I had just moved to Morro Bay, a lazy beach town that had a love/hate relationship with tourists and a reluctance to give up their limited bungalows to new residents. It was the middle of fifth grade and the middle of the '70s. Within the first week or so, two classmates pulled me aside. Adam and Todd, both surfer kids. Or at least Adam was; I remember he was the essence of cool with long hair and a slight head toss that said you were all right. Most of the kids yearned for that nod of greeting. At any rate, they pulled me aside and said I could date anyone at school except these two particular girls - whose names I can’t recall - as they were theirs. Dude.
As the new kid, I guess I was grateful that my two new friends took me aside and showed me the lay of the land. It wasn't a threat, but it was about as serious as kids can get on the playground. What shocked me more than this two-on-one, mafia-like backroom chat, though, was the idea that fifth graders dated. Was that even possible? I mean, there were some cute girls that popped up on my radar every now and then, but could you actually date them? And how? I had a skateboard and a unicycle – what was I going to do? Take a girl out by pulling her along behind me as I one-wheeled it to the local Fosters Freeze?
I stared back at my surfer pals and readily agreed to their terms. Dating in elementary school sounded silly anyway. Though a few had my heart beating in odd ways, I still mostly thought of girls as fellow explorers who helped tame the wilds of the drainage ditch behind my house; as playground playmates with longer hair who could hit just as hard as any boy; and as lucky accomplices you partnered with at the roller rink so you could keep skating when they called for couples only.
For a fifth grader with only a skateboard, a unicycle, and enough money to buy a small peach milkshake, maybe that roller rink thing was dating. I know I never went out on the floor with Adam's or Todd's girlfriends during couple skate. They were theirs, after all. Dude.