Frustration 101

As I look back on it from the distance of 50-odd years, I can see that making any headway with Molly was doomed from the start.  She was a General’s daughter, went around in girlish circles surrounded by others who doted on everything she did.  If she wore a pink sweater one morning, by noon every one of her group would rush home at noon and put on a pink sweater.

I watched from afar; and by that I meant from the county of Afar (near the town of NoWayJose).  My best friend had a sister that was best friends with one of her inner circle of girls.  By word of mouth, which I am now sure was either garbled in transmission or purposely twisted to thwart me, I was informed that she ‘liked me’.

The term ‘liked me’, in the teenage glossary of the day meant that the person you were telling this had to be at least four people removed.  Apparently the term went from her lips to the girl in her group that was friends with my best friend’s sister thence to my best friend who delivered the line with a Cheshire Cat-like grin.

“So, what are you going to do about it?” He asked with glee.  “Ask her to the dance next week?”

“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.  She has enough guys hanging on to her she looks like a tackling dummy.  I haven’t got a chance.”

“Well, you never know.  Stranger things have happened.  Give it a try.”

I did think about it for a while.  A couple of days later the same remark was made to me directly from a different source.  In a gross violation of the ‘code of the group’ I was informed by one of her immediate circle that she ‘was waiting for me to call’.

I suspected some sort of trick because normally she wouldn’t bother at all with someone as insignificant as me.  Taking in to account that I was the son of only a light Colonel I was hardly worth of her.  Still, being told by two different people that she ‘liked me’ was something I couldn’t ignore.

I spent the next two school days doing what now would be called stalking.  I lurked around corners, watched her closely from the back of the room in two of our common classes, and spent a ditched study hall sitting at the top of the grandstand taking in the girl’s soccer class.  I had to admit, in short-shorts she was definitely a looker.  Brilliant blond hair, blue eyes, almost as tall as me, good looking, and extremely well-built.  I grew drowsy as I watched and fantasized her and I together in a warm ski lodge, trapped by a huge blizzard, warming ourselves with brandy on a bearskin rug in front of a crackling fire.  Damn, why does that have to pop up now?

All the ‘he saids’ and ‘she saids’ came to a head on Friday afternoon.  I was hurrying to math class and turned my head to answer a question from a buddy as I rounded a corner.  BAM!  I ran headlong into Molly.  We crashed to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs.  We got sorted out quickly and, after my stammered apology, she looked me right in the eye and said that she didn’t really have this in mind when she said she wanted to meet me.

I blushed pink and again stammered a reply.  I don’t remember what I said, but I followed it up with something inane I’m sure.  She gathered up her books and swiveled down the hall.  I could only stare after her.

My brain kicked in with a mental thud, my feet turned back towards her disappearing hips and I rushed up behind her.

“Wait, Molly, wait” I called plaintively.

“Yes” she answered, turning to see who it was and seemed to flinch. “Oh, hi.  You’re not going to run me down again are you?”

“No.  I’m really sorry about that Molly.  I’m such a klutz.”

“Well, there may be hope for you though.  What did you want?”

There it was.  Right out in the open now.  I would have to either put up or shut up.  My throat closed, but I managed to croak out “do you want to go to the dance with me Saturday night?”

This was said with a very sincere look and little more.  I doubted greatly that she even knew what planet I was on much less really wanted to go to a dance with me.  My palms got sweaty, my heart rate tripled, and I started hyperventilating all in the short time it took her to form an answer.

I was so sure she would turn me down that I almost turned away prepared to mumble a “thanks anyway” but she surprised me totally by saying “Sure”.

The word ‘sure’ echoed in my empty head for milliseconds before firing my ‘holy cow’ synapse.  My eyes opened a little more, I mentally danced a little jig but physically answered “great, what time do you want me to pick you up?”

“How about seven?  That’s a little before the dance starts and we can go get a soda before it.”

I managed to get a “thank you” out without sounding like a complete idiot (nobody can be a complete anything, but I sure tried sometimes).  “I’ll see you then Molly.”

She went one way and I turned and floated back down the hall the other way to my locker.  Somehow I got through the next class and headed home.  My buddy came over and we chatted for a while.  I was dying for him to ask me if I had done anything about Molly.  Finally he did and I casually said that she was going with me to the dance tomorrow.  If I had smoked I would have leaned back in the chair and lit a Marlboro before I answered.  I was oozing calm.  Inside, I was a mass of insecurity.

