Norma Jean Got Me a Blind Date
So She Could Go to The Party with Another Guy
I was 17 and hopelessly in love with Norma Jean Salina, who had just turned 15, and whom I thought was beginning to like me a little, too.
Then one day she asked me if I'd like to go to a party — with someone else.
"Someone else?" I gasped in amazement. "What do you mean?"
"Well," Norma explained gently, "there's going to be a lot of dancing. And this guy Ed, who's a very good dancer, has asked me to the party. "But," she quickly added, "I have this really cute friend who doesn't have a date — and I think you and Bonnie would get along real well."
I was crushed. But she assured me it was just the dancing. Norma loved to dance — especially the jitterbug — and she was really good at it — although, how someone who went to Immaculate Heart (an all-girl Catholic school) got to be such a hot dancer I never figured out. But what could I say? So I just hung my head, groaned, and said. "Okay."
It was obvious that Bonnie felt as uncomfortable about this blind date as I did. But we smiled and shook hands, silently agreeing to try to make the best of it. We'd all met at Norma's house, from where Ed would be driving us to the party. (This was okay with Mrs. Salina because it was a foursome, and she knew us all.) As we drove to the party, I kept trying to tell myself it was "just the dancing" and that everything was really okay. Yeah — right!
Bonnie was a petite blond who seemed very sweet, and, like myself, rather shy — so, predictably, there wasn't a lot of sparkling conversation going on in the backseat of Ed's car. And who was this guy Ed anyway? Where did Norma meet him? And how come her mom knew him well enough to let him drive her anywhere? To say that I was being eaten alive by doubt, worry, and jealousy would be an understatement. I did briefly consider trying to get cozy with Bonnie, thinking maybe this would make Norma feel a little of the burning jealousy that I was feeling — but my heart wasn't really in it.
As for Ed and Norma in the front, he seemed to feel right at home with the situation — but Norma showed a certain uneasiness that told me she wasn't completely oblivious to my suffering.
When we arrived at the party several couples were already dancing to Glenn Miller's "String of Pearls." (This was back in the days when couples actually held each other as they danced.)
And, of course, holding Norma was what I wanted to be doing — but it was this Ed guy who would be doing all the holding, as he and Norma glided effortlessly into the group of dancers.
I'd almost forgotten that Bonnie was standing there. When I looked at her, she didn't say anything, but her eyes were saying, "Well, you are going to ask me to dance, aren't you?" So I did — but not without apologizing that I really wasn't a very good dancer. She smiled and said, "That's okay — neither am I."
It may have been okay with Bonnie, but it quickly became not very okay with me. About half a dozen couples had remained on the floor for the fast number, including you know who. And guess who the best dancers were. In fact, one by one, the other couples moved away to give Ed and Norma more room to show their stuff.
In the end Ed and Norma were the only dancers remaining, as the others had formed a circle around them and were animatedly cheering them on. "Great," I was thinking, "they're playing "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" and Ed's got my love to keep him warm.
Okay, so he was a good dancer — but what else could she possibly see in him? He wasn't all that good-looking, I thought, and — besides — he was wearing suspenders — wide, bright orange suspenders, for crying out loud! Only farmers and very old men wore suspenders. (It didn't help when, a few days later, I discovered this was the latest male fashion trend.)
In any case, I found the whole thing totally humiliating. And this Ed was so cool about everything. Well, I guess you have a right to be cool when you're the best guy dancer at a party, and your date is the best girl dancer (not to mention the prettiest). Oh how I wished I knew how to be cool! (In fact, I still do.)
Then, to add the final insult to the already unbearably painful injury, he dropped Bonnie and me off at our places first so he could drive Norma home last. And, sitting in a parked car, he wouldn't have to be concerned about finding the switch to that damned porch light that was always left on.
It was the worst night of my life.
Anyway, shortly afterwards I joined the army, and was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where I signed up for dance lessons at a nearby Arthur Murray Studio — and met Carole.