It was the summer of 1974, and my best friend’s brother was getting married! It was exciting and mysterious all at the same time. Getting married was practically unimaginable to me. I hadn’t a boyfriend at that point in my life. If a boy even knocked on our door, I needed to keep it a secret so my father wouldn’t have a heart attack. Boys generally didn’t swoon over me, so I used my imagination about boyfriends and romance. I was an experienced day dreamer! In my imagination, I feel in love with Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Cary Grant and Glenn Campbell. I would fall asleep singing like Olivia Newton John, “I love you…I honestly love you!” Life was simple and stress free.
At that time I was fifteen years old and working part time at the Arcade, a low cost department store. A highlight of my work day included folding the bin of green tartan, polyester, stretchy pant suits from China. That bin was the focal point of many women shopping at the store. They would tear through the bin looking for the right size to fit their daughter. I spent most of my part time hours re-folding those suits. My daily prayer was that the eczema on my hands did not flare up.
The women who worked in the Children’s Department with me would buy a sleeve of biscuits. I was allowed behind the cash register area to sneak one whenever I wanted. I loved standing there pretending I was in charge of the cash! These co-workers told me sometimes girls met their boyfriends at work. I paid more attention to the shoppers! I soon discovered my co-workers had better imaginations than I did. It was very unlikely prince charming was going to stroll into the Arcade. Still I went on happily day dreaming about Mr. Right sweeping me off my feet.
My friend Carol Ann was able to convince her family to invite me to the wedding, so that she had someone to sit with during the dance. I was also allowed to invite a boy too. Initially, I looked at the invitation and back at my friend with a look of pure delight. I felt older, more mature and equal to all the girls I hung around with after school. But, slowly it dawned on me. I was expected to have a date! If only a healthy imagination could provide one!
I didn’t have a boyfriend like Carol Ann. I didn’t even have a crush on someone, nor did anyone have a crush on me! During the previous winter I had a secret boyfriend named Jerry. When Jerry decided to “break up with me” after very little time, it was Carol Ann who stood by me and wiped away the tears. Now I needed to find a boy to go to the wedding with, so Carol Ann would no longer need to worry about me. I soon discovered that was easier said than done!
During the summer of 1974, whenever Jerry saw me, he generally turned and scurried away in the opposite direction. From time to time I would day dream about Jerry too. I could see him coming up to the door with roses and apologizing for being mean. Olivia Newton John would have been proud of me. In the real world, Jerry was my best prospect.
It became well known amongst my friends that I “needed” to ask someone to this wedding. The brother-of-the-bride-to-be was nice enough to tell me that Jerry had decided to join the Christian Brothers and he wouldn’t accept an invitation, even if I asked him. I didn’t particularly like the brother-of-the-bride-to-be and in truth I still don’t. At fifteen years of age, I took his comment as a pretty big blow to my self worth. When the sting of that revelation began to pass, I told myself that Jerry was pretty much beyond any girl’s reach if he was going to take on a vocation. I decided that there were obviously plenty of fish in the ocean, so I had better move on and catch one. I was only interested in a catch and release, one date for one wedding.
On Friday and Saturday nights in the summer, the local stadium had rolling skating. I didn’t think my parents would approve of me roller skating, so that was another secret! I rationalized that I might meet someone there who I could ask to the wedding. The music was really fast at rolling skating, so the only way I was likely to meet someone was if a boy asked me to skate to doubles or even triples. Triples skating was way too fast and boarder line dangerous! I hoped for doubles in the biggest way.
I remember that summer clearly. I would carry my borrowed roller skates over my shoulder and walk 20 minutes to the arena, praying my mother or an Aunt wouldn’t drive by and catch me sneaking in to roller skating. This crime would have netted me a summer’s detention! Inside the privacy of the arena, the lights were bright and you could feel the excitement all around you.
Each night of roller skating I would sit with my friends from the West End of the city. We would lace up our skates and make our way to the rink area. I drew my long black hair back, either with a hair band or a scarf, put on that brave smiley face and hit the rink, in hope of a partner to skate with. The boys generally looked at their feet and the girls watched me and smirked.
July turned into August. Over that time I had skated to two sets of triples but I was never asked to skate during doubles. As August hurried on, I had no prospects for the wedding. One Friday night Jerry skated up the corridor, circled behind me and smacked me on the backside! I interpreted that as tantamount to assault and glared at him. Needless to say that did not result in an invitation from me to Jerry to attend the wedding. As I think back to that moment, I remember concluding that such a public display of rejection banished me to singlehood. I was shattered.
The wedding was the last Saturday in August. I stopped hoping I would find a date. The weeks had drifted by. I told Carol Ann’s brother I would attend the wedding on my own. I remember how awkward the evening was, given I had no one to dance with. My friend found it uncomfortable too as she felt she was supposed to keep me entertained. Jerry’s friend, the brother-of-the-bride seemed to have a great time though, the shmook.
Eventually, the night ended. For once I was more than delighted that my mother was outside waiting to drive me home. Mom was very kind to me that night. As a mother, she was relieved I didn’t have a date. Yet, she understood I was unhappy about it. We didn’t talk much as she drove us home, but I sensed in her quiet manner a sign of respect. Dad was still up when we trudged up the stairs to our house. He wasn’t the affectionate sort either, so instead he told me to sit at the counter and he would make me a treat before bed. For me that was a sure sign of affection! Quietly, I was surrounded by the sincerest love of my parents.
Being a teenager can be a tough time for some. It seems like life is slow and you still can’t keep up with it. When I least expected it, at the age of seventeen, I met the boy of my dreams. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had met my future husband. Life seemed to speed up after that for the black haired young girl. And the rest, as they say, is (blissful) history!