Scenes from a Life: Shy Girl and Quiet Boy

Senior prank, senior ditch day, senior gift—these were high school traditions in my day and still are across the country. In my small southern California high school, we hotly anticipated another special tradition: Grad Night at Disneyland! The amusement park would shut down to the general public and allow packs of high school seniors to roam Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and the their own awkward teenage-land. With practically no lines for the rides, it could have been paradise.

Unlike prom, where we were expected to go as 1970’s heteronormative couples, Grad Night was usually a free-for-all; no coupling required. Imagine my surprise when a boy who had never said a single word to me before—let’s pseudoname him Gerry—asked me to go as his date. I was fresh off a painful break up with my high school sweetheart. (Okay, it was about nine months past, but still…) My ex had moved on to another girl. I was emotionally stuck in the past. So I thought, “What the heck. Why not? It would be symbolic of progress.” That’s how I thought in those days. In self-conscious symbols and meaningful gestures.

Like my ex, Gerry was a long-distance runner. Like my ex, he was tall with blue eyes and curly hair. The resemblance ended there. We had absolutely nothing in common and, with both of us awkward and shy, not a single idea of how to start a conversation with a complete stranger of the opposite sex. I begged two of my girl friends to stick to me like glue, which made it even less likely that he would open up. Ride to ride to ride we went in uncomfortable silence, never making eye contact, but forced, as dates, to sit beside each other, even on the two-hour bus trip home, sharing one bench in our own timid bubbles. In fact, the only two words he was able to muster that evening were: “For you” as he handed me a souvenir Winnie the Pooh at the end of the long, silent evening.