Beauty pageants, teenage boys and drive in movies – if only I had the confidence back then that I have now – what a different story I could tell.
When I was 19, my body was no longer a virgin but the rest of me was. Despite having had a hot and heavy relationship with my 14-year-old high school sweetheart, I still didn’t know much about girls — and virtually nothing about women. I was shy, awkward and tongue-tied around any desirable female, which makes this story all the sadder.
I was working as a salesperson at an electronics store in Hollywood back then. One Saturday morning, a hurried man came in needing some batteries for some gizmo. We chatted a bit, and he suddenly asked me what I was doing later. “Why?” I asked. He said he needed some extra guards to provide security backstage at the Miss California Beauty Pageant happening later that same day. He said it was a volunteer position but that just being there would be great compensation.
He then asked if I had a male friend who could do the same. Not knowing what to think, I said yes and immediately called my high school buddy, Rick Larsen, my only friend back then. I told Rick this whole thing might be a farce, but we would never forgive ourselves if we didn’t check it out.
It was real. It was amazing. There we were. Two 19-year-old very sexually hungry guys hanging out next to dressing rooms filled with scores of very beautiful scantily dressed girls. It’s all a blur to me now because at the time, my senses were completely overwhelmed.
Our only job that day was to make sure that nobody went into those dressing rooms. We grinned a lot, kept telling each other that we couldn’t believe we were actually there and made sure that no one (except the girls) went into the rooms. No one did, of course, because we did such a fine job! (Actually, no other men were allowed in that area except us.) The beautiful girls were too busy to talk to either of us but it almost didn’t matter. The visuals were stunning.
After the show, which we never saw it because we were backstage, we were invited to a sit-down dinner with the contestants. I was seated next to Miss Chowchilla, Madera County, California. She had been voted “Miss Congeniality” by all of the other girls. She was fun and very, very pretty with long dark hair and a wonderful, disarming smile. We chatted and she must have liked me because she gave me her number. Fueled by flaming teenage hormones, I skipped over my shy comfort zone and told her I’d like to see her again.
I called her a few days later and said that I would be happy to drive up to Chowchilla for a visit, but wanted to bring my best friend Rick. She said that wouldn’t be a problem because she had a close girlfriend she thought he would like.
So Rick and I got into my deep blue, super-fast, former Minnesota undercover police car, a 1959 Plymouth, and headed off on our adventure to mysterious Chowchilla (means “Murderers” in Native American lore). We picked up the girls and took them to see a movie at the local drive-in, the place where boys took girls when they wanted to get to know them “better.”
My friend Rick was tallish, slender and very nice looking. He was also very smooth with his charming, flirtatious lines and good manners. Shortly after the movie started, he began making out with the friend of Miss Chowchilla in the back seat. The hot, sexual energy emanating from that rear section of the car was overpowering.
So, what about me and my date, the lovely Miss C? I sat frozen in time and space; my mouth incapable of uttering words, my body paralyzed and unresponsive. My eyes were glued to the movie screen. I alternated between sort of watching the film and imagining I was completely alone. I remember Miss C trying to make some polite conversation and me giving stupid, one word answers. She tried sitting close to me but pulled back when I didn’t respond. I was terrified and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel sexually turned on, I simply felt dumb for being so inadequate. At some point before the end of the film, Miss Chowchilla had had enough. She coldly insisted I drive her and her friend home.
The drive wasn’t long but it was torturous. I felt terrible sitting next to this very lovely girl who now, was very stiff and unfriendly. Meanwhile, the passionate sounds continued to emanate from the back seat.
There was nothing much more to say as the girls got out of the car. I tried to mumble something to Miss C as she walked away, but she had already turned into a tantalizing, future memory of what might have been.
Rick and I decided that it was too late to drive all the way back to Hollywood, so we found a dark field of tall greenery and plowed into it with my car. I was too upset to care where we slept.
A short while later, a frightening burst of light lit up the inside of the car. It was a cop with a flashlight wondering what we were doing there. I tried to explain that we had just driven to Chowchilla to meet some friends. To prove we weren’t vagrants, he made us open our wallets and show we had cash. He then directed us to a parking lot in back of the local police station where he said we could sleep safely. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t felt sorry for me because of the pitifully sad and forlorn expression I must have had on my face.
Some days, after we’d gotten back, I searched inside myself and found a little courage. I called Miss C only to have my ear become frozen by whatever it was she said to me. (Thankfully, I don’t remember.) Rick, on the other hand, drove up one more time to meet with his back seat date and that made me feel even worse.
Feeling unattractive and inadequate, it took me many years to overcome my shyness with women. Now, I look back fondly on my Chowchilla experience. I wish I could remember Miss Cowchilla’s name. I’d love to let her know how much I now appreciate her having flirted with me back then. I’d also love to tell her how badly I wanted to flirt back and get a kiss or two.
Maybe in my next life, when I return as a 19-year-old, I’ll know better. Maybe I’ll sit closer and not watch the movie.
Copyright © 2016 Alexander Lehr
Alexander Lehr is a singular writer, producer, entrepreneur, actor, artist, dreamer and community volunteer. He has always enjoyed entertaining people. He has produced countless plays, concerts, shows (of all kinds), films, music videos, theme parties, and many other events. He loves cats, dogs, critters, mysterious women, classic cars, overgrown gardens, castles, road trips and appreciating what is instead of what isn’t.