Friday, June 28, 2013
After two dates of sitting across from or next to each other, I wanted a fun and active third date with Jason. I pulled the Ace card from my playing deck. I invited him to Dave & Buster's.
If you don't have a Dave & Buster's by you, imagine if you will your favorite childhood arcade, complete with games and prizes. Now add alcohol. Got the picture? I challenged Jason to my favorite game of all time: Skee Ball!
When I was growing up, we had Nunley's Amusement Park, which if you're not from Long Island, you would never have heard of. It is famous in approximately a 10 mile radius, and utterly unknown by the rest of the inhabitants on Earth. That didn't matter to us south shore kids though. We loved that Ferris Wheel, carousel, hand cars, motor boats, and teeny tiny roller coaster with all our hearts. I waited in line at the carousel longer than any other child so that I could ride the only pony with roses on her mane. It drove my mother crazy, but it was my favorite horse of all time and I was a precocious and stubborn eight year old. (Sorry mom!) She plied me with dimes while we waited for that carousel to come around and around and I spent all ten cents on the old wooden skee ball games. My father taught me to play when I was quite small and I caught the skee ball bug for life. Taking Jason to Dave & Buster's wasn't just about a fun night out at the arcade, drinking crazy cocktails and winning awesome prizes. I wanted to share a piece of my childhood with him. I wanted him to see the real me. The me I don't talk about often. The me I usually hide.
There's a dark and scary part of my childhood that I don't share with everyone, but I'm hoping that some of you readers can relate. I was bullied as a kid. I don't mean little boys pulled my pigtails on the playground kind of picked on. I mean the kind of bullying that stays with a person long after she graduates elementary school. The kind of bullying that makes a kid switch middle schools three times. The kind of bullying that ultimately makes a weak child into a stronger adult, but scars her heart forever. I was the nerdy girl with her nose in a book all the time (strike 1), clutzy and unathletic (strike 2), and expressed my feelings openly and honestly all the time, however inappropriate the time, place or audience might be (strike 3). I also never developed the "thick skin" other kids seemed innately born with and was wholly incapable of teasing back. When I got teased, I cried, I told the teacher, and I ran home to my mom. I consoled myself by spending even more time buried deep in my books, far away from the ball fields where I got chosen last for every team, away from the Valentine's Day CandyGrams that were never delivered to my desk, away from the popular girls and the birthday party invitations that never got sent to my home. I was the sweetest, most well behaved child you'd ever meet. It didn't work out well for me at the time.
But those Sundays at Nunley's, riding the carousel with my mom, playing skee ball with my dad, bumping my brother off the track on those little hand cars, those were my sanity. I have such great memories of amusement parks as my escape from the drudgery of being a kid who didn't fit in, who didn't do what all the other kids were doing. Amusement parks were the only place that made me feel normal.
Taking Jason to Dave & Buster's made us feel like a normal couple. The smile on his face as I absolutely whooped him in skee ball was priceless. We played racing games, trivia games, dance games. He is a good sport, up for anything, both a gracious winner and a gracious loser. I am less a gracious winner with a tendency to strut around flaunting my win in my opponent's face (sorry again!) I am far less a gracious loser with a tendency to pout. This is not a metaphor. I will cross my arms, stick out my bottom lip, and on occasion, stomp my right foot with sheer indignation over losing. Jason took me and my ridiculousness in long stride, wrapping one giant arm around my waist and kissing that pouty bottom lip every time I lost. He kisses were my consolation prize, but it felt more like winning to me.
We spent the night racking up points on our Dave & Buster's Power Play card, having more fun than any other date I can recall in recent history. Jason did something so incredibly special for me on that silly third date: He liked me with an unabashed passion, laughed with me with wild abandon, and played with me with a friendly, flirty energy I couldn't get enough of. Jason is a grown man with childlike enthusiasm, his heart open to the magic of infinite possibilities, dreaming of a life together, ready for a world full of love. And I am right there with him.