Do You Remember the First Time?

I was 12.

The sun was shining.

That means it must have been around July of 1985.

It was a Saturday.

I have arrived in Dundee along with dozens of other young Mormon kids aged between 12 and 18 for a youth convention.  A day of activities, service projects and then, at the end of the day, a disco.  This is my first time at a convention.  I am excited and nervous in equal part.

At some point during the day I spot a girl with red hair.

She is pretty.

I think so anyway.

My vision may be impaired by the fact that shortly before I spot her someone has told me that she likes me.

“Rhonda likes you.”

“Who?” I asked but really I was thinking “Why?” and “What does “like” mean?”

“Do you like her?”

That’s when I had started to scan the room trying to find someone who looked like they might be called Rhonda and who looked like they might have a soft spot for boys in bright yellow jumpers.

Once it has been established that the red head is indeed Rhonda the question is asked again.

“Do you like her?”

I’m not sure.

I don’t know what’s going on.

I haven’t had sex education at school yet and my dad had given me the birds and the bees chat in a unique manner;

“You know my fishing rod?  It comes in two parts.  To make the rod whole you need to put one section into the other.  That’s a bit like what happens when two adults, who are married, decide to make a baby.”

That was all fine until I eventually lost my virginity.

The girl in question got the fright of her life when I appeared in the bedroom dressed in waders and started to gently prod her with a Daiwa Black Widow G50.

Despite my ignorance in matters of the heart and the loins I decided that I did like Rhonda.

“Yeah, if she likes me.”

Then came the usual flurry of furtive glances, messages sent by intermediaries and attempts to look cool despite the fact that I was a mess of emotion.

By the time the disco started Rhonda and I, despite never having spoken to one another, were officially going out together.

I had a girlfriend.

Eventually the two of us were spirited out of the Mormon Church on Bingham Terrace and ushered into the car park where we could get to know each other.  Getting to know one another involved mumbling, staring at our shoes, grinning and then…

We were standing in the shrubbery at the side of the building, pressed tight against one another up against the wall.

We were kissing.

I felt sick.

I was fairly sure that I shouldn’t be doing this.

Boys and girls in the Mormon faith are not meant to start dating until they are 16.

I was worried that God was watching and that I was going to get into an awful lot of trouble for this dreadful breach of the law of chastity.

At the same time there was a strange and new sensation in my tummy.

I now know that that sensation was lust.

The kissing went on for a while then we snuck back into the disco.

I had gone into the car park a boy.

I returned to the disco…a man.

The journey home from Dundee was a blur.

Everything had changed now.

Nothing could ever be the same.

I loved Rhonda.

Rhonda loved me.

I felt nothing but pity for the me who had left his home that morning…oblivious to what love was, to what it meant to be a man.

Poor, poor, sweet, naive Max.

After Church the next day I called a friend in Dundee to get Rhonda’s number.

In all the excitement I had forgotten to ask her.

“Why do you want that?” he asked me.

“We are in love.  I kissed her and everything.” I told him.

There was an awkward silence on the other end of the ‘phone.

“I saw her kissing someone after you left.” my friend told me.

And just like that it was over.

I had loved.

Now I had lost.

In less than twenty-four hours I had gone from King of the world to a schmuck.

I trudged back to my bedroom and took out my copy of the “Best of the Beach Boys”.

I listened to “Help Me Rhonda”.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Each time I turned up the volume to drown out the sound of my sobbing.



Wasn’t I enough?

Eventually my dad came into my bedroom and instructed me to both turn down the volume and play something else.  I couldn’t tell him what was going on.  How could I?  What could he know of love?  He had been married forever.  He didn’t know what it was like to meet the one and then to discover that the one didn’t love you after all.  I pitied my dad…pitied his silly romantic notions of love born of his lack of experience in affairs of the heart.

It took a long time to get over Rhonda.

Four weeks.

Four long weeks.

That was when the next disco was.


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