When I was a teenager, my mother sewed my prom dress from a pattern I picked out, using mauve floral material I approved – think Holly Hobbie meets Laura Ingalls Wilder. At the time I loved the dress, but it was truly hideous. It seemed appropriate at the time, since my date looked like Grizzly Adams.
He was a feckless young man, and at 25, far too old to be dating an unsophisticated high school senior. An unrepentant Momma’s Boy, he still lived in the finished basement of his parents’ home. On weekends, instead of taking me on dates he couldn’t afford, we would wash his 1977 Ford Thunderbird. He schooled me on the correct way to rinse the soapy wire wheels so I didn’t get him or my shoes wet.
His mother would occasionally come outside on the porch while we worked, her arms crossed over her ample chest, her lips drawn in a severe, disapproving line, tsking over my disgracefully short cut-off jeans. She considered me a godless harlot, and an unfit rival for his love and attention.
When we broke up, it was his father who let me in his room to pick up my things. At the time he wouldn’t look directly at me, and I didn’t recognize the quiver in his voice as regret my romance with his son failed. Since his wife thought of me as competition, the break-up vindicated her hatred of me. He thought I was a good influence, and had hoped I would become a daughter.
Two weeks before, while watching some forgettable television movie in his room, he felt compelled to tell me that after a year of dating, he wanted to find out if someone else had something he wanted more. He thought telling me would make it okay. That telling me meant he hadn’t lied to me, so it wasn’t really cheating. All I asked was whether she was prettier than me.
I lost sleep over his confession, then decided it wasn’t important if she was prettier, because no matter what, I was leaving and that made me smarter.