Posts Tagged ‘Young love’

My Love Lies Dreaming

 Seventy-four years ago, when I was age fourteen, I fell deeply in love with a whole lot of men, all at the same time. The roster included Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Charles Boyer, the boys’ junior high school P-E teacher, the University of Wyoming basketball coach, the clerk at the corner grocery store and the baritone soloist in the Congregational church choir.

            I had actual pictures of Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Charles Boyer and the University of Wyoming basketball coach. These were newspaper clippings which were concealed under the flowered paper that lined the top drawer of my dresser. I peeked at them every night. I never personally met any of these hidden loves, of course. But, on the other hand, I saw the grocery store clerk almost daily, and caught sight of the P-E teacher when I was in gym class. On Sunday mornings in church I was free to sit in rapture, which had nothing to do with religious ecstasy, and study the baritone soloist. In any chance encounter with one of the locals, I smiled at them in passing and they smiled back, never suspecting the amorous turmoil they left in their wake. Nor did my family or friends have any inkling of my covert, one-sided love life.

            When I was growing up it did not do to be thought of as “boy crazy.” One girl I knew, the first one in our class to wear lip stick, the one who later had a glamour job as usherette at the local movie theater, was forthright in her interest in boys. My brother sarcastically dismissed her as someone who “would fall for any guy around, even if he was a yellow dog with red pants on.” My mother placed great stress on my being “ladylike” and this certainly did not include any blatant self-promotion or coquettish behavior. My father praised me for being “level-headed,” and my teachers considered me a conscientious student. So, like Walter Mitty, I turned to fantasy. In my private world, I was not exactly Lady Chatterley, but, despite my inexperience, I did my best.

          A daring innovation in the Cheyenne junior high school curriculum was a class in social usage which was designed to prepare us ninth grade girls for the perils of high school. The class was taught by Miss Elwood, a white-haired maiden lady with prominent teeth who had somehow been up-rooted from the Deep South and inexplicably ended up in Wyoming. She spoke to us about afternoon teas, cotillions, the proper order for introducing one person to another and the gracious way to accept or decline an invitation. She advised us to always remember to put hand lotion on our elbows because if we omitted this step from our toilette, we could end up with calloused elbows which would negate any possible charm we might otherwise have had. In addition, she exhorted us to “keep smiling.” This would help us through practically all embarrassments. It was especially important to smile if you needed to excuse yourself from a social gathering to go to the bathroom.

            The word “sex” never passed Miss Elwood’s lips. Her sole advice on dating was for us to encourage only gentlemanly young fellows who understood how to treat a real lady. A review of all the boys I knew did not reveal anybody answering this description. I took refuge in my own stable of glamour men.

            The constrictions of my adolescence, when viewed by today’s lenient standards, seem absurd. I simply grew up in a time when we were never allowed any slack because of our “raging hormones.” Sexual freedom absolutely did not apply to our age group and if anyone had suggested sex education beginning in our sixth grade class, there would have been multiple cases of cardiac arrest among our parents. Nor did our families accept the teen age years as a period set aside for unconventional or rebellious behavior. We were viewed as awkward kids, not yet “dry behind the ears,” who needed firm guidance to reach responsible maturity by the time we “came of age” at twenty-one. This was not a perfect system and did not always produce the results intended. I do not expect to live long enough to see if today’s relaxed ways will result in a better outcome.

            I can only tell you that my elbows still look okay and I found lasting happiness with a gentlemanly fellow who looked a lot like the Wyoming University basket ball coach.