The Day I Became a New Person

Before I went to U.D. I was a very recognizable stereotype. I was a geek two decades before geek became great (by which time I was no longer that geeky). I was a shy loner. But then came freshman orientation. One of the key facets of that orientation was that each freshman was assigned to a T-group, short for sensitivity group. Within the group we were all strongly encouraged to speak up. This was hard for me but it was Psychology and that was my major. I dove in. Our leader was another freshman who had a few days more T-group training than the rest of us. I had a mad crush on her but it felt like she had 10 years of maturity on me. Maybe she did.
But that T-group set up my entire U.D. experience and probably my life. I became Mr. Outgoing. At the beginning of my sophomore year it led me to run for Student Congress representing Founders Hall. I won when no one else ran. Taking the one step forward when no one else will has been a pretty good life strategy for me.
The T-group sessions and my excitement at being at U.D. and 300 miles away from my parents was great. A day or two before classes started I walked up to a beautiful woman who was walking across campus and started up a conversation. You have no idea how unlikely that was to happen just a week earlier.
Other “firsts” would occur during that first September. I bought beer (okay, 3.2 beer), I smoked cigarettes (didn’t like them and stopped after my second pack), and I chatted up Barbara K.
Barbara had that carelessly gorgeous look. I didn’t know her even a little bit but I screwed up enough courage to talk to her in the Marycrest cafeteria one morning. I couldn’t believe that she actually seemed to like my attention. I asked for her phone number and I wrote it on the back of that cardboard that butter patties came on. One or two days later I asked her out.
Our date was for the next Friday night. We went to a bar called Alexander’s. I don’t think it is there anymore but Flyers my age or older will remember it. It was a few blocks down Brown Street toward the city center. Recall that this was during the first week when I was smoking and drinking 3.2 beer. That’s exactly what we did. We got along great and I think things were going very well. But I was heading for trouble.
At the bar we got a table and drank beer and we both smoked cigarettes. But I was a geek with a few days of T-group training and she was Lauren Bacall. When she smoked the smoke came out of her nose. How did she do that? I couldn’t. I made up for it by drinking more beer than she did. After a couple of hours we headed back to Marycrest. But my bladder was bursting.
Today, I would not be surprised to learn that beer makes you have to go to bathroom but this was news to me at age 18 and 3 days. At the intersection near the Frisch’s Big Boy restaurant I was about to explode. I danced, I tried to think of something else, I tried to determine if I could pee a little bit and not be noticed. It was so painful. Haven’t some people died trying to hold it in?
So I walked fast and Barbara kept up. We got to Marycrest and I excused myself to go to the bathroom as soon as we got inside the doors. She sat down in the lobby and I stood in front of a urinal for about 5 full minutes. Whew. That’s better. But I was so embarassed even though I don’t think she could tell how distressed I was. And while I had shucked my shy persona, I still didn’t know what to do with a woman who actually wanted to talk to me. After a few minutes I kissed her on the forehead (hey, that took courage back then) and said good night.
Barbara and I never talked again. I saw her one day hand-in-hand with another guy and I knew that I had blown it. I don’t think I saw her after my freshman year. But that day taught me many things. First, a very pretty girl could actually like me – or least fake it for one evening. Second, smoking cigarettes might involve convincing my lungs to trust my lips. Third, don’t hold it in, not even to impress Barbara.
I actually only had one or two other dates during my freshman year. I had one or two dates over the following summer vacation (Shirley E. was another gift that I didn’t know what to do with). Then in my sophomore I would have my first real girlfriend and the next person I dated would become my wife. Not much of a dating career.

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