By Amy Phillips Penn

My mother and her best friend agreed: They got married so they’d have dates on New Year’s Eve for decades to come.

One New Year’s Eve, when my friend Roxanne and I did not have dates, we went to a party at the Dakota, and did what every dateless girl did in those days. We sat by ourselves on a window seat and pouted… and then we pouted some more. It was a memorable night… at least for us.

Years later, I ran into Jennifer, my brother’s date from that New Year’s past.

“I always had a crush on your brother. I really wanted to go out with him,” she sighed.

“You did go out with him,” I replied.

“If you remember the sixties, you couldn’t have been there.”

At the dinner table my brother and I would tantalize each other with the name of our current crushes. Why do brothers never blush?

My first formal date was arranged by a friend of mine from the Allen Stevenson School. He was dating a friend of mine, in as much as 13-year-olds dated.

He asked if I would go to their school dance with his best friend.

“He’s going to be an actor,” he said.

I didn’t know anyone who knew what they were going to be when they grew up.

My friend’s mother called my mother to give my date-to-be an ok.

“His name is Richard and he’s going to be an actor.”

When Richard came to pick me up, he had a corsage for me. It was the first and last corsage I ever received.

Years later, once Richard had become “John Boy,” we met again.

“I asked if you wanted to go steady, and you said that we should wait until we knew each other better,” he said. “You were wise.”

No one has called me “wise” since.

Dating in New York had simple rules: the boy picked you up, met your parents, took you out, paid for everything and got you home by curfew.

One boy I dated, Tim, had an earlier curfew than I did. At 11 o’clock exactly, his mother would call.

It became a family joke.

“Yes,” my mother assured her.” Tim is on his way home.”

It happened every time.

My relationship with this triangle was short lived, but I did manage to introduce Tim’s best friend George to my friend Yvonne. They were Barbie meets Ken at first sight. Yvonne was ecstatic, in a Barbie/Gidget jump-up-and-down kind of way.

When there was a lull in my dating life, I asked Yvonne if George knew anyone I could go out with.

George declined on the basis that I was “fickle.”

I was 15-years-old. Fickle ruled.

My brother fixed me up with a football player who went to Trinity with him. We had box seats to a Jets or Giants game, I can’t remember which. All I recall is that it was so icicle-worthy cold that I made friends with the couple next to me to see if I could huddle under their blanket. It didn’t work.

My brother’s girlfriend, Annie, my-soul-mate-for-the-day, and I escaped to the ladies’ room at halftime. We huddled by the heater, and were in no hurry to leave.

When my brother sent a woman to page us and tell us our dates were waiting, we shrugged and shivered. Let the good times roll.

Dating meant movies, parties, church dances (St. Barth’s) and formal dances: The “Get Togethers,” (I kid you not), the “Holidays,” and “The Gold and Silver Ball.” For the first two, your date had to be on an approved list. Imagine dating anyone on an “approved list.” Sexy.

Each generation has its dating do’s and dont’s.

I’m still dazzled by a story that a friend’s mother wrote in her diary. She had burned her cheek slightly with a curling iron and could not appear in public for a week. Twelve… count them..twelve boys sent her flowers and sympathy notes.

New York girls who dated never knew what Dutch treat meant.

One summer, when I was in Florence, I made friends with two boys from UC Berkeley. We were on the cafeteria line at the university. I loaded my tray with soup, pasta, and everything Italian. It was time to pay. I waited for either Berkeley boy to do the “allow me.” It didn’t happen.

I took out my liras with exaggerated annoyance. The meal cost all of a dollar.

Ciao, Firenze. Hello New York.

Even the Statue of Liberty doesn’t go dutch.

Featured Image Courtesy of Digital Trends

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