I have mentioned before my affinity for the BBC teen comedy “The Inbetweeners.” It can be so very crass, but yet, so very astute in explaining the awkward navigation of adolescence. I particularly like the protagonist, Will McKenzie, who is hilariously awkward, but actually very bright and driven. Last week’s episode featured his 17th birthday. Will desired nothing more than to have a sophisticated dinner party with his mates, and maybe a few girls. Of course, the girls were no shows and the adolescent boys couldn’t eat the coq au vin that Will had laboriously prepared without cracking raunchy jokes about the named entree. Will’s plan for a sophisticated, urbane evening was completely ruined.
In high school, my friends had dress up dinner parties where we tried to intelligently discuss current events. We tried to be mature and grown-up in the way that we thought we should be. However, when I entered college, I thought to myself, so this is how high school was supposed to be. I wanted to be every bit as urbane and sophisticated as Will McKenzie, but was faced with the prospect of group dates of miniature golf, which was the lot of a BYU freshman living in the dorms. I tried everything in my power to resist. In fact, I soon developed my own “sophistication” litmus test, the Utah Symphony date.
Each year I lived in Provo, my parents purchased me Utah Symphony season tickets for my birthday. These tickets were appreciated for many, many reasons, but one of the truths about them is that without them, I probably would have never dated in my college years. For whatever reason, I was not the BYU co-ed that was much sought after in the way of dating. I had plenty of guy friends, but they liked me because at 2 am, they could call me over to their apartments, say something misogynistic and then be entertained as I went off on a verbal tirade for the next two hours (in retrospect, this might partially explain why they were not interested in dating me). Perhaps they were my friends because they were entertained by my fixation on North Carolina Basketball and my ability to engage in sports trash talk. They just certainly did not want to date me.
Because I was not actively pursued for dates, I had to buck up the courage for my own dates. However, I didn’t want to waste my time asking just any boy out, either. The Utah Symphony date was the perfect option. If he went and we managed to have a good conversation, then I might consider him worthy of time and consideration. If I really thought I liked him, I might ask him to dinner at a nice restaurant before to see if he could pronounce foie gras correctly. I don’t want to overstate the frequency with which this happened, because I really only went to the Utah Symphony once per month, and many of those months I was content to go with a girlfriend or a sister. However, when these dates happened, they usually did not go well. The hilarity that would ensue probably wouldn’t make a TV show as watchable as The Inbetweeners, but there was plenty of post-adolescent awkwardness.
More than one of these dates fell asleep at the symphony. One wanted to play the preschool game “I Spy.” The embarrassing part is that even with this clear lack of sophistication, if the boy was cute enough, I probably still was willing to kiss him later on in the evening. One of these awful symphony dates, I dated for a couple of months (until I got wind that he “cheated” on me with some girl from Ricks College. I should have known, based on his gauche symphony behavior). But here is the most embarrassing part: long after we had stopped dating, I called him up in a panic one Saturday because the friend I was supposed to go to the symphony with that evening had cancelled because her boyfriend came into town last minute. I asked him if he wanted to go. I recall very specifically that he laughed into the receiver and told me he already had a date for the evening, but would be happy to set me up with someone on a blind date. It is still a pretty cringe-worthy experience, but I refused his offer and decided to go to the symphony alone. As Ravel’s Bolero closed out the concert that night, I felt a crescendo of resolve, and with its triumphant conclusion, I cheered that I would happily attend the symphony alone rather than humiliate myself again that way. So, from that time forward, if I decided to ask someone to go with me to the symphony, I made sure that I knew they would at least have interest in the music, even if they did not have interest in me. I wish I could say that experience was the end of humiliating myself in the dating world of Provo, but I still had a few more years of that ahead of me.
What I am saying is this, Will McKenzie, I look forward to all of the awkwardness your character still has coming, because your earnestness is entirely relatable.