Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dating Terri: A memory from the past

Reading about Dawn's date with a smoker, I recalled a "fling" from my past. Obviously, there were more problems here than just cigarettes.

Terri was hot. We were having dinner at the restaurant on the top of the First Union building in Charlotte. Her tall slender body dressed in a black and silver dress with strappy heels made her look as if she’d been designed for this establishment with its chrome and glass and 360 degree views of the city. From the glances of my co-workers and the whispers of their wives and girlfriends, I could tell everyone was impressed. Terri immediately struck up a friendship with my boss’ wife and together they went to the bathroom. It was our second date.

A few days later my boss commented on my elegant date. He said he was awestruck, until his wife came back from the bathroom and whispered to him about how quickly Terri lit up and took a drag on a cigarette, as soon as they’d gotten into the lady’s room. As would become an annoying habit of his, he told me he didn't think she was the one for me.

I met Terri in a bowling alley. We were both volunteers in the Big Brother/Big Sister program. One Sunday afternoon they had arranged a special time for bowling for all the adults and kids in the program. I saw her as soon as Teddy and I entered the alley. She was almost a tall as me and her smile lit up the room. She could have been a model or a movie star. I couldn’t believe my luck when we were paired off for lanes and Terri and her little sister joined Teddy and me. Bowling wasn’t either of our games, but we laughed and had fun and encouraged each other. Before the afternoon was over, we’d exchanged business cards and tentatively arranged lunch later that week, without my little brother or her little sister tagging along.

I don’t remember much about that date, except that she smoked a cigarette after the meal. That would have normally been the relationship’s death nail, but she was just too good looking and very intelligent. In addition, I was just coming out of a depression. My teenage marriage to my high school sweetheart had recently ended and my ex, who was pregnant with another man’s child, immediately remarried. Terri boosted my confidence. At lunch, I knew that the next few weeks were going to be hectic. I had a training seminar in Florida and when it was over, I was going to be moving to a Boy Scout camp, where I would be the director for the summer. Knowing I had a dinner with all the regional scouting professionals coming up in Charlotte in a few weeks, I invited Terri to be my date and was elated when she accepted.

After the dinner in Charlotte, Terri and I began to get serious. At first, she’d come up to camp on the weekends, after the scouts and most of the staff had left. We spend Saturday canoeing or sailing. One Saturday we headed up to the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain. Another we took in a performance at the Flat Rock Playhouse. She also began coming up during the week after work. We’d spend the evening walking around camp, fishing or canoeing. Sometimes we’d go to the campfire before she headed back home.

On one of these evening visits, we ran into the Rev. Dunn, a Lutheran pastor who was the chaplain for the week. Dunn was fishing along the cattails at the head of the lake. We stopped and talked for a while and he seemed suitably impressed with Terri. The next morning at breakfast, he sat across from me and began the inquisition. Finding out that we’d meet through the Big Brother/Big Sister program, he sarcastically chided me, reminding me the program was about kids, it wasn't to be a dating service.

Raising his cup of coffee to his lips, he asked what happened with a Big Brother and Big Sister got together.

Without missing a beat, I said, “incest.”

He busted his gut and I ended up wearing his coffee.

One Saturday night, toward the end of camp, Terri and I stopped by Lake Lure and sat on a picnic table, holding hands and looking at the reflections in the lake as we talked late into the night. We discussed our relationship. Things had been going well. I didn’t even notice her smoking anymore, even though I’d become aware that it wasn’t a casual habit as she was puffing a between a pack and a half and two packs a day. But then, somewhere during the night, she used the “N” word (Not nuptials, for we had briefly mentioned marriage, but “niggers”). I was shocked. This was 1984 and I didn’t think anyone, at least anyone who was somewhat enlightened, used that word anymore. Throwing caution to the wind, I expressed my outrage and we had our first fight. Before the evening was over, we’d dropped it and things seemed to be back to normal.

When the camping season ended, I threw the traditional camp director’s banquet for my staff. Sitting there beside me was Terri. I was on top of the world. The next day I took off for a two week backpacking trip in Southern Virginia. When I finished at a prearranged place, Terri met me and gave me a ride home. On the ride home, she extended an invitation from her parents for the two of us to come over for dinner later that week.

Her parents lived in the rural foothills. We arrived at her home about five o’clock and even Terri seemed surprised that all of her siblings were present. Everyone was checking me out. Before dinner, Terri’s Dad showed me his shop. He owned and serviced pinball-type machines. He also would occasionally drive his truck out to Vegas and buy old slot-machines, taking advantage of a loophole in the law that allowed “antique slot machines,” those over 25 years old, to be owned and operated within the state. These machines he’d sell or lease to various fraternal organizations.

I began to notice, from her father’s comments, there were a few things about me he didn’t like. Mainly, he didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t a Baptist and that I wasn’t a Republican.

Before things could get too heated, Terri’s mom called us in for dinner. I was placed in the middle of a long table, with the eight of them sitting around me. Her father, instead of sitting at the head of the table, sat across from me. Strange, I thought, but paid no more attention to it. We ate and chatted friendly. Then Terri and her mother removed our plates and began to serve desert. When they sat back down, things got quiet.

Terri’s dad looked me in the eye and said, “Son, my daughter tells me you don’t like the use of the word Nigger.”

