My first real date with a boy was complicated – as all such dates are bound to be when you are a fourteen-year-old lesbian. The first date itself wasn’t even that memorable (although my mother certainly made a big deal of it), but it set off a sequence of events that was extremely memorable.
I was a freshman. My friend “Suzy” had a boyfriend, a senior, whose real name I can’t recall, so I needn’t bother making one up – she called him Pookie Bear. Pookie Bear had a friend – also a senior, and an EMT which I thought was cool. Let’s call him “Charlie.” We went on a series of double dates, all orchestrated by Suzy. We’d all ride in the same car, smoke pot, go to dinner, then a movie, then home. Easy stuff. At first. Charlie the EMT always had a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek which turned out to be a wonderful thing – this meant I had a good excuse not to kiss him. At the end of the night, he’d give me a chaste little peck on the cheek, sometimes leaving little flecks of wintergreen scented tobacco there. Ick. (Note: I have long suspected Charlie might have been gay and had a secret hankering for Pookie Bear.)
Now, my romantic life, my true romantic life, was far from dull. I was having a thing with a girl from the next town. She smoked clove cigarettes, hennaed her hair and spoke French. I was head over heels. There was no question that we had to keep our relationship a secret and so naturally we needed to pass as straight. So she knew about Charlie and Pookie Bear and was vaguely amused by my stories of our awkward double dates. The true trouble began when she decided that it was time she met my friends.
There was a big party coming up, being hosted by “Dave,” a pal of Pookie Bear and Charlie. Dave was also a senior, and his two great loves in life were fishing and taxidermy – really. His bedroom was full of fish and small animals with glass eyes and sewn up bellies, mounted in supposedly lifelike poses. Truly ghastly stuff.
My girlfriend, we’ll call her “Marie,” heard about Dave’s party and insisted on attending. All went well at first. Madonna was on the stereo, there were two kegs in the kitchen and everyone was feeling good. Everybody liked Marie, and I felt cool for once, cool enough to have this sophisticated “friend” from another town. Suzy and Pookie Bear spent much of the night in Dave’s parent’s bedroom. Charlie kept stuffing tobacco into his mouth and giving me shy, apologetic smiles. Marie and I managed to sneak off and hide out in the garage for a while, kissing madly and swearing we’d love each other forever, no matter what, while we hunkered down amid snow tires, lawnmowers and antifreeze.
It didn’t take long for Dave the taxidermy guy to fall for Marie. He followed her around all night offering her kamikazes, pot and cigarettes. He showed her his taxidermy collection and Marie was impressed. She actually reached out and stroked a small stuffed weasel. She got a kick out of people who out-freaked her in any way.
And the next thing I knew, Marie and Taxidermy Dave were kissing. No little tentative dry peck, but full on tongue in mouth in front of the whole world kissing. I was seething. Ready to kill both of them. But of course, I couldn’t. I couldn’t make a scene, kick Dave’s ass. Because that would be weird, wouldn’t it? What would people think? What inconceivable ruin and humiliation would that expose us to, if we were found out?
So, Marie and I entered into the newest stage of our melodramatic, secretive, angst-ridden relationship. We learned to use boys (and okay, sometimes other girls) to hurt and manipulate each other. It was a game we got good at and perfected over the years (yes, years – we were together on and off until I went away to college and then even when I came home for breaks). But it all started with my first date with good old Chewing Charlie.