That was it then. My first real date arranged. With Debbie, the voluptuous, all consuming, experienced Debbie. I’d heard tales of her previous exploits with boys; I was still old enough ( I was 16) to know that boys had a tendency to exaggerate their achievements with girls, but some of the things that Debbie was famed for doing made my hair stand on end. Along with other parts of my body (I repeat, I was 16).
So, where could I go to get genuine advice on how to take a girl out for a romantic evening? At what point do I put my arm around her? Do you hold hands? Do I shake her hand when meeting her? When and how many dates later is it appropriate to have a man and lady kiss?
I couldn’t ask my friends. they’d just snigger or suggest something inappropriate. Ditto my dad. My sister was married and busy with young children and time was of the essence. There was only one person who could help me. My mum.
Sitting at the kitchen table that evening as mum prepared tea seemed a good time to announce my intended assignation with Debbie (dad was on late shift). As I’ve mentioned, Debbie’s mum Doreen and my mum were very good friends. Also, Debbie would sometimes call round on an errand from her mum and share a chat and a cigarette (yes, she smoked, it was sophisticated and exotic in the 70s, get over it).
“So, where are you going?” asked my mum excitedly.
“I thought we’d go to the pictures,” I replied. “On Friday.”
“Well, you’d better make yourself smart,” she said.
“If you’re taking that young lady out, you need to look your best. I’ll get your best school shirt and iron and starch it and you can wear your nice suit.”
“Par-pardon?” I stuttered. Was this how it worked? If I’d have been a little wiser, i would have realised that I was getting advice from a lovely, well meaning lady who loved me very much, but in all honesty hadn’t had to bother with the experience of courting since 1946. But I wasn’t wise at all, I was out of my comfort zone and clutching at any straws that may be floating by.
Friday arrived and the school day ended. On returning home, mum had prepared an industrial strength bath for me – scalding hot and full of soap crystals, which meant your body could be blanched and grated at the same time. I felt less Romeo, more pre-roast potato.
I dressed in the aforementioned starched shirt, kipper tie and polyester/wool mix blue suit. The 18inch flares on the trousers were a sight to behold. In a strong wind, they could quite literally whiplash the flesh from your shins. Since the suit had been a hand me down, the trouser legs were slighty too short, but the four button waistband distracted anybody from this fact.
I then descended from my bedroom and presented myself to mum.
“Ooo, you look lovely,” she said. “Here you are, put this on.”
I took the familiar bottle from her. My dad’s Old Spice aftershave. I applied it liberally to my freshly shaven face, which immediately reddened, due to the fact that splashing on Old Spice is only slightly less painful than having a volcanic lava beard.
“Now, here’s some money. I don’t expect you to spend all £5, but if there’s an emergency, you’ll need it. Oh, and give Deborah these and her mum these,” she said, handing me a box of Milk Tray and a bunch of flowers. She’d thought of everything.
With that, she kissed me goodbye and waved as I set off to Debbie’s house, trouser legs flapping in the wind, full of trepidation and stinking of Old Spice.
TO BE CONTINUED