Fifty-four years ago, in 1962, I came of age. Not just because I graduated from high school at the tender age of 16. And not because I shortly afterward landed my first job. (Prudential Assurance, corner of Dorchester and University.)
No – it was because I found out that some men could not be trusted to simply be kind.
For my grad dance that year, my parents went all out and paid for my lovely champagne chiffon dress, matching shoes and pristine new hairdo.
Since in those days going to a dance solo or with other girls wasn’t done, I had to have a date. Whoooo could it be, I wondered. Finally I asked someone who was a friend of a friend of a friend. Big mistake.
Oh, on the surface he was presentable. He brought me a corsage. He had a car. He put on a suit. He looked nice. My dad snapped pictures.
We put in a little time at the dance in the school gym (where for some reason the attendance was sadly sparse), and spent an equally short stint at someone’s basement house party. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anyone I knew at either of those venues, so I felt – on his behalf as well – like a fish out of water.
Another bad omen was that we apparently didn’t have much in common, and therefore not a lot to talk about. Awkward silences abounded.
Finally we ended up at the restaurant my grad class had reserved – the ultra-swanky Altitude 737 (named for its elevation in feet above sea level). For non-Montrealers, or those of a more tender age, this was the place to which you would bring someone you really wanted to impress. Expensive, fancy, and oh what a view! It was in the penthouse perched atop Place Ville Marie, our city’s iconic cruciform (cross-shaped) building downtown.
We had no sooner walked in and were seated at a table, when he spotted people he knew a couple of aisles over. He said to me, “I’ll be back in a minute,” and was gone.
I waited for what seemed like forever, all the while sitting there alone, cheeks aflame with embarrassment, as he made himself comfy in a booth with several others from my graduating class – girls (and guys) I wasn’t friends with, and who, by the way, had always behaved like true snobs around me. He did not wave me over. I had no desire to join them, anyway… but it would have been nice to have at least been invited. It would have been nicest had he returned to our booth after, say, a minute. But he never looked back at me. More time passed. I got up to leave.
This was when I learned: Always have money with you for a taxi. I put it to good use.
* This picture was used to illustrate an article I had published in a (now-defunct) magazine in 1995. I like to think I had nothing to do with the publication’s demise. I had to scan this shot from the magazine, as they never sent me back my original photo!