The following is an excerpt from the book I am writing but I felt strongly enough about it that I wanted to share it here.
I want to talk to you all today about a very pivotal moment in my life…my first date.
I don’t know how your first date went but mine was, to say the least, a very life changing affair.
My first date was the result of a party at my parents house. My dad was about as social as most un-contacted tribesmen and my mother was a business woman who was born in an age when women’s rights were still busy becoming a thing that existed. The day she learned that she could be self sufficient and didn’t have to take shit from anyone, it was pretty much over for everyone else. She’s not a bitch, but she also isn’t one to take your bullshit either and has an amazing ability to tap into most human beings natural fear of maternal figures. I once saw her cut down a pair of muscle bound gangster wannabees at the mall so low they could have gotten lost in Astroturf.
Basically I’m trying to convey that my parents, when painted truthfully, come across as slightly less partay oriented than American Gothic, so the fact that they were having a soiree was something of a miracle.
One of the attendees was my sisters friend who brought her niece, Annie*. Now, I had never been the “Girls are gross” kind of boy, from the moment I started recognizing shapes I am pretty sure the only one I was truly interested in was the shape of a woman. A while later a close, but still very distant competitor would be cars, but outside of that all others need not apply. Annie garnered my attention in a way that I had never realized possible. I had liked girls before but never to this degree and so I decided: I had to ask her on a date.
Now, I had asked exactly 2 women on dates in my life. The first flat out refused me and the second one flat out refused me and then proceeded to make prank calls to my house for a month afterwards, so I wasn’t batting a thousand by any means. Nevertheless, I was going to give this a shot.
I got Annies phone number from my sisters friend and after about an hour of staring at the phone a few days later, I finally called her and asked her to go to the amusement park with me. Hardly an evening at the top night spots of Denver, I took her to Lakeside Amusement Park.
Lakeside is my favorite park in Denver, partially because it’s all vintage and has amazing Art Deco and Googie architecture and partially because it’s like a Scooby Doo ghost town but with more minorities.
To my amazement Annie said yes!
FUCK YES! I was going on my first date! And yes, I actually said “Fuck yes!” my love affair with profanity stretches back far into my preteen years. For reference, I was in the 7th grade, which for most normal people in civilized society is about as close to hell as we get. I mean, there are other shitty things that will happen to you in life, some of them far worse in magnitude, but nothing beats the 7th grade in terms of misery and motherfucking duration.
I told my hippy friend Eric about the date. Eric was a freak, long before goth, before punk, Eric was wearing top hats and capes to high school, having long hair, reading the Whole Earth Catalogue and ingesting Margot Adler. Ever go to a legitimate Pow Wow and see a white guy and wonder what his deal was? His deal was that he was Eric Baker, a lifetime professional in the field of weird ass fucketry. He was also a mentor to me as he was 26 at the time.
“Don’t do it, she’s a tease and a man eater” he told me. I had no idea what those things were. “Basically, some girls get off on getting guys attention, they don’t plan on putting out and they only gain joy in being mean and hurtful, Annie is one of those girls” he advised me.
The thing is, how could he know that? I asked if he knew her, “Nope, I just know people like her, trust me on this one” I firmly maintained that he was wrong, Annie wasn’t like that and that I’d show his ass a thing or two. “Ok man, let me know how your date turns out” he told me. Fine, Timothy Fucking Leary, I god damned will!
It was time to start planning how this smooth motherfucker was going to knock the socks off the finest specimen of damehood he’d ever come close to ensnaring. First order of business: Clothing.
Clothing makes the man. I honestly believe that how you groom, handle your body and clothe it conveys how you feel about yourself which is why I shower daily, am clean shaven and usually wear a suit, I like to take care of myself. Now, 7th grade Zachary Byron Helm may not have had his finger on the pulse of smoothness like I do now, but I knew I was going to have to dress to impress so I picked out the panty-droppiest article of clothing I owned: A black t-shirt with DEVO hand painted on it. Yep, I wore a home made DEVO shirt to my first ever date.
Now, shit like that might fly among the 2014 hipsters of the world, I’d probably get so much pussy I’d have to open up a wildlife preserve to keep it all straight if I wore a homemade DEVO shirt into a hipster bar, but years ago I pretty much picked out the one shirt that made me look like a special Ed new wave fan. I also had wavy hair, not wavy in the dream boat Clark Gable sense but more like the greasy Charles Manson youth sense. Topping off this snazzy ensemble was a complexion that looked like someone poured bacon grease into a mold shaped like a kid and the fact that my glasses were so thick you wouldn’t just torch ants with sunlight shining through them, you’d go full China syndrome.
Time to step the fuck out ladies!
We picked Annie up in my moms company van. Most first dates happen with the aid of a parents vehicle. Kids usually feel embarrassed about that kind of thing but come on, you’re fucking underage, how the hell else do people expect you to get around? I remember going to a coffee house as a young Goth and some guy flips me shit “How’d YOU get here? Your mommy drive you?” he mocked “Yeah asshole, I’m 14, how the hell else did I get here? Car jacking?” that shut his ass up.
Anyways, my mom, my date, myself and an Econoline van sallied forth to one of the rapey-ist amusement parks in the nation. The evening was going swimmingly. In the spirit of being a true gentleman I had bought her dinner: only the finest, cheapest hot dogs available would suffice for my date. Give me a break, I was paying for this shit on my wages earned by stitching drapes at my moms shop so 5 star dining was out of the question. The one thing I couldn’t get off my mind all evening: Had I done well enough to get a kiss?
