The day I learned the facts of life.
June 27, 2016
It came about quite by accident.
It shocked me.
It stunned me.
It left me confused and concerned.
It was a hard lesson.
And I never forgot it.
Word came down from on high and ricocheted down the hallways of New London School that, on Friday, we would be asked – maybe it was required – to participate in the Sadie Hawkins Day affair.
Maybe you’re too young.
Maybe you don’t care.
Maybe you don’t remember.
Maybe you never read the Li’l Abner comic strip in your local newspaper or pored through the pages of a genuine Li’l Abner comic book.
He was big, muscular, and handsome.
All the girls were beautiful with low-cut blouses, sexy curves and wore skirts far too short to be considered mini-skirts.
In fact, they came around long before mini-skirts were invented.
The hemlines were ragged as though ripped from the cloth.
It was the first time that most of us boys, at least those of use in the sixth grade, realized girls had legs above the knees.
In the comic strip, all the boys gathered out on an open field on Sadie Hawkins Day, and the good-looking ladies chased them through hills and meadows, down dirt roads and across empty fields, under fences and over creeks until they trapped themselves a beau.
Catch a boy, and he was your sweetheart.
He didn’t have a choicse.
It was a test of courage and speed and the decision to yield to temptation, and, in those days, temptation always won,
It still does.
The rules at New London School were quite simple.
The boys lined up on the goal line of the Wildcat football field.
The girls gathered back in the end zone.
A starter’s gun fired its blank shot.
The boys started running like the track stars they were.
The girls started running with fire and determination in their eyes.
Up and down the field they ran.
Catch a boy, and he shared the lunch you brought.
It wasn’t love, they said.
It wasn’t bad, or so they said.
My friends and I made a solemn vow to each other.
We would not be caught.
It was a matter of pride.
It was a matter of honor.
God had not yet invented a girl who could run fast enough to catch us.
I lined up in my blue jeans.
I was barefooted.
I could run faster barefooted.
I wasn’t tall, but I was skinny as a rail.
If I hadn’t had an Adam’s apple, I couldn’t have cast a decent shadow.
I rolled up my pants legs.
I dug my toes in the dirt.
There was nothing to slow me down.
The boys all took deep breaths.
The girls were giggling.
The gun fired, and we commenced to running.
I was nothing but a shadow the size of a matchstick.
I was a whirling dervish.
And gone again.
I sprinted from one end of the football to the field to the other.
I could run all day.
And I felt like I ran all day.
No girl caught me.
No girl even got close.
And there on the fifty-yard line, reality hit me like a ballpeen hammer between the eyes.
There on the fifty-yard line, I learned the cold, sad, hard facts of life.
No girl caught me.
No girl got close.
No girl was even chasing me.