Painfully shy does not even begin to describe me in the first 16 years of my life. I could not talk to anyone on the phone, I got straight A's in school because I was terrified of attention being drawn to me if I ever had anything other than the right answer and I rarely spoke a word to anyone.
This is a bit of background for the story I'm about to share.
When I was in morning kindergarten at the Van Duyn school in Syracuse, New York, I had an admirer named Billy Bartlett. He was my teacher. (Okay, that's gross even for me...just seeing if you were paying attention.) Billy was my age -- a peer -- a classmate -- five years old (did I just reach the point where I'm protesting too much?) In his attempts to woo me, Billy came up with many stories -- including one about him being an astronaut and going to the moon.
Apparently, Billy had a thing for the quiet types -- perhaps I came across as mysterious and compelling in my refusal to say anything out loud. Or, maybe he thought I was a mime. I don't know. But he did decide that I was the girl for him. And he was persisent. And because I was so shy, Billy somehow became my boyfriend (whatever that means in morning kindergarten), even though I don't remember having much say in all of it. (I learned later that this personality type is generally referred to as "stalker" who "preys upon women who are vulnerable and do not stand up for themselves" -- ah, the folly of youth.)
Billy's mom worked at the lunch counter at Woolworth. (How many of my younger readers are choking on their lunch as they read that last sentence? Yes, there used to be "lunch counters" and they used to be at Woolworth. Google it, whippersnappers.) Billy had his mother call my mother to arrange a lunch date one day after we got out of morning kindergarten. The plan was that Billy's older brother would pick us up from school and drive us to Woolworth and we'd have a leisurely, romantic lunch and then Billy's mom would drive me home when we were done.
I'm sure this seemed cute to the parents involved and I'm sure Billy loved it, but from the moment it was arranged I was scared to death. I knew I wouldn't be able to talk to his brother or his mom and just having to be somewhere without my mom or dad petrified me.
On the appointed day of our "date," I decided that I just could not go through with it and began my regular walk home with my friend, Cheryl. We got about a block away from school and a car pulled up next to us with Billy, Billy's older brother, and two other teenagers in it. Billy and his brother rolled down the car window and called, "Kathy....Kathy...." I stared straight ahead and kept walking toward home. My friend, Cheryl, tugged on my sleeve and said, "um...I think they're talking to you." Without looking at her, I said..."Look straight ahead and keep walking.." Billy and his brother kept calling my name for the next block or so (and yes, I could hear the other teenagers in the car laughing) and then finally just gave up and drove away. (In my defense...I was already the shyest kid on the planet...and was a nervous wreck about these plans...and then they bring in two other teenagers...just wwwaaayyy too much for my 5-year-old self to handle.)
My mom was furious when I made it home, and called Billy's mom to apologize. (I also remember a pretty intense spanking, though my mother would deny that if you asked her now.) It's amazing I was ever able to have a normal relationship as an adult.
Later that night, Billy's mom drove him over to my house. He came in with a present for me -- a plastic wedding and engagement ring set (likely from Woolworth) wrapped in an empty Cracker Jack box.
I guess the upside for him in my blowing off the date is knowing that it never would have worked out, anyway. I mean, an engagement ring on a first date? That is just moving way too fast. Also, who wants to marry a guy who's never there for you because he's in another galaxy?