That was it, that was all I wanted, a kiss. A form of validation that to me, in my awkward, gawky as fuck era of my personal timeline that would have been earth shattering was what I wanted, to know that I had somehow performed well enough that another human being, an attractive girl, would want me in THAT way. Was it possible? Was I capable of pulling off such an amazing feat? In fact I was pondering this very question when IT happened. No, not a kiss, something else.
“Hey, is this your girlfriend?” some random guy who just walked up asked me. He was a gangly Mexican teen with one of those pre-pubescent mustaches that looked like a decaying caterpillar had nested and turned black on his upper lip. All in all he looked like something you wouldn’t use as a grease rag unless your goal was to lubricate a tractor trailer. Swarthy AF is what I am driving at here.
“No she’s not” I replied truthfully. Now, the correct answer was “None of your business, fuck off chuckles” but I literally had no idea what was going on. “Do you mind if I talk to her for a minute?” He asked. “Uhm, I guess not” I said.
I watched as the two walked off around the corner. The thing is, I really didn’t know what the fuck had just transpired. I was trying in vain to figure out exactly what business this seemingly random individual could need to conduct in private with my date. Did he know her from someplace else? What the hell?
After about 5 minutes I decided I’d go try to find them because this was getting weird and I was sick of standing around lonely like a dick in a DEVO shirt. I rounded the corner just in time to see Annie passionately kissing Seedy Gonzales on the lips. I mean, these two were making out as though Pancho was shipping off for service in 5 minutes. I quickly retreated back around the corner.
What the fuck was I going to do about this? Do I go fuck this guy up? I mean, aside from throwing a few lucky punches in Sunday school (that’s a whole different story about a completely different shit storm) my fighting career was alarmingly underdeveloped and I wasn’t sure I could take this guy. Second option was I guess I could punch HER but you know, that’s not really a forward thinking solution either. As I was sitting there trying to suppress my reverse peristalsis my mother came along.
“HEY! Did you know Annie is around the corner kissing some guy!?” she asked, clearly offended on my behalf.
“Uhm, yeah mom, I know that…I’m well aware of that…” I said trying to hide that I was in fact heart broken and nearly in tears.
“Well that is HORSE SHIT!” she proclaimed loudly just in time for Annie to return from her episode of getting her face caught in a grease trap. I think she rather quickly realized what we had both seen as the ride home was about roughly as comfortable as exploratory surgery. We dropped her off and I went home to contemplate how one kid could have failed so spectacularly in a priority mission and some greasy Mexican could come in fresh to the game and score.
Now, before we go much further I want to stop and make the statement that this isn’t a “Feel sorry for me story” I don’t need your pity or anything like that. The fact is that despite my overwhelmingly retarded early career with the ladies, years later I finally grew into my features. My early awkward years turned to my advantage as I learned to have a sense of humor which is still my strongest strength. I grew up to learn how to work on cars, computers, write, groom myself and overall become the kind of person ladies want and continue wanting long after I’ve left.
The point of this story is that I learned a few things that I’d like to share with you, one of them being that if you’re still trapped in the shitty limbo of awkwardness that is the inability to close the deal with the opposite sex, have faith. If I had a time machine and could go back and give myself a message about my future or advice to help me through the rough times, I wouldn’t because it would change who I became but what I CAN do is give a good message to you: If you suck with the ladies or dudes, grow up and become someone of value and show them all. Don’t worry if you don’t peak early, anecdotal evidence strongly supports me in the theory that it’s not the paradise you think it is. Being cool in middle school and high school is a continental dollar, get hot and peak later in life when you have your own car, house and can fuck until 4 am and not worry about because you can afford birth control. Being awesome in school is blowing your wad early.
Now, that I didn’t grow up with a litany of jealousy issues or end up as some guy who has a ton of nurse carcasses in his basement is, in and of itself, some sort of miracle. The truth is, I learned a lot that day, pearls of wisdom that would be of amazing value to me later in life.
The most obviously inescapable lesson learned that day was that Annie is a fucking whore. That, unfortunately, was what I’d classify as a single use epiphany, applicable to virtually nothing after the fact. The other lessons I learned, however, helped guide me through a variety of pitfalls.
I went back and asked Eric how the hell he called this score so far in advance of the game.
“Look man, people do things, little things that are indicators. Most people look at humans in the big picture but they don’t pick up on small details. Look for the little details in how people act, from a distance they are like tiny holes in a wall, you can’t see the other side if you’re too far away but get your eyes right up to the pinhole and you can see clear through to the other side and find out what they are trying to hide behind that big ass wall!”
So the lesser lesson was a sociology lecture about learning to correctly profile hazardous human beings. I keep that one with me daily. The second lesson that was a broader one was that Eric had advice, good advice that was from his personal experience. He tried to impart it and I ignored it completely and paid the price. Now, you can’t always pay heed to the naysayers in life, if you do you end up never advancing because people have a true propensity for trying to convince other people not to achieve BUT with that caveat in mind I will say this: If you’re heading down a path and someone going to the opposite way goes “Man, don’t go down that road, lotta fucked up shit going on down that road!” then listen to them. They might know what they are talking about and even if you have to go find out for yourself, at least let their words temper your actions with some caution.
And finally, don’t buy Annie hot dogs, it’s a waste of money.
*No, this isn’t her real name, I changed it for the sake of the article because I’m not bent about what happened, it gave me a funny story and I don’t want to be a dick about it years later.