Eleven years ago tomorrow, I went on my very first date.
Some people think it’s weird that I can recall dates with creepy precision. It’s not that I have a freakish memory that allows me to remember everything . . . just, you know, particular dates. Important ones. Ones that can mark a before and after in Megan History.
And October 14 is a memorable date. It was my very first “anniversary,” and a day I would recall for months — even years — afterward as the day I went from an awkward 15-year-old prone to acne and frizzy hair to a young woman someone had a crush on.
Do you remember that moment? The first time someone confessed to like liking you, and the rush that flooded your whole body? The first time you realized you could have feelings for someone who might actually have them back?
It was a heady, crazy time. Always prone to dramatics, I had an absolute freak-out when R. asked me to the dance just weeks before the big night. Long resigned to the fact that I would be going with friends, I never imagined someone would actually pop the question and ask me to accompany him. But R. came in out of nowhere, professing his interest and asking me to be his girl.
But that came later.
It’s funny to think about the early days of courtship. How simple everything was in 2000 — before smartphones, Twitter, Facebook. Before social media of any kind. Before text messaging and before most people had cell phones, for cryin’ out loud! I mean, if R. wanted to talk to me, he had to call the house phone. And if he didn’t want to incur the wrath of my very protective father, he better make sure he called before 9 p.m. And if I wasn’t off the phone at 9:30 on a school night?
Like most high school romances, R. and I didn’t last. After a few months, we agreed we’d be better off as friends and “broke up,” thus ending the three months we spent giggling on the phone at night, holding hands in a clandestine manner and shopping together on weekends (ooh, naughty!). The break-up talk took place over AOL Instant Messenger, and I printed a transcript of the entire chat to rehash with my friends at school the next day.
I was as heartbroken as a sheltered sophomore could be.
But before then? Before the mess and sadness? Well, we had homecoming, friends, and what a glittering and exciting night that was! An evening when everything felt possible. When I was invincible in my sparkly black pantyhouse and “princess jewelry,” a set loaned to me by my mother. A night when I had a handsome older man (16!) on my arm, and nothing could possibly go wrong.
And nothing did. We danced with friends and chatted all night, wiggling our way around the reshaped cafeteria. When a slow song finally came on, R. pulled me in close and swayed gently to the music. I remember being way too close to the speakers — so close that I could barely make out anything he was saying. But I do remember his lips close to my ear, listening to him form the words at precisely 10:30 p.m. (I checked the clock): “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”
A wave passed over me. A new title. Even now, in strange moments, I stop and think, “I’m someone’s girlfriend.” A girlfriend to an awesome someone, no doubt about it, but the shift in our identities is so strange. Exciting, but strange. Today I am someone’s girlfriend, sister, friend, daughter. Granddaughter to several someones, and niece to several others. Also a coworker, and an underling. Tomorrow I could be someone’s wife, then someone’s mother. An aunt. A sister-in-law.
I’ve been thinking about the many someones we are over a lifetime — and the many roles we fill for other people. We can be confidantes, bullies, shoulders to cry on. We can provide transporation, advice, hope. We’re many things to many people, and our faces change so constantly. Sometimes I don’t know which role I’ll be stepping into next. Sometimes I think I don’t want to know.
Like the wistful girl above, embarking on the wild and amazing journey of courtship. Of falling in love. Of getting her heart broken. Of falling in love again — and better this time. More completely.
I didn’t know where life would take me after that dance, which was what electrified me most. The Mystical Beyond. The What Comes Next.
Maybe it is better not to know.