It was the fall of 1965 and almost time for the Plantation Ball, South High’s equivalent to the traditional Junior Prom. I wanted to go because I was a senior and this would be my last opportunity. I thought about who I would like to take and finally decided I would ask Sue, my sister’s friend. A little background information must be shared here.
First and foremost, back then the guys had to be brave and call the girl on the phone (or ask her in person). We had to experience sweaty hands and risk the embarrassing cracking voice. We had to practice our speech that we would use to ask her out. We had to risk an older brother or sister answering the phone and yelling to their sister, “Sue it’s a boy who sounds kinda cute” and then experiencing her shy, coy voice say, “Hello” and our knees buckle.
Secondly, you always forgot your speech and had to adlib and what came out of your mouth didn’t sound anything like what you practiced and you wanted to hide but you were learning to be a man and you had no place to go so you carefully listened as she answered, and if she said, “Yes” you let out a sigh of relief that she heard and laughed.
Yes, sir! Back then a guy had to act like a man when he asked someone out. I am quite certain today’s boys couldn’t survive dating if they had to go through what we had to endure. It’s a fact, today’s guys are soft because when they ask a girl out what do they do? They just text or drop off a poster at her door and run.
Anyway, back to my story. As I mentioned, Sue was a good friend of my sister’s and before making the scary phone call, I talked with my sister about inviting Sue to the dance. She was positive and encouraged me to call and ask her.
After a long painful battle with my nerves and with shaky fingers I made the call, and I was fortunate that she answered and not her mother. My practiced speech failed me, and I couldn’t deliver it, but the message I wanted to share was understood and my ears heard that sweet sound of Sue’s voice say, “Yes!” I said thanks and goodbye, then I jumped in the air with a fist pump and ran and told my sister the good news.
I called two of my friends, and they were happy and made dates for themselves. We started planning the evening and were excited to be going together. I was the only one who had access to a car so I would be driving.
I will never forget the night before the big dance. I got a call from Sue saying she changed her mind and didn't want to go. She could have made up a better excuse to spare my feelings, but she just told it like it was. Needless to say, I was crushed and disappointed but what could I do?
In times of a crisis like this I turned to my parents. They empathized with my situation, but then my dad laid his advice on me. I was surprised and tried to reason with him. He said, “You know what this means don’t you?” I wasn’t sure what he was getting at so I asked, “What?” To my surprise he said “You have an obligation to act as a chauffeur to your friends because they don’t have any other way to get to the dance!” I told him I wouldn’t do that, but eventually he convinced me to his way of thinking.
I called Richard and Jerry and told them the news. I apologized but told them I would still drive them to the dance. They thanked me and a few minutes later I got a phone call from Richard saying that he just called his date and canceled. Jerry, on the other hand, couldn’t or wouldn’t do that, so I took him and his date to the dance.
You may think this story ends here, but it still has one more surprise. Saturday afternoon I got a call from Sue who called me to apologize and ask if I would still take her to the dance. I had already purchased the tickets and really wanted to go but I had some external pressure.
My mom and sister were standing by me when I got Sue’s call and they were shaking their heads at me to tell her no. I was confused by all this, and I really wanted to forgive and take her to the dance until my mother in frustration whispered quietly to me, “You will be a DAMN fool if you take her!” I respected my mom, and I didn’t want to be
a DAMN fool so I told Sue I was sorry and couldn’t go. After I said no and hung up, my mother put her arms around me and explained why she was so adamant and my sister also comforted me saying I did the right thing.
Sometimes as parents, we get the chance to help our children make difficult decisions. Of course, we want them to know we love them and want what is best for them. They might not always realize that in the moment, or even agree to what we suggest, but when we act in good faith and from a place of caring, sooner or later it’s likely they will come to understand and appreciate our love and support through hard times.
Happy Failing Forward,
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