(A Guest Post from DDDT Friend and Sleazy Salesman Troy): I went to Knowlton Elementary School in Farmington, Utah in the 1980’s. My hobbies and interests as a 6th Grader at Knowlton included collecting baseball and basketball cards, playing little league football, and girls. I’m sure it wasn’t a practice exclusive to our school, or even our decade, but at Knowlton it was a big deal back then to go with a girl. Asking a girl, “Will you go with me?” was to really put yourself out there, on the line, and the answer to this question had enormous social repercussions.
Going with a girl was so awesome. It consisted of . . . well, um, actually, I don’t know. No, there weren’t any dates – duh, we were 11. Kissing was completely out of the question. Only the Skaters and Rockers dared kiss girls. Hand-holding was fairly scandalous, so it too was usually avoided. Some of the more daring kids masterminded trysts at the movie theater or mall, but I never pulled that off until Jr. High. Virtually all of the action when you were going together in elementary came in the form of notes.
Since you didn’t really ever talk to the girl you were going with, you’d get the itch once or twice a week to do a little relationship inventory. You know, see if you were still going together or if you had been dumped. To keep things simple, we employed the questionnaire with a couple of checkbox answers model. No room for miscommunication that way, although somewhere along the way some clever girl invented the dreaded third box, for “maybe”. I always hated that. In an arrangement like going together, the only upside was the simple validation that came from a girl thinking you were cute enough – or in my case funny enough – to go with. “Maybe” completely undermined that validation, and the euphoria that accompanied it, even though that euphoria was inevitably followed by a panicked confusion as to how to proceed.
Except for notes, there was really no set protocol for going together. Once you got the “yes,” you were in uncharted waters. Maybe you’d sit by each other. Let her doodle on your Trapper Keeper. Play a few games of MASH.
I’m going to marry Jamie from “Charles in Charge,” we’ll live in a shack, and I’ll drive a Ferrari to the sewer plant. That makes perfect sense.
My biggest crush in the 6th grade was Erin S. (Erin is an occasional DDDT reader, and yes, that makes telling this story slightly embarrassing.) With Valentine’s Day approaching, I desperately wanted to go with Erin. I still remember walking through the aisles of Bowman’s trying to decide what to get her for Valentine’s. SweetTarts and a perforated wallet-sized Garfield greeting card weren’t going to cut it. But swinging too far the other way by buying her an entire bag of mini Baby Ruth’s would just make a spectacle. The perfect solution came in the form of a Big Red Value Pack, the kind that comes with 10 or so packs of 5. Now, some of you that may be thinking that giving a girl several packs of cinnamon gum lacks romance. But let’s examine how Big Red was positioned in the late 1980’s marketplace:
Whoa. Now you see where I was going with this. This was a pretty big deal. Of course, being 11 and at a grocery store, I was obviously with my mom, and she was buying. I still remember being embarrassed as I explained I wanted to give multiple huge packs of Big Red not to the whole class, but actually, to just one girl. My mom got a twinkle in her eye that suddenly turned into an almost a forlorn look, and I still remember what she said, “My sweet little boy about to get his heart broken.”
Valentine’s Day arrived, and I’m sure I made a friend deliver it, not only because it was very common to use a 3rd party in situations like that, but because I have no recollection of how the delivery went down.
I figured that the proper groundwork had been laid, and I decided to ask Erin to go with me. I prepared the obligatory paperwork and gave it to my friend Davey Bell for delivery (he went by ‘Davey’ until he went through puberty…just before we left on our missions). Davey was always more savvy than me – than any of us, really – and when I approached him with the plan, he scrapped it altogether and proposed a better strategy: He would simply negotiate, in person, on my behalf. No note required.
I sat awkwardly on one side of the classroom while Davey ventured over to Erin and her friend Mara P. I probably pretended to look busy but I must have stolen some glances because I can still picture the scene. The three of them huddled and whispering and occasionally looking over. Davey working his diplomatic magic. After an agonizing few minutes The Negotiator returned to present the results: I was in. Seriously? I couldn’t believe I was officially going with Erin S! Pure elation swept over me, followed by fear as I realized I had no idea what came next.
I can only imagine the self-conscious eye-contact we must have exchanged at that point. Well, what happened next came quickly because 24 hours later, Mara and Erin came skipping by at recess chanting “You’re dumped, you’re dumped!” What?!? I didn’t even get to write a note. I confronted the Negotiator, demanding answers. However, being the gentleman that he was he refused to disclose the terms of the deal, simply consoling me with the thought that, “Hey, not many guys can say they went with Erin S.” He was right. He only got me one lousy day, but he was absolutely right.
After that I went on the rebound and had a good stretch with Jenny V. We sat by each other at lunch, hung out at recess, and even talked on the phone a couple of times. I’ll tell you, that Jenny knew what she was doing. I think she must have been 12. After 2 or 3 wonderful weeks, she went on to wow some other lucky kid.
That year I also went with Angie B. Her brother Wade was in scouts with me and when he found out I was going with his sister he made fun of me mercilessly. So that didn’t last very long. Turns out the validation that comes from one girl is far outweighed by the scorn of several older Boy Scouts.
Fast forward twenty some-odd years, and contrary to countless 6th grade MASH predictions, I’m now living in a house, with 3 kids, and married to Melissa W. I still have a huge crush on her after 11 years. Maybe I should write her a secret note with checkboxes and give her a whole box of Big Red. I bet she’d like that. Davey, are you busy?