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OPINION: Prom night

by By Stan Fine, Columnist | June 1, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

She asked if I liked to dance. "Do you know how to; I mean, do you like to dance?"

I was a little taken aback by the question as it seemed to come out of nowhere.

"I haven't done a lot of dancing, but I guess it's OK." That was a shameless lie, of course, as I hadn't actually danced more than a couple of times, and then it, I'm quite sure, was pretty ugly.

The year was 1966, the second half of my junior year of high school. Robin and I had been on two dates, both to see movies followed by stops at the local McDonald's for hamburgers, fries and shakes. I recall that on both occasions, I ordered chocolate shakes while she preferred strawberry. I find it odd how I can remember the slightest of details from almost sixty years ago while, most of the time, I can't recall events from yesterday.

It's funny how some things seem to stick in one's memory. For instance, I recall many of the details of the school prom in my junior year in high school. The prom was in May, of course, and Robin was really looking forward to the dance. On the other hand, I was going, more so, just to please her.

I needed a tuxedo, so my friend Mike and I went to the local tuxedo rental store. There were a lot of boys there picking out their formal wear and, although Mike seemed to know just the right thing to wear, I didn't have a clue.

I guess I looked a little lost and after only a minute or two of wandering aimlessly throughout the clothing-filled store, a salesman asked if he could help. I felt a sense of relief because I didn't want to pick out the wrong tuxedo, which would make me look out of place at the dance.

The nice man asked if I had a preference or maybe, he said, this was all new to me and I needed a little advice. Advice, I thought, yeah, I needed a lot of advice. He asked if I wanted a tuxedo that was all one color or did I want a jacket that was of a different color than that of the pants. I hadn't thought much about it because all the tuxedos worn by men in the movies were all-black.

I'm sure the man recognized the look of confusion on my face and, after only a few seconds of silence, he offered to show me several different tuxedos. It didn't take long before I found the one that most appealed to me. It had black pants with a similarly colored stripe running the length of each leg. What could be more formal than that, I thought to myself.

The jacket, on the other hand, was the most sanitary color of white I had ever seen. When the two garments were held up next to one another, they looked great. I asked if a lot of other kids were getting this tuxedo combination, and he answered, "Yes, it's probably the most popular."

"Great," I thought. I'll fit right in."

I thought I was finished, but the man walked me to the selection of cummerbunds and picked one out for me. He knew I was then more a spectator than a customer as he filled his arms with all the other necessities a well-dressed high school junior might need.

The night of the dance finally came, and I think I was most excited about the mode of transportation Robin and I would use. Prior to that night, I had only been allowed to drive my father's old and beaten-up red 1960 Ford station wagon. However, on the day of the prom, my father offered to allow me to use his pride and joy, his white with red leather interior 1964 Ford Galaxy 500.

"Wow," I hadn't given Robin the exciting news, and I couldn't wait to see the look on her face when I pulled into the driveway of her house. Of course, before being given the keys to the car, my father had to explain all its intricacies. When he was finished, I remember asking about the radio, and he replied, "Just watch where you're going and don't wreck my car."

The look on Robin's face, as she looked through her home's living room picture window, was worth every bit of my father's lecture. I parked the car in the driveway and, before I opened the car door, she was coming through the home's front door. She didn't say anything, but the smile and the look on her face said enough.

I remember thinking how different, how great she looked dressed in her formal gown. I would describe the color as a soft pastel ivory, and I remember wondering what gown store she had gone to, and if she, too, was as uninformed in the styles of formal wear as I had been.

Robin's hair was piled high atop her head, and I had never before seen her with that much makeup. I recall that her mother and father seemed far more excited about the event than I did, and her mother took picture after picture of the two of us. Several had the white Ford in the background.

Finally, and only after Robin's father cautioned me about driving too fast, the opportunity came to leave. I supposed I was expected to open the door for my date, so I did, and I thought to myself how impressed Robin's parents must be with my knowledge of good manners.

The drive to the dance was uneventful, as was the dance itself. Robin and I danced all the slow dances and even a couple of the fast ones. The band played a lot of the mid-sixties songs and, as I recall, Robin had a great time. Actually, so did I. Following the playing of the last song, the two of us drove to a popular restaurant called Cyrano's and had, what I thought was an overpriced meal, but it was good.

Sometime around 1 a.m., the night ended and I pulled into the driveway of Robin's house. The living room light was on, so I assumed someone, maybe her mother, had waited up for her.

Robin kissed me and said, "I had a really great time. Thanks for taking me to the prom."

I now wish I had said something more eloquent and memorable, but I think I merely replied, "You're welcome."

Robin and I saw a lot of each other after that prom night. We spent a lot of time together that summer and, when the new, and last year of our high school days quickly passed into no more than a memory, we were still dating and dating no others. I don't remember all those days of my youth all that well, but I know there were other movies, other chocolate and strawberry shakes and other dances.

I do recall, and will never forget, the day we got married, the birth of our two children, and the forty-six years we were husband and wife.

Robin's been gone for ten years now, and there are times when I can't believe it's been that long. But then, there are other long days that I think will never end when I find it difficult to remember her face. I excuse myself and blame the lack of memory on old age.

For a time, I verbally contested the dissolution of the union between the two of us, but the day came when I realized that the end of the marriage between Robin and I was best for both parties. She had to go her own way and, although reluctantly, so too did I.

Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents, who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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