Your first date. Do you remember it? All those feelings of giddiness and excitement. Getting dressed up, but not too dressed up. Trying to play it cool, but totally epitomizing the definition of absolutely uncool. According to my calculations, *beep bop beep bop*, my first date was ten years ago. A whole decade! I feel like I’m still too young to have a ten-year gap between any major rite of passage and today, but oh well…Maybe a little distance between wavy side bangs, ruched Abercrombie tops and poorly applied mascara is good for me. After all, if I didn’t have a large chunk of time between then and now, I probably wouldn’t be sharing this information. (My first ever date is very different from describing my most recent first date. — That embarrassment is still painfully fresh.)
So, here’s what I remember: Because I was eleven and he was twelve (thirteen?), we both couldn’t drive. My beloved Mari Lu drove me and my date to Niantic Cinemas. I remember passing through my neighborhood’s white gates, and having a series of existential thoughts about growing up. “Those cattails! They’ll look so different when I’ve had a date!” “Is the ocean really still the ocean when you’re a real, dated woman?” “Where has my youth gone?” “How does time pass so quickly?” (I was more fixated on the significance of this rite of passage than actually living it. I continue to do this.)
When we got to Niantic Cinemas, my date bought us our tickets and a popcorn (how chivalrous!). All of a sudden, I started to shake. Like, literally the second the server handed me my popcorn, I began to shake uncontrollably. My date said, “Oh! Are you cold? Here! Have my sweater.” (In fact, I was extremely hot and sweaty. The sweater was white with green trim. Elephant brain.)
“It’s okay!” I replied brightly. “I’m totally fine!”
“Are you sure?” He pushed.
“Oh yeah! Totally fine.” I willed myself to stop shaking. STOP SHAKING!
Entering the empty theater, there was actual air conditioning to back up my shivering, so
I took my date’s sweater as a last-ditch attempt to save my dignity. “So, uh, how’s your tennis going?” At the time, because we were young, did not know each other at all, and were seemingly forced into this experience by overeager, matchmaking 11-year-old girls, all we had to bond over was our shared tennis experiences. (Super WASPy, I know.)
The conversation continued on awkwardly for a few more minutes, as did my shaking. A whole crowd of older kids walked in and eyed us, snickering amongst themselves. (Side note: Whenever I see younger kids on a date, I ALWAYS make sure to smile supportively. I know how awkward it is for everyone involved, and the last thing you want is to be judged by a bunch of dumb college guys in American Eagle flat brims. – Like, go home. – Therefore, if you ever want a cheerleader on a first date, come sit by me!)
The lights went down, and I continued to shake. The opening title sequence began. “Bourne Ultimatum.” Oh, great! An action trilogy of which I had no context for the two previous films. (My only knowledge of these flicks was that my dad, “Really thought the sequel was a step down.”) Things happened, people started fighting, Matt Damon was there, blah blah blah. Still shaking. Ho hum. Maybe he didn’t notice? Would he want to kiss me? Was he going to put his arm—Oh. He did it. HIS arm is around me. Am I supposed to lean into him? What do I do? I’m still shaking!
“Are you scared? You’re shaking so much.” SHIT! He’d caught me. The jig was up.
“Oh! No. Totally fine!”
“Don’t worry! This is a scary scene.” Riiiiiight. Right. He thought I was afraid of the movie. Let’s all recall that I am obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock, political thrillers and true crime. But yeah. “Bourne Ultimatum” was SO scary.
“Oh, yeah! I’m really afraid.” And there went all my feminist collateral… That comment was the equivalent of breaking a mirror. 7 years of bad female juju. Forgive me, Gloria Steinem!
Just as I was starting to catch up on the plot, my date grabbed my right hand. He started massaging it. Oh my god. My hands were so sweaty. I wanted to slip away and hide underneath the seats. I wanted my mom! I wanted to watch a movie at the movie theater without having to worry about all this. Would I ever be afforded that luxury again? Would every date be like this one? How did my parents do it? How does anyone do anything
around a guy? Panic!
“I have to call my friend. Sorry! It’s an emergency.” I scampered off to the bathroom and called my mom. Ring. Ring. Ring. Voicemail. Why do moms never pick up when you need them?! “Mom. Hi. It’s Avery. I just want you to know I love you so much. Bye.” I twiddled my thumbs, and shook out my hand a few times. My date had given me pins and needles with all that massaging. I couldn’t even grip my pink Razr flip.
“What happened?” I asked with the same enthusiasm I feel when jumping into the ice cold Atlantic on New Year’s Day. He recapped. I kept my hands in my lap. I didn’t get near him again, and I waited out the end of that interminable film. When the movie ended, Mari Lu picked us up, and I spoke to her the whole way home. I had never been so happy to see her in my LIFE.
(That’s really the end of my first date. I remember I’d been both hoping and dreading the prospect of a kiss. In hindsight, if I was still calling my mom mid-date, I wasn’t ready. And I’m glad I waited.)
Flash forward: When I had people over to my house last summer, I invited my first date along as well. I made Garrett get the door and say in a firm, intimidating manner, “I heard you went out with my girlfriend.” It was SO funny to me and all my girlfriends, while both my first date and Garrett awkwardly stood in the foyer and did that weird man handshake. My poor Garrett. I always force him into awkward situations like that…
Flash even farther forward, to the present: Guess what comes out this Friday?