How we used to do it

By Joe Rector

This world doesn’t look too familiar to some of us older folks. From music to technology, the dramatic changes leave us puzzled and asking, “Huh?” Even relationships between boys and girls are different. In another century, teens who liked each other began dating. This is how we used to do it.

Boys were the ones to make initial moves for girls. After spotting the right females, we agonized over garnering enough courage to speak to them. Many guys would wait until no one was home to use the phone in the kitchen or den. On hearing the phone ring, some of us would panic and hang up. We’d again dial the number and hyperventilate when the girls answered. Our hemming and hawing made conversations awkward, but with just a little encouragement from girls, boys would eventually ask them to go out.

With a little luck, dates were set, and the boy would prepare. That meant washing the car and cleaning the inside. Long, hot showers calmed nerves, and “peach fuzz” beards were shaved and followed by splashes of English Leather, Canoe, or Jade East colognes. The stuff almost choked anyone who came too close to the vapors.

Knocking on the doors also brought on nervousness. Fathers who opened the door struck fear in boys. Dads didn’t trust them because they, too, were once young teens and they know what things were on their minds. If the situation worsened, the fathers might ask the most dreaded question: “What are your intentions toward my daughter?” Only the daughters could rescue their dates and sweep them out of the houses and away from such interrogations.

Date destinations back then usually were ballgames and movies. Couples would struggle to converse at first, but eventually, things thawed enough to let the teens feel a bit more comfortable. After events, they went some place to eat. Either drive-ins like the Copper Kettle or restaurants like Shoney’s were popular places. Males ate to settle nerves while girls refused to eat or picked at food to give the impression that their appetites were small.

At some point in the dating cycle, boys would drive from restaurants to deserted areas. There, maybe half a dozen cars lined the sides of streets in subdivisions like Crestwood Hills or Camelot.

The windows of the vehicles were fogged, and everyone knew that some heavy “necking” was going on. Girls might announce that they would prefer to go home, but most often, the two had been dating long enough so that a little hugging and smooching were acceptable acts.

Boys would eventually decide that their girls were special. They would want to have an exclusive relationship with them. That’s when class rings were offered and the proposals for going steady were spoken. Those pieces of jewelry always looked monstrous in female hands. Girls would put wax around the inside parts of the rings so that they fit delicate fingers, Or they would put them on chains and then wear them around their necks. If the boys played sports, their girlfriends suddenly took possession of letter jackets.

Relationships became much more relaxed. Dates might occur at the girls’ homes where the teens watched television or listened to music. For some reason, couples became comfortable with each other, and they stopped being quite so polite or thoughtful.

Before long, the excitement of the relationship fizzled, and one of the couple would decide to “break up.”

The pain was almost too much to bear. Personal items were returned. The phone calls stopped, and meetings in halls of school or at public places were awkward.

Males and females were once again free, not something they necessarily liked. The dating game began once again. Individuals acted slowly to jump into other relationships for fear of being hurt once again. Before long, however, old memories faded and new adventures were waiting. Teens again jumped on the dating carousel and hoped for better results.

With a little luck, high school couples held on tight to each other and developed a strong love that led them to marriage. My brothers and their wives dated and went steady in high school. Dal and Brenda stayed together until he passed; Jim and Brenda have been married for 44 years. It’s nice to know that sometimes “love lasts.” That’s how we did it, and in many instances, it seemed to work out just fine.

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