Friday, February 23, 2018

First Date Jitters

This weekend, I had the first date jitters. My heart raced a little. My hands shook. My nerves were on fire. 

As the big day neared, I had made sure everything was perfect. Shoe heels: high enough to be attractive, but not high enough to attract the wrong glances. Dress: Just the right amount of sparkle … but not too much! Remember: there’s a fine, but very important line between “Frozen” snow queen and over-the-top drag queen. Makeup: just a touch, on the eyes only. 

When the day of the dance came, the big event was the first thought I had when waking up and the last I had before going to sleep. 

My daughter had a blast. 

Yeah, the big date was, of course, hers. At age 46 and married for over 20 years, I’m a little old for first dates. And believe me, if for some reason I had one, I’d spend less time worrying about how I looked than more concerned with whether I’d brought a Tylenol, two antacid tablets, and whether I’d make it home before the news started. 

When I was her age, there was no eighth grade dance. Not the kind where anyone brought dates, at least. These days, though, things are different. Everything seems to happen at younger and younger ages. 

I wonder why that is, why there’s a mad rush on for childhood to start -- and thus, end -- sooner. Why? Does everyone want to just “get it over with” so our children can move on to more important things, such as making money and continuing the competitive climb? 

It’s sad to rush something so precious and brief. Rushing the years of first dates and terrible, but exciting kisses is a mistake. I look back on those times and I wish I could grab and hold them. I wish I could bottle up those sweet teen days and set the bottle (it would be pink) on my fireplace mantle. I wish, maybe every decade or so, I could open the bottle and release a tiny whiff of carnation corsages and punch bowl punch and let a bit of that genie out of the bottle. Just for a minute. 

And that’s kinda what happened this weekend. When my daughter stood nervously with her date and posed for a few awkward photos; when I adjusted her wrist corsage -- because it was too loose -- and felt a misty hint of tears well up; when she left the house beaming, but returned saying, “well, that was OKAY, I guess … nobody danced much … ”; the genie of nostalgia was on the loose. 

In the end, her first date at winter dance was more about the preparations than the thing itself, just as it was for me back in the 1980s. 

It was more about what was to come, a reminder to me that I’d some day lose her, and a herald of all the dreams of most every girl: marriage, children, friends, job. And as every mom knows, our jitters may momentarily subside as dance night winds down, but still crop up when we open the report card, or wait on medical test results, or when it’s almost midnight and our oldest child is still not home. 

When the genie’s popped out of the bottle, all we can do is watch, wait, and go ahead and take those two antacid tablets, hoping she uses her three wishes wisely. 


Kara Martinez Bachman is a married mom to two kids, an editor, and author of the humorous essay collection, "Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women, and Careening into Middle Age."

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