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The Best Turn-Down for a Date I Ever Got, and What I Learned from It

Gary North
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Jan. 1, 2011

First, the basics. For 98% of boys, aged 11 or 12 until marriage, here is reality.

Second, there was this girl. . . .

There always is.

She was a 10.

I know what you're thinking. "Memories of an enthusiastic male who had stars in his eyes." Quite true. But she really was a 10. I saw her at my 50th high school reunion. She is now an 8. I don't mean an 8 when compared to all the other 68-year-olds at the reunion. I mean an 8 walking down Sunset Boulevard. You might say a 7. You'd be wrong. But let's not quibble. Say a 7.5.

She was a 10 in 1956, when I first saw her. She was a 15-year-old equivalent of the little red-haired girl. I did not know then that she had been in the movies, danced with Gene Kelly, danced with Fred Astaire, and had gone on the road as a professional dancer. Nobody else did, either. She never talked about it. She still doesn't. She had walked away from it all when her father died. She was all grown up.

I wasn't.

So, anyway, I didn't drum up enough courage to ask her out for the next three years. I was Charlie Brown. But then, when I was student body president, and she was the elected secretary, I finally asked her to the senior prom. The Big One.

Gene Shepherd had not yet written "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories." I did not know what I was doing. I was asking Daphne Bigelow -- a nice Daphe Bigelow, a Daphne Bigelow with good sense. Which I lacked.

I had been dating another girl for a year. So, Miss 10 told me: "You should ask Susan."

Like a ton of bricks, it hit me. Of course I should ask Susan. Susan by then was not going to be asked, because the other guys figured she would go with me. Susan was at least a 7. Girls that high up the scale scare off most guys. They are high-risk, probable turn-downs. Guys play it safe. They are not devotees of "nothing ventured, nothing gained." They fully understand "No pain, no gain" -- and they prefer no pain. They settle for "pretty good gain, not as much risk of pain." If they didn't, the human race would be much smaller. Also, hardly anyone would go to the prom.

Susan was no Wanda Hickey, but the Wanda Hickeys of the world deserve to go to The Big One, and lesser ones, too.

So, I asked Susan. She accepted. I don't recall who escorted Miss 10. I hope she had a good time. I know I did.

For years -- decades -- I have pictured in my mind the guilt I would have had if Susan had sat home. At home or at the prom, it would have been a snub from me. Miss 10 had enough sense to call me to my senses.

She may have had a date by then. Maybe not. How many guys have enough starch to ask a 10 to the prom, then or now? But she did not offer a lame excuse for saying no. She offered the advice I needed. It was not some variation of "You're not good enough." It was "You have an existing obligation." She could have added, "you insensitive dolt." That would not have been a matter of adding insult to injury. That would have been a matter of redundancy. What teenage boy isn't?

A major mark of adult status is the ability to estimate and then assess the costs of success. Most men are scared off by the thought of failure. But the cost of success can be far higher than we think -- cost being defined as "the value of the most valuable or important outcome sacrificed."

What ever happened to Miss 10? She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1963 and married Prince Charming in 1964. They have lived happily ever after.

The only reason he won her over her is because he persisted. She initially rebuffed him with far greater determination and far less grace than when she turned me down. Someone had misinformed her about his intentions. But he had spent his high school years racing high speed boats competitively at 75 miles an hour. He had more starch than the competition.

Faint heart never won fair lady. Racing boats at 75 miles an hour in his case was teenage lunacy that eventually paid off. I don't recommend it as an entrepreneurial venture.

He really did become an entrepreneur. So did his son, who owns a successful regional micro-brewery.

Life in the fast lane never appealed to me. Footnotes are more my speed.

My wife brushed me off in 1968. So, I did the manly thing. I ran. But, in 1971, she changed her mind, got on a plane, flew to New York, and basically proposed to me. I thought it over and said yes -- a really good decision on my part.

Lesson: "Faint heart never won fair scribbler."


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