time fifth grade was ending, two years and nine months later, I really liked her, and I didn’t mind her knowing. I was pretty unclear on what might happen after that, but I wanted her to like me back. She did, kind of. At least, that’s what I perceived from quick glances and heard through whispers. But she didn’t like me as much as I liked her.
Well, it wouldn’t be the last time my ardor outpaced that of my chosen one.
That’s how it stayed through sixth grade. When we moved from Lincoln Elementary on to South Junior High in September 1965, I thought I’d try again (though I was still unclear on how to nurture a relationship and would remain so for some years).
She still kind of liked me, and I still liked her a lot.
Then came the seventh grade dance. I think it was our first of the year; it could have been the second one. That I don’t recall. For a while, many of us danced in groups, seemingly not wanting to pair off with anyone specific. I wanted to dance with Marilyn, of course, but seeking her out would be a very public declaration of what just my friends and hers knew about my feelings. Scary stuff. So I stayed with one group or another. Sometimes, I just watched from the boys’ side of the room.
Then the teacher running the record player announced a “girls ask boys” dance. I had little hope that Marilyn would invite me to dance, so I thought I’d sit that one out. Then Carrie came over to me. I didn’t really know her, though I’d likely seen her in the hallways. She smiled nicely at me as she invited me to dance, so we took the few steps out onto the dance floor. I don’t remember the record, but it was a fast dance. And when it was over, we each retreated to our side of the room.
After a couple more records, I decided that I was going to ask Marilyn to dance. In the short gap between records, I – shorter than most of my classmates – raised myself on tiptoes and scanned the room for her. As I did, my eyes caught those of Carrie’s friend Candace, who helpfully pointed out where Carrie was standing.
Not being a cad, I put on a smile, walked over to Carrie and asked her to dance. We got onto the floor just as a slow record started. I nervously put my hands on Carrie’s waist, she put hers on my shoulders, and I had the first slow dance of my life.
I remember thinking she had nice eyes. I remember liking her hair, which was in a sort of pixie cut. I remember her burgundy dress. I remember being thrilled and terrified at the same time. And I remember nothing else after those moments about that seventh-grade dance.
I should have, of course, tried to connect with her somehow in the days after the dance, maybe – as those things were done during seventh grade – through her friend Candace. I didn’t, and I don’t recall ever seeing her again.
And Marilyn? I never did dance with her. My crush on her faded, and I turned my gaze in other directions.
I’m not entirely certain when that dance took place. It was likely early in the school year, as I remember clearly that Carrie’s burgundy dress was sleeveless. (It could have been springtime, but I don’t think so; by that time, I was getting over Marilyn.)
And I don’t recall at all what record was playing as I danced with Carrie. Given what I find on various WDGY surveys from the late summer and early autumn of 1965 at Oldiesloon, it could have been the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” It might have been the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” Maybe it was “Baby, I’m Yours” by Barbara Lewis.
Whatever the record was, it should have been “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” by the Silkie. The British group’s cover of the Beatles’ tune was first mentioned in a WDGY survey at the beginning of October that year and peaked there at No. 17 late that month. And it would have been perfect for my first slow dance with Carrie: