The year was 1967. The town was Northport, New York, and I was fifteen years old. It was soon to be the ‘Summer of Love’ in San Francisco and about to be just another summer in my town. Except when I remember that first date. That summer of sexuality and that first date. Remembering that summer makes me think of the “Me Too Movement” and what responsibilities women have, what part do we play? Do we inadvertently seduce the men? Do we ‘sometimes ask for it’? Ultimately the answer is no. Definitely no. But remembering that first terrible date I’m also remembering my actions and my behavior. Innocent yet inviting. So that spring we all became friends. Northport High school, home to Patti LuPone and Edie Falco among others, was were we spent our time. We listened to the Beatles, focused on good grades, played in the band or did costume design for the school plays. Since we were still too young to drive, the bunch of us would often walk home together. Two and a half miles, roughly fifty minutes, but on beautiful spring days the miles and time flew by. We all lived close to each other and five minutes from downtown Northport.
Northport, a cute harbor town with lots of history and lots of charm. Sometimes we’d stop at the Sweet Shop before going our separate ways or sometimes we’d spend extra time hanging out on the dock, watching boats and sea gulls drift by. We were aware of the Vietnam War and the Peace Movement but most of us just thought about the feelings within us.
It was Pauline, aka Pauli, Sam, Jack, myself and sometimes Mary. Sam played in the band, Jack played the accordion, Pauli was raised by her alcoholic mother, Mary studied tons, and I was an only child who wondered what my future would be.
Both my parents worked for the school system so we were fortunate to have time and money to travel. The previous summer we had traveled in Europe. It was a long two month trip, visiting France, Italy, and Denmark. I digress but it’s important to my story.
I discovered Europe was freer than white middle class Northport. It was more risqué,
more sensual. That’s where I bought my first and only bikini, Paris France. That’s where I saw topless dancers and felt the heat rise within me.
But back to Northport. Most of that spring we hung out together walking home, sharing stories and being a group of friends. Suddenly, by early May, it seemed things were changing. Pauli was getting a crush on Jack. I was getting a crush on Sam, as was Mary. I guess Sam liked me best and we started spending more and more time together. Sometimes he’d walk me home after we said goodbye to the others and sitting on my patio we started kissing, French kissing.
I thought I was in love, but then, his father got a new job and they moved. They moved the day after school ended. I was heartbroken. Naturally I wrote letters everyday and he responded. But, apparently Mary wrote him letters too and by the beginning of July I got my “Dear John” letter. Apparently Sam liked Mary’s intelligence more than my flirtatious self. I was devastated.
To cheer me up Jack and Pauli took me to the beach for a Fourth of July party. Jack’s brother had a car and he and his girlfriend drove us the short distance. I wore my bikini under my short shift dress. Now I must tell you, even though my hormones were raging I was still shy. When I took off my shift, the bikini made me feel uncomfortable. The whistles and looks made me uncomfortable. But, damn, I did look good. A pink and green French bikini on a slim fifteen-year-old with long flowing brown hair. Actually, I have a picture of myself somewhere and I still have the bikini. The padded foam is old and crumbling but the colors are still vibrant. Anyway, I wore that on the beach. And that evening, just before we jumped into the car to head home, Jack pulled me aside and asked me out.
“Will Pauli be going with us?” I asked, assuming he meant a group date.
“Oh, no, she’s busy” he said.
So was this to be a real date the following weekend? I really didn’t think so. I said yes, but I must say I didn’t find Jack that attractive. He always had greasy hair, straight, black and long . He also had an elongated nose and was my height. Oh, he was intelligent but he had some anger in him, some frustration with his family dynamics and just wasn’t cute. Besides, I already had my eye on David. He was in the grade above me, tall and handsome. He was dating someone else, though. And didn’t Jack know Pauli was super in love with him? Anyway a real date? Maybe not, maybe he just wanted to talk to me about Pauli. So I said yes. Why not? It was the summer and I was free.
Mid week the florist delivered a box of twelve long stemmed red roses. The card only read “your secret admirer”. Now who could have sent them to me? Sam, maybe, had he changed his mind? David, I had run into him at the library the day before? Someone else? Who could it be? Jack never entered my mind.
