When I was in junior high, a party was a big deal. There weren’t very many of them in those days, so I was excited when I received an invitation to a party given by Cheryl Allen, a new girl at school.
Cheryl arrived on the scene in the middle of eighth grade. She was pretty and confident. Somehow she knew how to choose and wear clothes that made her look older than the rest of us. She immediately seemed to attract a large group of friends, especially the boys.
A big crowd was expected at the party, with a lot of friends from her old school attending. I felt flattered to be invited and talked Mom into buying me a new dress to wear for the occasion.
The party started fine enough. Cheryl’s dad barbecued, and we ate dinner outside on the patio. The atmosphere was casual and fun. Things were going great, and I met some of the friends she had invited from her old school. Then the games began.
During the first game, we took turns asking each other riddles from a game book. If we answered correctly, we were told to select a member of the opposite sex and kiss him “long and slow like they do in the movies.” I was 13 at the time and had never kissed a boy before. I felt so young, inexperienced, and out of place. Some of the others must have sensed my discomfort, because when it was my turn they told me to just give one of the boys a hug. How embarrassing!
I wanted to get out of there. But how could I do it without embarrassing myself further? I was worried what the kids would think of me and how dumb it would look to have my parents pick me up from a party at 8:30 P.M. Would I be a total outcast at school on Monday?
Then there was the problem of my parents. Would they think I was running around with a bad crowd if I told them why I really wanted to come home? Maybe they wouldn’t let me attend any more parties.
Finally, I shut out all these worries and just walked away from the group and called home. Dad answered the phone and said he’d be right over to get me.
I don’t remember what excuse I gave Cheryl for leaving. It really didn’t matter. I’m sure she knew why I left anyway.
I had planned to be really nonchalant with Dad on the way home and just tell him the party was boring. Somehow, when I started talking, my voice started to quiver and the truth spilled out with a flood of tears.
Dad was upset at first and said, “I’m going back there to talk to her parents.” My worst fear. When Dad saw the panic on my face, he must have sensed how sensitive I felt about it. Fortunately, he kept driving the car toward home.
Dad did most of the talking on the ride home. He told me about a couple of experiences he had at my age when he felt awkward around girls and unsure of himself. He really had some crazy things happen to him. Dad was usually such a quiet man. He never talked much about his childhood. He made me laugh that night. It was good for me to know that it was hard for other people to grow up, too.
I developed a real appreciation for Dad that night. We seemed to have a bond between us after that experience. I had seen a new side to him. When you’re young, you think your parents have always been parents and that they couldn’t possibly understand what you’re going through. My eyes were opened a lot through that experience.
As for school on Monday after that infamous party, I can’t remember what happened. I guess it really didn’t matter in the long run.