She was on the Phoenix Suns Dance Team. Let’s start there.
She sat behind me in Public Speaking 100 at Arizona State University in the Spring semester of my Sophomore year. She was tall and athletic with long dark hair. Very attractive to say the least.
And she danced for a professional basketball team. Did I mention that?
I thought she was attractive before I knew she was a dancer. However, once she told me she danced for the Suns it elevated her to some sort of celebrity status. A kind of Phoenician royalty.
I wanted to ask her out so bad.
I had never really asked anybody out before. On a date. To an actual place. By the time I was in high school so much of flirting and courtship took place over email and instant messenger chat. Guys and girls would hang out in groups, or meet at a coffee shop or a diner. But there was never a real asking out to dinner and a movie.
So while I had spent my entire high school career flirting with every pretty girl in spitting distance (which is a terrible way to measure the proximity of attractive females) when I got to college I was unprepared to ask any girl for her number. The thought of it made me extremely nervous. I didn’t know how to ask a girl out on a date.
And that’s why twice a week, every week of that semester I chatted to the Dancer behind me as much as I could before class started. Asking her a million questions. Trying to make her laugh. Trying to make her like me.
Somehow I found out doing the voice of Donkey from Shrek made her laugh. I leaned into that one real hard.
The lecture would end and we would say goodbye. I never could muster up the courage to ask the question. I didn’t even know what the question was. Dinner? Her number? I was probably taking this way more serious than the other guys asking out girls all over campus. I felt it was such a hurdle for me. I couldn’t understand how guys would voluntarily subject themselves to possible failure over and over again with no regard for consequences. Like a bunch of blind goats repeatedly running into locked doors.
All I could think about was what if she says no? I couldn’t handle the idea of being rejected and then having to see her in class the following week. I was terrified of being embarrassed in the moment nevermind twice a week for the rest of the semester. Sometimes I knew when girls liked me. In this case I had no idea.
Regular classes came to a close before finals started. On the last day we walked out of our lecture with my other friend Jaime, the three of us headed in the same direction. At a certain point Jaime branched off and the Dancer and I were left alone. We continued walking and chatting until the point when we were to part ways. She was headed towards her car, and I to my apartment. This was it. This was my last chance.
I stalled, peppering her with questions about what she was doing the following week. She said she had no plans. I kept trying to approach the question in a roundabout way that might make things easier. Except of course, I just made myself more nervous, expiring opportunities with every aborted attempt. I kept repeating “yea I don’t have anything going on next week.”
I said it no less than ten times.
I don’t know if she could tell I was nervous but she kept talking to me. Perhaps she was fascinated by the blue plaid capri pants I was wearing which were kind of a trend at the time. Perhaps she felt bad for me. She was unfailingly polite as she stood there and made no overt effort to leave. She kept smiling while I chatted with her.
For 30 minutes.
I couldn’t get up the nerve. I was just babbling and sweating. Trying to psyche myself up. Finally, I knew to wait any longer would be futile. I pushed the question up from the depths of my vocal chords. Squeezing it out with all the confidence I could muster, which wasn’t much. My voice didn’t crack which was a win in itself. I asked for her number.
And she gave it to me.
In hindsight it makes sense. She wouldn’t have told me she was available and talked to me for a half hour if she wasn’t interested. But I didn’t know how to read signs back then. I didn’t really get cues. I didn’t consider us on the same level. I was shocked she would want to go out with me.
Now that I had the Dancer’s phone number I had a new worry. What the hell would we do?
I asked my friends (guys and girls) and my college mentor. I sought restaurant recommendations. I got a LOT of input. I spent more time preparing for our first date than I did studying for any of my finals that semester.
As I had no car the date would have to be near campus and walking distance from my apartment. Not exactly an impressive first date. And I felt it needed to be. I didn’t realize the expectations for college dating weren’t exactly elevated.
There is something about being without a car that made me feel younger, dependent, and somehow immature. Not that she would have been blown away if I had shown up in my 1990 Crown Victoria. Rich Boehmcke: Teenaged police detective.
My committee and I settled on a lunch date at a nice restaurant on the main street near campus. I planned the opportunity for ice cream nearby afterward just in case the date was going well. Since it was finals week the town around campus was quiet. We sat outside in the still tolerable May heat. And for the entirety of the lunch I did exactly two things.
I asked her a million (more) questions.
And I sweated profusely.
I asked her about her family, her major, her car, The Phoenix Suns. I was so worried about awkward silences or pauses I plowed through our conversation like it was a murder investigation. It wasn’t so much a date as an interrogation.
I am fortunate that while I do sweat profusely, it is not from my face, just under my arms. So I sat there, as a small cascade of Old Spice infused salt water ran down my sides, doing my damndest not to lift my arms and showcase the lake-size sweat stains that would make The Dancer think I was going through some sort of amphetamine withdrawal.
She was extremely friendly, smiley, and much nicer than she needed to be. She answered every question, probably asked me some, and laughed at my jokes.
I was too young, nervous, and smitten to understand if you don’t have a great conversation with somebody it isn’t necessarily your fault. I felt I had to be entertaining. I didn’t know how to be myself. I didn’t know so many things.
But how could I? For my first real date I had asked a woman whose part time job was dancing for thousands of screaming basketball fans. It was like I had decided to get into juggling and started with rabid wolverines.
After an indeterminate amount of sweaty time, lunch ended and we walked over to the ice cream place. The date ended shortly thereafter. There wasn’t a kiss, but maybe a hug. Which I shudder to think how wet her shoulder would have been after an immersion in my peat bog of an armpit.
Several days passed, where I obsessed over the amount of time I should wait before calling her again. I settled on three days as it was the common practice of the time.
I remember dialing her number on the smooth buttons of the white corded telephone in my bedroom. No answer. I left a message.
And didn’t hear from her again.
I was sad about it. I figured I must have blown it by talking to much. She was a Phoenix Suns Dancer for heaven’s sake! She probably had millionaires sitting in the front row of basketball games asking her out on the weekly. I was a sweaty, lanky, overly jokey kid, way out of my league.
It was my first real dating failure so I was pretty sad afterwards. Mainly because I had built it up so much.
Several weeks later I got a voicemail. It was The Dancer. She apologized for not calling me back sooner. She told me she had been in a really bad car accident that had totaled her SUV and was just finally getting better.
While I felt horrible she had been in a car accident, I did feel better she called to tell me. At least I had some sort of closure. I felt grateful she wasn’t blowing me off.
Maybe the date hadn’t been as bad as I thought.
But at that point it was the end of the semester and I had packed up my things to head back to New York for the Summer. I would be gone for three months. I don’t remember if I called her back but I know we never spoke again.
It’s probably for the best. I most likely would have died of dehydration on the second date.
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