Carol and I “broke up” soon after our first kiss, but I can’t really remember why or how.
I do remember that the split occurred on a Sunday morning before church, and during service she suddenly burst out sobbing. I didn’t have a clue about what to do, but then that’s fairly typical for me.
The angst sent me into another bout of celibacy, not that I was beating girls off with a stick. The truth is that I was very shy around girls.
A couple of years later, my best friend Frank talked me into asking a really cute underclassman named Camille to the homecoming dance. Frank dated constantly and was madly in love a half-dozen times before he graduated from high school. I’m not sure what his motives were for cajoling me into asking Camille; maybe he was trying to help a friend.
Going to homecoming was a big deal, much more involved than going to a movie. Typically, you took your gal out for dinner the night of the big event and then did something the next day as well.
For dinner we decided to go to the Carousel, a revolving affair atop the hotel next to the Arlington Park Race Track in nearby Arlington Heights, Ill. It was the top of the world and Frank and I both had saved for weeks to afford it. The restaurant was like a lot of things in the purview of the rich: if you had to ask how much something was you probably couldn’t afford it, but that was a lesson we hadn’t learned yet.
We guessed at how much it could possibly cost and then decided to carry double that amount in with us, our wads bulging more than our libidos, if that was possible. A quick glance at the menu revealed that we were in trouble as even the cheapest entrees were going to suck all bills from our wallets quicker than your date could squeal, “Look, there are no prices on our menu!”
It was true. The menus the girls had did not list prices, a throwback to the era before Women’s Liberation. You know, when women were women and men picked up the tab without worrying the brains of the ladies.
Frank and I quickly did the math of how much we had and how much it was going to cost. It was going to be close. Frank mouthed “meet me in the John” while our dates weren’t looking, and then a few minutes later announced that he had to use the restroom.
“Hold on, I gotta go, too,” I said, tiptoeing dangerously close to the line that divides accepted gender norms. Girls go together, guys don’t.
It turned out the restroom was as swank as the restaurant and featured attendants, something neither of us had experienced before. We quickly recounted our money and then estimated that if we stuck to the least expensive items on the menus we might be able to squeak by with our combined $43.15.
On the way out the attendant stuck out his tip jar and Frank tossed in a dollar. This was the late 1960s and adjusted for inflation it was the equivalent of tipping a $10 or even a $20 dollar bill.
Back at the table Frank and I made a show of not being very hungry and let our dates know we’d just have the chef salad. Frank’s date picked up on the cues that we were worried about money and also opted for something modest in price. Cute, skinny little Camille was totally oblivious, however. In fact, she seemed to think that because her menu didn’t have prices everything was free. She ordered an appetizer and a steak and then proceeded to pick at both.
At long last the meal was over and the check present for exactly $43.15. We were one dollar short thanks to Frank’s largesse in the John.
We were saved from utter humiliation, however, thanks to the kindness of Frank’s older sister. After we called her she drove over to the restaurant and slipped us $10.
Now we had enough for dessert.