Tara, Ron and I were sitting at the large, circular unused teacher's table during lunch of my senior year. We were all in Drama class together - and we were lumped into the same lunch block because of it. Incidentally, this was the only year in high school where I didn't share lunch with my two best childhood friends. Tara and Ron were new friends to me - because we spent so much time together during rehearsals after school - we made a pretty strong bond relatively quickly.
Being born in New York and transplanted to the rural south at a young age can be traumatizing. I don't expect anyone to quite understand that unique pain that comes from being a Yankee in Billy Bob's Court. Especially when you're a child.
So, growing up - I never had girlfriends. Not even the lame kind where you never talk and just wave in the hallway. It wasn't until I was 14 that I actively started to want a girlfriend - and when a year had passed, and I was 15 still with no girlfriend - I started to get frustrated. Luckily - I got through being 15 by convincing myself that I needed to have a driver's license and a car to have a girlfriend.
That bought me some time - or so I thought. The reality was that when I did finally end up having a drivers license, awesome parents who would let me drive where and when I wanted (within reason), and a completely awesome car:
Oh man, do I miss that thing.
Wait ... no I don't.
Where was I?
So when I finally turned 16 and had a car, money to spend and permission to take girls out on dates - my singleness became almost unbearable. Luckily, I had a new female friend, Tara, who I could vent on.
Tara was a tall, shapely blonde and our salutatorian. She was extremely intelligent if slightly condescending. Bad acne and a poor family (little make-up and ill-fitting, out of date clothes handed down from her older sisters) meant that she didn't get much attention from the boys in our school.
Ron was new to the school - he'd transferred in after some trouble (bullying?) at another school district. He was very, very poor but extremely good looking. That said, he had self-confidence issues and wasn't very smooth.
Tara, Ron and I made a close, if odd group of friends that year. I regularly vented to both Tara and Ron about my inability to find a girlfriend. Ron was no help at all. He kept offering pickup lines. Tara wasn't much help either - but one day she got sick of my complaining and decided to lead me to water and shove my head into the trough.
"So exactly how many girls have you asked out?" she said.
"Well, I asked Amanda after rehearsal a few weeks ago, I asked Leslie out last month," I offered.
"Right, but those were your friends before you asked them. You can't do that. You need to find a girl you think is cute, and just ask her."
I scoffed. "Right! That would not end well. She'd probably laugh in my face - there's no way that would work."
She crossed her arms and sat back in her chair. "You've never tried it. You don't know that."
"Fine! I'll do it right now - just to prove you wrong!" I spun around in my seat and decided to find the most attractive girl I could at the table behind us. Of course, I wanted to be right more than I actually wanted a date with a girl at this moment, so I picked the absolute hottest girl at the table behind me. Kirsten Sweetwater (yes, that was almost exactly her name - although I didn't know it at the time.)
She had long, natural blonde hair - cute freckles and a beautiful smile. She was athletic and wore nice clothes. I chuckled to myself - I was sure to crash and burn and prove my point.
At the last second, I hesitated. I spun back to my table - there's a certain self preservation instinct that makes it hard to face unavoidable rejection. "That would be rude."
Tara rolled her eyes - "It won't be rude, it will be a compliment. Trust me."
Ron spoke up - "Look, dude, I'll do it, it's easy."
Suddenly, a fire rushed over me, from my spine, over my shoulders and down the front of my chest and through my legs. I was not going to let Ron ask her. I spun around.
I tapped on her shoulder in the noisy lunchroom. She turned around. "Hey, I've noticed you before, I wanted to know if you'd like to go out on a date with me."
The girls sitting with her made bug eyes. I braced myself. "Uhhhh ..." She turned beet-red. "I'm not sure." She started laughing.
"Ok, thanks." I turned around - that wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. I looked right at Tara. "See? What did I tell you!"
"Are you serious? She did not turn you down! She said she didn't know!"
"Isn't that the same thing?"
"Of course it's not the same thing! Did you see her face? She was smiling like an idiot and turned bright red! She was clearly interested!"
"Really?" I said.
Tara and Ron chimed in unison, "Yes!"
I turned around again, and tapped the girl on the shoulder. She was still red. Her friends stopped talking.
"So you said 'I don't know.' What does that mean exactly?"
"Well I'd have to ask my parents first."
"So ... you mean would go out with me on a date if your parents said you could?"
"Oh, yeah! Of course."
"Great!" I said, and turned around. Lunch was almost over. Tara was the embodiment of I-told-you-so. Ron gave me an approving smile. I fought an epic war internally to contain my excitement.
Kirsten came by after she took up her tray and handed me a note with her name and home phone number and walked away saying "Call me tonight, OK?"
Long story short, her parents said no to a proper "date" but they did invite me over for dinner (I got along really well with her father) and allowed us to spend the day at a local fair - and sit together and watch fireworks that night. It didn't matter - at that point in my life I wasn't terribly concerned with a first kiss or more - I was 16 and desperately seeking romantic validation - and I got it by randomly approaching a cute girl and asking her out.