Like most men, understanding women has always been an elusive skill for me. I was always someone caught between being a “guy” guy, and the guy who girls just want to be friends with. So that wound up meaning was that I didn’t have many dates growing up. In fact, I couldn’t tell you of an outing with a girl that I could substantially quantify as a “date” until the end of my time in high school. I blame this on two people. My Dad and Dana Carvey.
When I was in Grade 6, my Dad and I would play chess nearly every night while watching sports. For weeks I had been biding my time, looking for the right way to request his permission to ask out a girl in my class that I’d had a crush on for years. At that time McDonald’s was running “Mac Tonight” Big Mac ads on TV to the tune of “Mac the knife”. Fred Astaire types in hats and tails danced around fry boxes as Grace Kelly’s gave them those “oh you” gooey smiles back in a Happy Meal induced haze. It all seemed like a wonderful evening to me. And quite doable too. Big Macs and babes. At 5 bucks a combo, I was in. But how to get from the chess game to the golden arches was my dilemma. I couldn’t ask her and come back the next day and tell her that “my Dad wouldn’t let me”.
So one night during the first intermission of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game between having my queen taken and my nightly “Spassky Bishop Block” joke, I sputtered what must have been the lamest case for 6th Grade dating of all time. As a 6th Grade teacher himself, my Dad knew all-too-well the train wrecks that are 6th Grade relationships. He wisely told me no.
It was a funny era of life. Because both my Dad and I (as guys) knew that I wanted girls. He knew it because he’s a guy and knew what my man-brain was thinking about. What it came down to was that I had no idea had to get girls. I just knew that couldn’t eat Big Mac’s with them yet.
Dana Carvey’s role in my dateless life kicked in soon after. Long before I was allowed to stay up to watch Saturday Night Live, I would listen to it on the radio as everyone slept. Once I knew that I wouldn’t be able to take anyone ballroom dancing at fast food restaurants, I played the only card I figured I had in my hand. Making people laugh. If I could make a 6th Grade girl in a training bra pee her pants… she’d surely mop up and go out with me. Or so I figured using all the circumstantial data I could muster at the time. So I’d listen to Dana Carvey doing impressions of people I’d never heard of before. I’d show up at school doing Johnny Carson bits and full American political satire routines. I barely knew what I was talking about (my audience knew even less) but I was killing out there. My Dad was a classic comedy and vaudeville fanatic so we’d rent Laurel and Hardy films from the library and analyze why they were so funny. The laughs were great, but let’s face it, I was doing it for the reason guys do most things. To get girls.
As it turns out, even though every list in every woman’s magazine ever published says that what girls are most looking for is “a sense of humor”… apparently those magazines are published by people like me hoping that doing George Bush “wouldn’t be prudent” impressions is going to get them dates. I saw evidence of no such beast.
Things went on this way until my sixth (yes sixth) year of high school when one day in history class I felt a mountain of “I’m going nowhere fast” fall squarely onto my shoulders. She could read it on my face. She was wearing blue sweat pants and a big woolly sweater. In fact, she always wore big woolly sweaters. She looked silently at me with a bit of a pregnant pause, as if deciding whether or not to jump off a tall cliff into unknown waters. Then she asked me something that I didn’t recall anyone ever asking me. She whispered the words, “do you wanna talk?” I had no good reason to say yes. But that day in history class, I didn’t think about that. I did need to talk. So I said yes.
So we talked. For nearly a month, this very patient girl who seemingly had a new wool sweater every day, let me spew every sort of destructive thought that rolled through my mind (and a few extras just to see how she’d react). It was messy but she didn’t stop letting me talk. We had gone to school together for 5 years and had never noticed each other. We were from very different social circles and had very little in common, but the more we talked, the more we noticed the sparks flying. Something was up.
One Saturday night I picked up Miss Wooly Sweater in my bus-like Ford Econoline Van and brought her over my house to watch Field of Dreams. Understand this. To guys who are now almost 40, Field of Dreams is not just a movie. It’s THE movie. It’s got big dreams, fantasy baseball, playing catch with your Dad. Field of Dreams… hallowed by thy name. When the line of cars “coming to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom“, faded to black and James Horner’s haunting score cued… she leaned in a kissed me. It lasted the whole credits long until the final oboe had played. This was not the first time my lips had touched another’s, but this was my first… KISS. 3 years later we stood at the altar. 18 years later we have 3 kids.
What do women want? It’s never been about fancy dinners or being entertained. They just want the real, true, honest you.