When I was about 10 years old, in the 1970s, my favorite board game was called “Mystery Date.” The game was centered around two things that fascinated me: creating outfits and dating.
Each player was given a little cardboard cut-out of a girl dressed in a pastel nightgown that she would move around the board. Each token had long, straight hair, 70s style, nicely parted in the middle. Her hair color varied, as didthe color of her night gown. The gowns were pink, purple, pale blue, and yellow. I always chose the girl in the purple nightgown with dark brown hair.
During the game, the players move their pastel-garbed girl around the board in search of the perfect date outfit, and, ultimately, the perfect date. You would pick up and discard cards that pictured parts of four different dating outfits: prom, beach, picnic/biking and skiing. Since I am not at all outdoorsy – I always wanted to be the prom girl. Plus, her outfit included long, elbow-length gloves and pearls.
When you collected all the parts of any outfit, and landed on a space marked “Open the Door”, your magic moment had arrived. It was time to go on a date.
You would swivel the door knob of a plastic door and then carefully open it. Depending on your “luck” – you would get the date who matched your outfit. Only then could you go on a date and win the game.
Opening the door was the highlight of the game. As you twisted the little plastic knob, you would hold your breath in anticipation: Would it be prom guy with a bouquet of flowers? Or maybe beach guy with his surf board and sunglasses? I always hoped for prom guy – but I had to admit that picnic guy was kind of cute.
What you absolutely did NOT want – was the Nerd. If you opened the door to find the nerd, adorned with glasses and carrying a stack of books – you lost your turn and your outfit. Disaster!!!
The funny thing is that the nerd was probably the best choice for me. I was a bit of a nerd myself. Despite not wearing glasses, I always had my nose in a book and was decidedly uncoordinated. I had trouble learning to ride a bike and avoided any sports activity where my feet weren’t planted firmly on the ground. Skiing guy would definitely have been a problem.
Despite my passion for Mystery Date, my conservative parents had a rule that I would not be allowed to date until I turned 16. At the time, I thought they were unfair. Some of my friends had been “going out” with boys since they turned 12. How could I possibly wait until 16?
My sweet sixteen birthday was special. My parents took our family out for dinner to one of my favorite places, Yesteryear – a nice restaurant set in an old historic Frank Lloyd Wright mansion. When we arrived back home, my dad could not open our door. For some reason, his key did not work.
I noticed that my parents were looking inside and muttering to one another. Then, my dad went to the neighbors house to “get an extra key.” What I did not know that he was calling our house, to ask those waiting inside to open the door.
Unbeknownst to me, my parents had arranged a surprise party. In the basement of our suburban ranch-style home, a dozen of my childhood friends were waiting. When the deadbolt on the door was finally unlatched from within, my parents sent me downstairs to the waiting crowd. My heart was filled with the presence of so many girls who I loved.
While most of my 16th birthday was picture perfect, one part was not. Despite my worries that my parents no-dating rule was cramping my love life, when I turned 16, the phone remained strangely silent. No boys started lining up to ask me for a date, no skiing guy, no picnic guy, no beach guy, and certainly not prom guy. Not even the nerd.
Apparently, they hadn’t gotten the memo that dating Jamie was now permitted.
I was terribly disappointed.
Dating was a mystery to me then, and I still think it is a confusing, but necessary, process. Without it, I would never have found my husband. Now, as a mother of a 16-year-old, I try to offer her cautious advice.
There are a few things I learned since my Mystery Date days:
1) Yes, the right outfit is important. But, the right guy is important, too.
2) The dating activity isn’t nearly as important as the person. No fancy restaurant makes up for a bad companion. And, being with the right person makes even a simple walk enjoyable.
3) Most of us, in our older age, would gives those nerds a chance. We’ve discovered that intelligence and kindness often hide behind glasses and stacks of books.
4) You might have to open that door many, many times, but don’t give up. Someone once told me that dating is a matter of timing. You have to be the right person, at the right time and place in your own life, when you meet the right person.
5) Be patient. Life is not a game. Love takes time.
6) It is always a good idea to be wearing a cute outfit.