Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Uniform dating code

In my little world it seems lately that everyone is telling me a story about someone who met the love of their life through an online dating service. “Perhaps,” they suggest, “you should try it.” I turn red, shrink down in my chair, and start to whimper. How do I tell them I have tried these match things and I have horror stories to tell about my misadventures.

You could argue that my point-of-view is skewed. Maybe I just had bad luck and maybe I just don’t understand the world of dating. I have had little experience dating. When I was 20 years old, I married the first guy I dated. Before that I went to a Catholic girls’ school. I practically had to hire an escort to take me to my high school proms. So when I met an eligible guy, a good-looking, intelligent young man with a future, I married him. Don’t get the wrong impression—I loved him and, despite lots of heartache, I don’t regret it. But after 30 years of marriage he left.

What does a single woman my age do if she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life sleeping single in a double bed? Soon after the divorce, everyone kept telling me that there were lots of wonderful men out there, men who would love to meet me. (I keep hearing the Rolling Stones singing, “They’re just dyin’ to meet cha.”) Some of these people claimed to know these eligible men and promised to fix me up with them. It never happened. Later these same friends coaxed me to try dating services or personals ads.

Nearly two years after my husband left, with the voices of the coaxers in my ears, I began to scan the personals ads in the back of Washingtonian magazine. Back then, before, it was the thing to do. For a couple of months I did nothing more than look at the ads and circle the ones I thought were interesting. Finally I got up enough nerve to call one of them and left a message and he called back. His name was Bob, he was an accountant for a company that makes household appliances, and he had never been married. He was vaguely interesting on the phone and seemed harmless, so we agreed to meet at the bar in the lobby of a local hotel—a very safe public place. Bob’s only distinguishing characteristic was that he was so bland I can’t remember what he looked like. Maybe he had brown hair, average height, average weight.

We discovered that we had grown up within a few miles of one another; that I went to the local Catholic girls’ school while he went to the large public school; and that I was two years older than he was. “I always wanted one of those older Catholic school girls, the uniforms were sort of a turn-on for me,” he confessed with not a hint of shame. Never in all my years wearing uniforms did I ever imagine that any of us were exuding a scintilla of sexual allure. What was this man thinking? What would the nuns think if they knew this about the boys who sat in cars in the parking lot back in the 1960s? The nuns called these boys “freshies”; surely there would be some nuns rolling in their graves if they heard this about these boys’ sexual fantasies.

Perhaps he had a right to his own harmless fantasies, but a first date was not the ideal occasion to reveal his attraction to teenaged girls in parochial school attire. This little tidbit was the least of Bob’s faults. After less than 45 minutes, when he ordered his seventh beer, I walked out of the hotel bar. He tried to follow me to the car and tried to kiss me before I explained to him exactly why I was leaving. “In-ap-pro-pri-ate,” I said, enunciating each syllable. Maybe he was too drunk to understand the comment. I just drove away.
So, what were these uniforms that stirred the lust of at least one teenaged boy? We wore camel’s-hair wool blazers with the school emblem on the pocket, white shirts, and brown skirts that were required to touch to floor when we knelt, which happened frequently. Our feet were clad in sexy brown-and-white saddle shoes with white bobby socks. On the final day of senior year, many of those saddle shoes were strung up the flagpole in front of the school. The uniform enforcers constantly battled with the rebellious girls who rolled up the skirts at the waist to make them shorter. For some reason the skirt rollers didn’t care that they ended up with a fat roll of fabric at their waists as long as they could expose a little knee.

We wore this day-to-day uniform every day for four years. But on a few very special days, perhaps once each year, we were instructed to wear our “formal uniform” to school. This special privilege was reserved for the high holy days at Regina High School, the days when Mother Provincial came to visit the school. Mother Provincial is like the Dalai Lama, the pope, the Queen Mother all rolled into one, the nun who rules all the other nuns. So when Mother Provincial came to town, we scrubbed the school from top to bottom and wore the fancy uniforms. The special uniform consisted of all the elements of the everyday uniform—blazer, skirt, blouse, socks, and saddle shoes—but with two notable additions—we added white gloves and stockings. The white gloves looked pretty silly with the heavy woolen uniforms, but the stockings were the piéce de résistance. This was an era in women’s fashion before the introduction of pantyhose, so nylon stockings were worn with a garter belt. It was the only way to keep up the stockings in the 1960s. Keep in mind the fact that these stockings were worn under the bobby socks and saddle shoes. Quite fetching.

On the 45-minute date with Bob, I didn’t tell him about the stockings and garter belts. Considering his lusty attraction to Catholic high school girls in frumpy brown uniforms, it’s probably a detail best kept from him.

And here's an old photo (my graduating class) that shows the basic uniform with prom variation.

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