Never too late for a first date

The man hadn’t had a date since 1979. Actually, he’d never had a date. As a gangly, height-challenged, pimple-ridden, poorly dressed teenager with goofy hair and bad teeth, he’d rarely even talked to an actual girl. Never called one on the phone to stutter about Saturday night, never been to a prom, never leaned against a high-school locker and mentioned pizza and a movie in the same breath, never sat at said (unattended) movie and pretended to stretch so he could drape his skinny arm over a brunette-splashed shoulder. Even back in ’79, when he’d met his first wife at college, they’d just fallen into it — and she’d done all the work (the asking), and all he had to do was mumble, “Gosh, okay.” He was, in the lingo of the day, a total dweeb.

So, 32 years later, when the combination of a girl and the girl’s favorite folk singer playing at the local playhouse occurred simultaneously, the man was impressed that he had the courage to ask, and a little surprised that the girl said, “Yes!”

He’d known her for many years, since she was just a little girl, in fact. And she was still just a girl, at least compared to him — so many years younger that he’d have some explaining to do if cornered.

He was still gangly and not very tall, but at least the pimples were gone, the teeth had been fixed, and the goofy hair was just a memory (actually, hair of any sort was a fading concept). Alas, he could still barely dress himself. Once a dweeb, always a dweeb.

Despite his shortcomings, the man prepared diligently for the big night. He showered and shaved, put on a pair of clean pants that actually fit, found a nice shirt that wasn’t too wrinkled, and wrapped his best Winnie-the-Pooh tie around his neck. Deodorant and a pair of flip-flops completed the ensemble. He even flossed.

Decked out thusly, the man commenced pacing back and forth in his kitchen until the appointed hour. And then there she was, walking right in the door: tall, beautiful, brunette, confident, smiling, a college student just finished with her shift at the local ice cream shop, dressed to the nines and ready to go.

Well, the date was wonderful. A swell time. Guy and gal hitting it off perfectly. He held doors open for her and she walked right through. She laughed at his jokes and he actually listened to her when she talked. They ran into a few people that the man knew, but he was prepared, and it seemed effortless the way he introduced his very young companion. His friends smiled and said nice things and whispered, “What an adorable couple” under their breath. The man and his date had good seats in the balcony but he didn’t do the arm-stretch-shoulder-drape trick because it just seemed wrong. But that was fine; just sitting next to such a winsome thing for two hours was a real treat. He felt like he’d known her all her life.

When the folk singer (who was great, by the way) had strummed through his encore and the applause had died away, the man and the girl walked out into the fragrant spring night and he drove her straight home. It was 11:30 when they got there and the house was dark (her mom hadn’t even waited up for them). Totally ready for that awkward first-date moment on the front step, the man thanked the girl for a lovely evening, kissed her on the cheek, and told her she was a blessing from God and that he loved her so much he could hardly stand it — it seemed the most natural thing in the world. The girl hugged the man, said she loved him too, and then went inside and up to her room to go to bed.

The man quietly followed his date up the stairs, then slipped into her mother’s bedroom, put on his pajamas, and slid carefully between the covers. As he lay smiling, staring toward the dark ceiling and replaying each moment of the night, the girl’s mother roused briefly, turned toward him, and planted a big kiss right on his lips. “I hope you had a wonderful date with your daughter,” she whispered. Then his first wife put her head on his shoulder and fell peacefully back to sleep.

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