“No shit?” He asked.  “That’s great” he said as he walked to the phone; presumably to alert the press.

“Yeah, well, it’s just a dance date Jerry, not an engagement” I called after him.  “We’re not going to Paris here.”

He came back a moment later and said that he and his girlfriend would come along with us.  Now, he was a great guy, and I liked his girlfriend Beth a lot, but, I kind of resented him intruding on what I had hopes of being a stellar night and it must have showed.  “Just kidding” he said.

Saturday I awoke early and tended to every one of my chores without being hounded by my parents.  I dodged taunts and hassle from my brother and helped my sister with some of her dish washing duties after breakfast.  My mom looked askance at me but didn’t say anything.  I am sure she thought I was up to something.  I must have stepped over the believability line when I asked her if there was anything else I could do.

“Are you feeling okay?” She asked, leaning close to playfully slap a hand on my forehead. “What’s the matter — got a hot date?”

Ahhhhhhhhh!  She’d guessed it right off the bat!

“Not a really big one, but I’m taking Molly to the dance tonight.”

“Molly?  General Confusion’s Molly?  I thought she didn’t know you existed.  Isn’t that what you said just a few days ago?”

She had me there.  I did, in fact, tell her that on Wednesday but I hemmed and hawed a bit and answered obliquely – “sorta, but I asked her yesterday and she said ‘yes’.”

“Well, good for you.  What are you going to wear?”

Damn, zapped again.  I hadn’t a clue what I was going to wear and told her so.  She answered that I had better make up my mind because most of my clothes were still in the laundry room.

I flew down the hall and dumped a load of my best shirts and pants into the washer.  Then I headed to my room to plan my assault on Fortress Molly.  I might prove to be a long, and embarrassing, campaign but maybe I could overcome her defenses and emerge victorious.  As Jerry said ‘you never know’.

There is a Burt Reynolds movie called ‘Hooper’ (1978) where, as the opening credits roll, he is dressing to the sounds of a trumpet doing a Toreador theme solo.  In retrospect, I can see where this applied to me that very evening as I slowly readied myself for my date one article of clothing at a time; after first gassing everyone with deodorant and aftershave.  Well, all seven hairs on my chin needed to be clipped.

Finally, with a flourish of a Mariachi band’s finale I emerged from my room.  I was slick from head to ankle because, as my brother pointed out, I had forgotten to change out of my sneakers into my Bombers (see:  So much for being classy.  I was back on the ground again and NOT ‘Bond, James Bond’.

It was a cool evening but I don’t think it registered on me as I walked over to Molly’s house.  She lived up on what was called Officer’s Country up on the hill.  I got more and more insecure the closer I got to her house.  What if this was just an elaborate joke?  What if she was just going to giggle at me all slicked up?  What if her dad answered the door?  What if my head fell off and I got it back on wrong?  All of this went through my mind on the twelve mile walk up her driveway.  I paused for the final time ready to push the doorbell, pushed the hair out of my eyes and rang it.

“Hi Tom, I’ll be ready in a second” said Molly, pulling me into the hall and pointing into the living room.  “Go sit down and I’ll be right back.”

“Okay” was all I could work out of my parched throat.

I looked around the room and discovered that not only was her dad there, but her mom also.  This was going to be very painful.

“Hello Tom” said The General.  “You’re taking Molly to the dance tonight?”

For a General he sure had his finger on the obvious I thought.  However, I managed to speak briefly in some sort of coherence that “yes, I was”.

“Hi, I’m Molly’s mom, June.  Your mother is Betty isn’t she?”

“Um, yeah – er, yes, she is.”  How did she know this? I thought, and then remembered that both of them probably saw each other at the various officers’ wives functions they gave at the club every month.

“We don’t see very much of her, is she ill?”

“No, not that I know of.  She is kind of a quiet person and not likely to go out very much.”

This was a total fabrication because I can remember many times she told us that she would rather be nibbled to death by baby ducks than attend one more ‘tea and crumpet’ session with other officer wives.  Nothing put her off more than the pretentious airs of “Missus General” and “Miss Colonel”.  She was more a beer and pretzels person than fine wine and cakes.

“Well, tell her I said hello will you?”

“Sure thing. Ma’am.  I’ll do that.”

I was saved from further conversation my Molly appearing at the door and motioning me she was ready to go.  I said my goodbyes, helped Molly into her coat, and we hustled out the door.

Next:  Frustration 201



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