“Where the boys are, someone waits for me,” Connie Francis once sang. And just where were they waiting in my sleepy little hometown in the slow, sweet summertime? Well, let’s just say it wasn’t at our old cracked-concrete tennis court. But for me, it was someplace to go, and go I did – back in my pre-car, pre-cash mid-teen years. Every night after dinner, my friend Ann and I would dress to impress and make our way up cemetery hill to the courts to see and be seen. Guys would come and go. Some actually lobbed balls across the net; most were bored and looking for hot chicks (count me out) or reefer (count me out). A few even had cars — beat-up old VW bugs, Gremlins, and the like. Big black 6×9 speakers jammed up against rear windows, blasting Skynyrd and Steve Miller.
Those of you who know of my aversion to spongy sensible shoes will be surprised to learn that I actually did wear tennis shoes to the courts. And I carried my aluminum Sears racquet, with its white imitation leather cover. But that was as far as I went with the real gear. The rest of my getup consisted of tiny Levis cutoffs or long Faded Glory jeans, bare-midriff tops, and a puka shell necklace. Five dollars worth of Maybelline, half a can of AquaNet, a splash or two of Jovan musk oil…and voila! The package was complete. Ann, one year my junior, followed my lead and glammed it up too. We carried our thin wallets, hairbrushes, tiny mirrors, and touch-up face paint in our cheap chunky purses. As we were leaving Ann’s house one day her older sister remarked, “You girls look awfully dolled up to be playing tennis.”
What did she mean by playing tennis? We sat around on the bench and never once stepped foot on the court. First, we were too embarrassed for anyone to see us run around like the klutzes we were. Second, our shorts were too tight and we risked underwear exposure had we dared bend over to pick up a ball. Third, we couldn’t afford to break a sweat and get Alice Cooper eyes from mascara runs.
Alas, not much came of our tennis trolloping. Once or twice a guy friend would offer us a ride home, but it was never the guy we hoped for. Weren’t we pretty enough, clever enough, or popular enough? Such thoughts would consume our high school years.
I spent those slow small-town summer days of my youth dreaming, wishing, and waiting. An old Rolling Stones song sums up the mood of the time, and warns of the grown-up fears that would greet us down the road.
I am waiting, I am waiting.
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere…
Stand up coming years,
And escalation fears.
Oh, yes you will find out.
Well, like a withered stone
Fears will pierce your bones.
You’ll find out.
Still, I have such bittersweet memories of those simple days — sitting in cool ’70s style on a peeling white bench, with my back to a chain-link fence, wondering if maybe this would be the day that someone would come out of somewhere…to make me feel special…to make me feel worthy…to make me feel that I had something to offer the world. It would take many years, lots of wasted wishing, and dozens of bottles of Jovan musk oil before I realized that soul singer Tyrone Davis was right: what I was out there trying to find…I had it all the time. ME.
Here are the very young Rolling Stones, singing about my waiting days:
© Dana Spiardi, Sept 10, 2014