Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You can't have romance without finance

You Can’t Have Romance Without Finance

Mary is always asking me to write something about how it was to grow up in a small western town in the 1950’s. I tell her that Larry McMurtry has already done this with “The Last Picture Show”. Growing up in Dodge City in the 1950’s was a lesson in contrasts. My first thought is to use the analogy of Rush Limbaugh and The Wizard of Oz. But this does not seem like such a contrast. You have a man sitting behind a microphone expounding his attributes of wisdom and power. That’s also what Frank Baum did as the Wizard of Oz, so there is really little contrast.
Being a teenager in the 1950’s was, and still is, a time when little hormones are smashing around in teen heads like atoms in an atom smasher. Boy and girls alike run around in some sort of faux fertility ritual. Their thought processes are steeped in pure fantasy anchored down to the ground with parental threats. Most times the anchor cables stretch to the point that they are only being held by one small wire, the final threat of having to call your grandmother and tell her what you are doing in school and would she like to help you with your homework.
I have a fifteen year old daughter, and believe me I try very hard not to think of my days as a fifteen year old when I look at her. Thank God, she has her mother to guide her and to rein in my suggestion of activities for her. I have a tendency to over react where she is concerned. If I had my way she would go to a day convent and come home and sit beside me every night. But, mother steps in with some sanity.
Things have changed a great deal since I was a young teenager. For instance, she comes to me and says, “Dad, Can I have some money. Josh, (that’s her present boyfriend) and I are going to the movie”. My first thought is: Wait this is not the way it’s supposed to be. It should be “Father, I would like to go to the movie with the nice boy, Josh, who I barely know from school. I would like for you to meet him and make sure that you approve. I have a copy of his police record and his parent’s credit report for you to look at. I would prefer if you drove us and then sat in the back of the theater, so you can drive us home”. But, that’s not the way it happens.
I have this friend, Tony. When his daughter was sixteen she came to him and asked if she could go to the movie with a boy. His first reaction was to lock her in her room until she came back to her senses. But, as it should be Mom stepped in. Well, this boy was going to drive them in his parent’s car. That’s when the real negotiating started. It was kind of like the Geneva talks on atomic disarmament. The compromise was: she could go to the movie and the boy could drive them and Tony would follow along in his car. Then when the movie was over they were to call Tony so he could drive to the movie and follow them home. I used to laugh when he told me this. But, now it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
And one other point. When I was a teenager the girl didn’t pay for anything. It would have been a black mark against my teenage manhood if I would have allowed her to spend a nickel. Girls didn’t even need to know what money was all about. A carry-over from this is the guest menus in restaurants that have no prices listed.
One time this kid, Leslie, ask me to go the movie with him and his “girlfriend”, Susan, and sit with her cousin as her “date”. Now, Leslie was a good friend and so I said I would. At that time the funds you needed for a movie date was calculated at $3.50 for two people. That would get you into the movie, buy two popcorns, and two cokes. That was it $3.50. So we each put together the necessary funds of $3.50 each. I don’t know how old we were but we weren’t old enough to drive, because Leslie’s mother was to drive us. So on the big night we got all dressed up, at our mothers’ behest, and went to pick up the girls. On the way to the movie Leslie’s mother said, “Hey Kids, the circus is in town. Why don’t you kids go to the circus instead of the movie?” This hit us like the first booms surprised the commander of Fort Sumter when the South started shelling. The girls of course thought this was a great idea. And Leslie and I could not say a word, and didn’t think too much about it—then. So we were let out at the circus and Leslie and I went into purchase tickets. They were $1.75 each. ONE DOLLAR SEVENTY FIVE CENTS EACH!!. Yikes, that was all the money we had. We were doomed. What else could we do. We certainly couldn’t tell the girls this. Not Diamond Les and his rich sidekick. So we bought the tickets knowing full well that we would have no money for intermission.
The girls enjoyed the first part of the circus, and Les and I watched the circus of horrors. Monsters kept attacking us wanting us to buy soft drinks and cotton candy. And intermission was coming. What were we to do? We looked around to see if we knew anyone who could spot us some money. In those days we didn’t even know anyone who had any extra money. So there we sat.
Then the horror of horrors came—Intermission. All we could do was sit there smiling and making small talk as other people came and went with all sorts of goodies: cokes, hot dogs, cotton candy, balloons. I think, and Les would agree, that this was the longest intermission in the history of the world.
Well, we survived the night, but not unscathed. Our honor was crushed. We were social outcasts. We just knew that we were on the “Never-ever date list of lowly human beings”.
I like to listen to “Old Country Blues” on the radio. The other day a disc jockey put it as well as I think it can be said: “You can’t have romance without finance”

December 2009

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