All eyes at the table were focused on me. I was about to explode, but took a deep breath and said as calmly as I could, “You’re right, I don’t like it.”

He then proceeded to tell me why he felt it was a good word to describe a particular race, a race that he obviously had no use for. Then he asked what I had against the word.

“Such an attitude isn’t Christian,” I told him with a flair of self-righteousness, “and I don’t think Jesus is too happy to hear us belittle others.”

I knew I’d stuck a nerve. All evening he had been high and mighty. I continued to chided him about his slot machines and how he was skirting the law and how racism might be okay in his church, but I was sure gambling wasn’t.

His face glowed red and he began to cuss, wanting to know just who I thought I was to be lecturing him about religion. I’m not sure how long we argued, it all became a haze about this time. I was furious. As soon as possible, we left. I thanked Terri’s Mom for the dinner. She’d remained quiet throughout it all and seemed rather shell-shocked. Then, in silence, Terri and I drove back to town. It was our last date.


  1. After reading the first paragraph I got to wondering...what was she doing with you? ;)

    Was not dating any more a mutual decision?

    I like how in the midst of a story, you throw in a zinger about your past. Sure wakes up your readers.

  2. That was a zinger. I've often wondered what would have happened to my life had I married one of my high school sweethearts. As did yours, the marriage probably wouldn't have lasted long.

    Excellent story and I don't think I would have been as brave had my girlfriend's father asked why I didn't like to use the 'n word.'

  3. Murf, she was mad at me too. A few months later we talked a few times, but never really dated again.

    Ed, I was so mad and didn't care what anyone thought. Not only did I feel he was out of line, I felt that she had "set me up," and knew as soon as he asked that question that I'd had enough of her. In addition, it was my car outside; I had a way home.

  4. I guess a sparkly dress and strappy sandals can only get a girl so far with ya. What are your thoughts on turtlenecks? ;-)

  5. So...just for timeline clarification...was this before or after the Linda story?

  6. During the same time period, (circa 1984) I had a roomie who would use the word "negro" - all of her family would - and this was a girl who's ex-boyfriend's family didn't like her for being of Mexican heritage . . .

  7. Murf, question 1--I think turtlenecks are great--on a ski slope!

    Murf, question 2--in both stories I mention the year, you figure it out!

    Diane, Negro would be better than the other word, your roomie was only 20 years behind the times with that word in '84

  8. This was after. Thanks for making me work for it!

    So was the high school sweetheart the one that you were with during the Linda story? I'm thinking yes but I could just be getting all your women mixed up. ;)

  9. Yikes....I have to come out of hiding for this one, and all I am really able to say is YIKES...for once I think I'm speechless.

  10. You aren't a Baptist? Horrors!

    Oh, well. I guess no one is perfect.

  11. Murf, maybe it would be easier for me if I assign you the task of keeping up with 'em

    Non-angel, what are you "Yikings" about? Send us some snow!

    Kevin, I thought the Methodist/Weslyans had the market on perfection

    Karen, may you have a wonderful New Years too

  12. I am not surprised it was your last date. It would have been mine too.

  13. Yikes...beware of ugly things wrapped up in pretty packages with sparkles and "strappy sandals". When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time, sandals or not! Good thing you were a young'un, chalk that (those) mistake(s) up to childish lust. At least you did the right thing in the end.

  14. How much snow do you want? We have 12 inches of fresh powder as we speak, on top of the record storm still here from last week. If one more person says Big Al's "G.W." words about the weather, they're in trouble. Go look up "El Nino" and be quiet for this year.

    Or at least blame the weather on "El Nemo", those nasty little orange fish that swim against the currents, looking for their daddies and messing up global weather patterns. I'm tired of shoveling.

  15. I have been in the 'N' word situation before, all with family members of some kind or another-so disappointing...

    Also, I have been in the married to the high school sweetheart situation-disaster!

    Have you read "Never Say 'N' Again, An Antiracism Guide for White Liberals"? It is a tough read, but enlightening...

  16. p.s. I rather miss the buff backpacking picture...

  17. Anonymous, you should've seen the topless picture that I couldn't sweet talk him into using for his profile shot. Hubba, hubba!

  18. Kenju, at least it gave me some interesting memories...

    Non-angels, it wasn't just strappy sandlals, they were strappy heels. Does that make a difference? I heard ya'll been really dumped on with snow and here we sit wondering when if we'll have to have the yard mowed in January!

    Anon. I'm no sure how long I'll keep this picture, I'm not really that much of a fan of it, maybe I'll go back to an older pic--of when I had hair!

    Murf, thanks for the ego boost.


    And you're welcome.

  20. I like the photo.

    Terri and Fireguy should get together. He made a bunch of comments about Mexicans and people who are down on their luck. I knew it wasn't meant to be. We see the world in a very different way.

    Thank goodness.

  21. Make that 24 inches of fresh and fluffy.....

    No heels doesn't make a difference.

  22. Great story from your past. And I'm not surprised you took that racist to task. You're a stand up guy Sage. I like how you threw in a left hook with the gambling loophole.

    And your story highlights how racism is passed on from parent to child.

  23. Sometimes, Sage, stories from your life are just something else. ;)

  24. OMG..what an akward moment!

    I was lucky Martin loved me enough to ignore my smoking habit but I did quit right after we married. It is too hard on the non smoking partner.