by J. L. Sloss

It was 1967, and I was 17.  Now, I never had any trouble attracting boys. I always had dates for Friday night dances and proms. Up until that year, though, I really wasn’t allowed to actually “date” — I mean go out alone with a boy, without a parent driving, dropping us off and picking us up. I thought I had a very over-protective family.

My grandmother had an ice cream, candy and toy store in the front room of our house. We lived on Skippack Pike between Blue Bell and Centre Square. My grandmother’s store was the “Nick Nack Shoppe.” (Believe it or not, I still run into people every once in a while who used to shop there.) She had a customer who gave her a huge order several times a year for toys for a childrens’ home that she was affiliated with and that she and my grandmother had developed a relationship with over the years.

One day this customer (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become obvious later) mentioned that her favorite nephew was coming home on leave from the Army. He’d lost touch with his friends, and he didn’t have a girlfriend prior to joining the service. She asked my grandmother if her granddaughter (me) would consider going on a date with her nephew.

Now, let me say here that my grandmother was the actual source of the over-protective shield I’d grown up with. I wasn’t allowed to drive. I wasn’t allowed to date, as already mentioned. I wasn’t allowed to go on class trips if they were too far away. You get the picture. So, I don’t know what happened to my grandmother that day. She must have had a temporary lapse of sanity because she said to her customer, “Oh, yes! My granddaughter would love to go out with your nephew! Ask him to give her a call.”

Well, my mother was LIVID! “How could you do that?!?” My grandmother argued, “He’s a nice young man (HA! My mother thought) who just wants a little company while he’s home. It’ll be fine.”

He called me the very next evening. We’ll call him “Gary.” Now, I’m big on voices; I always was. I like a guy’s voice that’s deep (not too deep), kind of syrupy with just the right hint of intelligence, and an obvious good sense of humor. Gary sounded awesome! Perfect! I envisioned an image of this tall, slender (but muscular) guy with a strong face, deep, warm, brown eyes and a devilish smile. I couldn’t wait to meet him. We made plans to go to dinner that following Saturday. Wow! My first REAL date!

Mid-week, he called again. Did I have a friend who could join us because he had brought a buddy home with him? Hmmm. I asked several of my girlfriends. Their parents wouldn’t let them go. So, what the heck was wrong with my otherwise over-protective family!?! Anyway, it looked like it was going to be me with these two strangers … and we didn’t know anything about Guy #2 at all.

Saturday night — doorbell rings, and I answer it. Gary and Guy #2 enter, and I proceed to go into shock. Gary is a little shorter than I (I’m 5’4”) and every bit as wide. He has a chubby face with beady little eyes, four chins and acne-ridden skin. He’s got the Army crew cut all greased up for the occasion. The vocal is obliterated by the visual. Guy #2 is even shorter, but he’s skinny, almost emaciated.

He also has beady little eyes, and the grease on his hair extends to his face. I’m certainly not all about looks — but the look of these two was a bit extreme. And something else really bothers me about them.  Neither one of them makes eye contact with me, and I watch as their eyes shift back and forth between each other to the ceiling and the floor. So I could see that conversation on this “date” was going to be … uh, not exactly sure of the word — but “impossible” comes to mind.  It’s very clear that there’s nothing in common between them and me … maybe even including species.

I’m still in shock. I mumble “hello” or something, and then my mother jumps into action. “Can you help me in the kitchen for a minute, Judy?” She almost rips my arm off dragging me there. “You are not going ANYWHERE with these yahoos!” she hissed through her clenched jaw. She thought for a moment, and then she said, “Let me call Jayne and see if we could just take a ride up there for about an hour.”

Jayne was her friend who lived a few miles away on a horse farm. Jayne’s daughter and I had grown up together. This would be perfect — plenty of people around — ‘cause I gotta tell you that these two guys looked like poster boys for the serial killers club. Then she went on, “You’ll get a headache; we’ll come home, send them on their way, and that’ll be that!”

So that’s what we did. Gary, Guy #2, my mother and me. I was terrified the whole way there and the whole way back in the car with these two Neanderthals who could have stopped anywhere along the trip and had their way with the both of us — or worse. I lived in the country, for heaven’s sake; there were a lot of dark, secluded roads between my house and Jayne’s. No one would have found us for months — if ever.

But, we did get home. My mom and I hopped right out of that car and said, “Thanks. Good night” over our shoulders, and ran for the door. The boys looked confused, but who cared? We were alive and well and … smarter (and that goes for my grandmother, too). Of course, I would have never said yes in the first place. And, to this very day (48 years later), I’ve never gone out on another blind date. I don’t care whose friend or relative it is!

J. L. Sloss is a writer of articles and short stories. Recently retired, she had a 40-year career with a major insurance company as a corporate trainer, marketing manager, proposal unit manager and proposal content writer. She is also a songwriter and performer with a four-piece band called Timber Line that plays local venues, including Drake’s Catering’s Garden in Chestnut Hill. She is a resident of Wyndmoor.