At a certain time in my life, I started noticing boys were no longer annoying creatures making car sounds while running around on the playground hitting each other. Now they were People of Interest. Folks at school could be seen holding hands, and the boys, larger now, developed quite the macho swagger. Some girls actually talked to boys. Boyfriends were no longer passing notes asking if you liked them. This was different.
Eventually, the boy creatures and I began having conversations, and I started dating. I was a girl whose mother told her that if you let a boy hold your hand, he will lose his respect for you, while daddy thundered in the background that all boys were evil and I should not go anywhere near them.
When I was about eight years old, several of my parents’ friends’ teenage children suddenly got married and very soon thereafter had babies. With mother telling me marriage was a sacred bond between husband and wife, and God sent you children when you were supposed to have them, I thought nothing of it but undoubtedly observing those weddings, my parents were leery about dating and absolutely horrified that I’d discovered boys.
During this time, Disney was producing several beach movies, all starring Annette Funicello, a former Disney Mouseketeer. Bikinis were all the rage, but in these movies, Annette, upholding the wholesome Disney image, always wore modest two-piece swimsuits.
Of course, I wanted a bikini, and one day while out shopping with a girlfriend, I saw an adorable, pink and white checked one on sale and I bought it. This was a modest two piece, but when I got home and showed it off, Daddy was horrified. “Daddy,” I said, “the top is really big.” Daddy replied, “The top is not what we’re trying to protect!”
As I began dating, strict rules were put into place. I could not have two dates in a row; that would be too intense. I could stay out until 11 p.m. and not a minute more. If I was one minute past 11, then I was grounded for the next week.
If after an evening out, my date came in, he would hear a very loud sigh emitting from the parental bedroom. If that hint wasn’t recognized, daddy would heavily drop one of his boots on the floor, and if, despite my urging, the boy had just one more thing to say, daddy would get up, put on his bathrobe and march through the living room shooting a laser death stare at the poor boy. Only the brave, usually from another school and therefore not a student of daddy’s, dated my sister and me.
My strict, loving father was a man fiercely trying to keep the dating door shut, keep his little girls safe and hold back the march of time that would take us from him. As a young girl I didn’t understand; I thought he was being overly protective.
Eventually Judy and I both married, and in time I had boys of my own. When our boys reached the age of noticing that girls had gone from those irritating, prissy creatures to People of Interest, then I understood. I tried as hard as daddy had tried to hold the door shut, to keep our boys safe, and, just like daddy, hold on to them as long as I could. Now both boys are married, the next generation grandson is born, and the eternal cycle continues.
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell. And she goes hiking once a week – even in a forest fire.