Saturday came and my parents went out. They had a long day in the city. I crawled up on our roof to sunbath. The black asphalt tiles collected the heat and made a perfect sauna. My version of a tanning booth. Then I did my hair and dressed. A simple shift dress I had made in my home economics class. A Simplicity pattern using paisley fabric. This was no big deal. Two friends going downtown for dinner to eat some fish and chips at Skipper’s then maybe a walk on the dock, and home. I’d be back early and in enough time to watch “Mission Impossible”. I loved that show! Maybe I’d invite Jack to watch it with me, but probably not.
He insisted he meet me at the house. He lived on the same street as me, Lewis Road. He walked down to get me, then we’d walked past his house to get downtown. Oh my, he seemed to be such a gentleman. He was decently dressed, a button up shirt and tan slacks and his hair didn’t appear greasy. Still, I didn’t find him attractive.
He noticed the roses when he walked in. “Oh”, he asked, “you have a secret admirer?”
I laughed. “That’s what the card said.” Still I had no clue.
He sort of put his hand on my shoulder as we walked downtown, but I skipped ahead enjoying the balmy summer air. Dinner was okay. We talked about the rest of the summer and our plans. I was taking a three week vacation with my parents and he was playing at various gigs in the city. He really didn’t like the accordion but he was making money and that’s what counted. He never once mentioned Pauli and so I didn’t either. We got ice cream for dessert and sat on the dock watching the boats come in for the night. All friendly, and all rather boring.
After ice cream we headed home, walking through town and up Library Hill.
When we got to my house I asked him in for an Orange Crush. This was my favorite soda. I took it out to the patio and we sat watching the fireflies and enjoying the cool breeze. I still hadn’t decided if I should ask him to watch TV with me.
I must say I was surprised when he produced a small package hidden in his pocket.
“I bought this for you,” he said handing it to me.
“Oh, thanks, you shouldn’t have”, was all I could think to say.
Carefully I removed the gift wrapping and opened the box. A delicate locket was inside.
“Open it,” he said.
Carefully I opened the latch and inside were two photos of roses. Red roses. “From your secret admirer,” he added smiling.
I gulped. How dumb was I? I had no clue. I thought we were just friends. I knew he had a slight crush on me but what about Pauli?
“What about Pauli?” I stammered.
“Oh, she’s just a friend. It’s you I love. You sure looked hot in your authentic French bikini. You’re the girl for me.” Jack said reaching for my hand.
Pulling my hand away I knocked over the soda spilling it on my dress. “Oh, gee, I have to change, I’m soaking wet!”
Quickly I opened the screen door and went to my bedroom. I didn’t realize Jack had followed me.
As I reached to unzip my dress I heard Jack say, “Here, let me do that for you.” Quickly, and before I could resist, he unzipped my dress and undid my bra.
What was happening? Had I lead him on? Did Sam gossip about me? I had loved Sam and we had just kissed, a small amount of French kissing, consensual kissing. What was happening now was crazy.
I struggled. I’d scream but no one was home. As I struggled my dress slipped off. Jack began chasing me around the bed. I was terrified.
Fortunately, I managed to run out of the room, slammed the door in his face. I ran into the living room and quickly opened the hall closet and pulled on a coat then ran outside. I stood under the lamplight knowing cars drove frequently.
Moments later Jack came out, his head hung low and just left walking down the street.
Days later he called to apologize. August 23 I turned sixteen and my parents gave me a surprise Sweet Sixteen Party. Pauli, Jack and Mary had been invited but never showed. David did. After that he asked me out. For our first date he suggested a drive-in movie to see “Bonnie and Clyde”. I really wanted to see the movie but not at the drive-in. I said no. I suggested roller skating instead. We dated through his senior year and then he was shipped to Vietnam. I never wore a bikini again.
Epilogue. I believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I never would have confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I also know on that first date with Jack my bikini had sparked his youthful and raging hormones. I was lucky, but I never wore a bikini again.