Big Man On Campus

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I wasn’t very popular in high school–not that I went out of my way trying to get popular.  It was the the mid-Sixties but you couldn’t tell if from looking at the kids in my high school.  No one had even wanted to go with me to see the Rolling Stones on their first visit to Chicago because they were “dirty and disgusting”.  I went by myself.  

They all dressed the same.  Not me.  I wore colored tights that matched my tops and my skirts were as short as they could be without getting sent home by the Dean of Women.   The Dean would make a girl kneel down to see if her skirt touched the floor.  I didn’t care if kids stared at me and whispered when I passed them in the halls.  I felt like I was styling, and I was proud to be a non-conformist.  I had Henry David Thoreau as my hero.  There weren’t any flower children yet in our suburb to hang out with.  

Boys mostly ignored me which was okay with me.  Most of them were conforming sad sacks anyhow and why would I want anything to do with them?  They had to be as boring as they looked.  But then one day a boy asked me out and this boy had even registered on my radar as something special.  He was the big man on campus.  He was the star of the football team.  He drove a hot car. He was the guy the cheerleaders would fight over.  He was the most popular guy in the school and he asked me out.  I didn’t have the self-confidence to ask him if he was on drugs or what possessed him to ask me out on a date.  I just said yes.  

Immediately word spread around the school.  I was new girlfriends with kids that had never talked to me before.  They wanted to tell me how great it was that I was going out with Joey Patalgia.  They wanted to know what I would wear and how I would fix my hair.  I told them I would wear the same kind of clothes and hair I wore every day to school.  They acted like this was unacceptable.  “Noooooo,” one yelped at me, “Not to go out with Joey.”  

These girls were going to make me nervous if I let them.  I was sure Joey wanted to go out with me precisely because I was the way I was:  different from the rest.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed that he must be a non-conformist on the inside too.  He couldn’t help it if he was popular.  I should give the guy a break.  

My neighborhood pals treated me like I had won the lottery or something.  Even the guys on the block came up to me and said things like, “We know who you’re going out with.”  “So?” I responded.  “So yourself”, they cleverly retorted.  But I was secretly glad for the attention for once.  Those guys had never noticed I was alive before.  

The night of the big date I realized I didn’t even know where we were going.  I just got out my best tights and matching top and threw on a matching headband for good measure.  I even tried ratting my hair to make it look fuller and wilder.   I also think I probably wore more makeup than usual.  

I was actually feeling pretty nervous by the time Joey picked me up–15 minutes late.  He wore his black leather jacket and looked cool.  “Where are we going, Joey?”  I asked sweetly.

“It’s a surprise,” he said with a laugh.

We drove past all the restaurants, theaters–even the roller rink.  I couldn’t imagine where we were going.  He wasn’t too talkative and I didn’t have much to say either.  I wondered again why he had asked me out.  If it was because we were both non-conformists, shouldn’t we be having an intellectual conversation or something?

Next thing I knew he’s pulling into the woods where all the kids go to park from what I’d heard.  What was he thinking?  I don’t even know him.  

He parked the car and pulled me over to him.  I tried to pull away.  

“What’s wrong kid?” he asked in a sort of nasty tone of voice.  “Didn’t expect this?”

“No, Joey.  I thought we were going out on a date.”

“We are out on a date.”  He said this in a mocking way.

“But I don’t even know you.  I’m not going to make out with someone I don’t even know.”  I was surprised by my own moxie.

“Oh you’re not, are you?”  As he says this he grabs on to me tight and pulls me over to him for all he’s worth. attempting to land a big wet one on my lips.

I pulled my face away from his.  “No I’m not.”  I repeat.  “I don’t know what kind of girl you think I am but I’m not the type to make out with boys I don’t even know.”

“Or you’re not are you?  Well, you certainly dress like you’re the type.  You dress like you’re as wild as anything.  And you act like you’re better than everybody.  I’d say you’re exactly the kind of girl I was looking for when I asked you out.”  

I realized in that moment how crazy mistaken I had been about this so-called date.  What was I thinking anyhow?  Why on earth would somebody like Joey ask somebody like me out except that he thought I was easy?  What a fool I had been.  What a fool he must have thought he could make of me.  

“Drive me home right now” I tell him, moving clear across the car.

“What the hell,” he said, “Might as well.  You sure didn’t pan out the way you advertise.”  

And we drove back to my house in total silence.  

Years later I still wonder what I was thinking when I agreed to go out with him in the first place.  Of course, it had to go down like that.  What other way could it have gone?


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