My first date with Taylor, and how I managed to be nervous the whole dang time.

Yes, everyone, I went on a date. I know it’s hard to believe, but I promise it happened. We had hung out with a group a hundred times, but let me tell you right now, there is a difference between a group date and a real date. In a group date you can rely upon your friends to keep the conversation going, but when you’re by yourself, you have to supply all of the conversation, and keep the lovely lady entertained (a skill at which, in my own opinion, I proved to be deficient). I spent the whole day leading up to it preparing conversation topics and funny things to say to keep her smiling. I put on my favorite outfit, brushed my teeth (a few times), fixed my hair (a few times), put on cologne (a few times), and said my prayers, just in case my overwhelming case of pre-date nerves caused my heart to quit beating. (If the reader is wondering why I was so nervous and hygienic in my date preparation, the girl I was taking out is very pretty, and I, unless a very large amount of effort is applied, am not very pretty.)

My mom drove me to her house (which was, no offense to my mother, somewhat embarrassing , because my date was about to turn seventeen, and I wasn’t even old enough to get my license), and I walked up to her door, cleared my throat, wiped my nervous, sweaty hands on my jeans and knocked. When I heard the door about to open I contemplated running away and hiding, because I was so afraid I would say something stupid (which was inevitable), but it was too late. The door opened and I saw her pretty face, which made all intentions to flee seem foolish. She looked absolutely lovely. I walked her to the car, making sure to get the door for her, and we were off to Starbucks. On the way there, my mom halfway made conversation with her and halfway interrogated her about her family life and interests. I didn’t say a word, because I didn’t want to waste any of the carefully planned out conversations I had stored in my brain to use when I was on my own.

When my mom drove away, leaving me all alone with my date, I’m pretty sure I could see tears streaming down her eyes (“My baby boy, all grown up!”), but she would probably deny the fact. We waited in line to order our coffee, making light chit chat about the wonderful smell of the coffee beans, or the awkward gentleman sitting in the corner, and then I made my first bad move. I ordered my “hot, grande, caramel Macciato” with soy milk. I thought to myself, “Oh no. She’s going to think I’m one of those pretentious, organic, gluten free, lactose intolerant losers!” and sure enough, she said, “Soy milk? Eww, isn’t that gross?” (This is ironic, because the lady in question has just recently found herself to be lactose intolerant, and now drinks her coffee with soy milk.)

Once we took our seat, I used every last conversation topic I could think of, which took up all of about twenty minutes. When I finally shut my nervous, babbling mouth, she just smiled a breathtaking smile at me, and we sipped our coffee in silence for a few minutes. I like to think she spent these moments of silence thinking of how attractive I looked, or how much she loved the smell of the cologne I had practically doused my body with, or possibly how white and shiny my teeth were (because I had brushed them probably three times beforehand), but I must accept that she was most likely thinking about all the cupcakes she could look at on Pinterest once I (with the help of my mother) took her home. I, on the other hand, used these minutes to review everything I had said previously, to make sure I hadn’t said anything offensive, and, at the same time, I thought about how pretty her eyes looked when she smiled at my¬†attempts to be funny (yes, I’m sappy, but at least I’m open about my feelings).

Afterwards we walked across the street to Target, where we looked at hats, scarves, necklaces, watches, and, for me, the Nerf swords. The date was going to have to end soon, so we sat down in the Target Starbucks, and, by the grace of God, we actually talked non-stop until my mother arrived to pick us up. I walked her up to her front porch, told her mother hello (with as much politeness as I could possibly muster), and went home, having successfully completed my first official date with the lovely, Ms. Taylor Elaine Ferguson.

(Since that evening, we have happily, and with much conversation, sat in the same spot at Starbucks many times, so much that the baristas know our names and know that we both want a “hot, grande, soy, caramel Macciato.”)

My first car shopping experience, and some other sentimental stuff.

Do you remember the times that you’ve had a real “learning how to be a man” experience with your father (assuming the reader is a male)? I remember when my dad showed me how to shave with a razor. I was ecstatic. I remember when my dad taught me to how to drive with a stick shift in his old Sentra. I remember learning how to mow, all the while my father by my side, critiquing my every move (rather annoyingly, in my opinion). One of my favorite father/son bonding moments was when my dad taught me how to wax a car. We spent all day in the hot sun, wiping down every inch of his new Honda CRV, until it was shiny enough to use as a mirror. Recently, my father took me and my family to a car lot, to begin scouting out what would be my first car, and it was definitely a experience I won’t forget any time soon.

We pulled into the used car lot on a hot, early summer day in late March, hopes and dreams of finding the perfect car were swimming through my head. When we parked the car, our interesting car salesman met us with a firm handshake and bottles of water for every member of the family. This man did several things that bugged me, but what he did that annoyed me more than anything was cut me off mid sentence with an enthusiastic, “Don’t worry, I know exactly what you’re thinking, I gotcha.” (Obviously I had encountered a clairvoyant gone used car salesman.) He also graced my family with stories of his pet parrot, and mentioned several times that he frequently walks around his house in his underpants. (“Why does he keep telling us about his dang underpants?” my sister asked us when he was out of ear shot.)

The first car we came upon stole my heart. It was love at first sight. It was the nice, gray/metallic color I was looking for, it had the body style I wanted, it had excellent gas mileage, it was well taken care of, with low miles, and it was voted the number one safest car in it’s class (the only person who cared about that was my dear, loving, mother). We took it for a drive and it rode smoother than silk.

We went out to eat at Genghis Grill to mull it over. The intense spiciness of the Mongolian stir fry must have melted our brains, because we knew we were going to buy that car, even though it was the first car we had ever looked at. After carefully (inattentively) reviewing the Car Fax, I was so excited I couldn’t even contain myself. I was ready to offer all of my parents hard earned cash to anyone who was willing to sell me this car.

We drove back to the dealership and informed “Captain Underpants the parrot loving, wonder salesman” that we were interested. As I soon found out, my dad was a pro at bargaining. He knew exactly what he was doing. I just sat back and watched him work his magic. (My younger sister proposed that when we make our offer we should “make the offer really low, and if the salesman rejects it, tell everyone not to shop here anymore”, however we ended up going for a more “We’ll buy it if you throw in free floor mats” approach.) About a half hour later I was driving home in the car of my dreams, with the sun roof rolled down, and College’s “A Real Hero” blaring on the stereo (just like in Ryan Gosling’s “Drive”).

I believe that day contributed more to my becoming a man than any other experience. For starters, I had successfully acquired my first car, and aside from that, I learned from my dad how to bargain, how to look carefully at my decisions, and I saw firsthand that a loving family member will do anything to make their family happy, like looking at cars all day in the hot sun, while being pursued by a somewhat tacky salesman.

To beard, or not to beard, that is the question.

“I’m going to do it. I’m going to stop shaving, just for a few days. Everyone will worship my awesome facial hair.” These thoughts filled my head as I turned the razor over in my palm, mentally encouraging myself to put it back in the drawer, unused. I left the bathroom, face unshaven, imagining myself with a number of different facial hair options, such as Ryan Gosling’s trademark stubble, or Gandalf’s long, flowing beard. I would look so mature, so sexy, so manly. (This last sentence brings up the question of whether or not Gandalf is “mature, sexy, and manly” to which I would argue an enthusiastic “yes”, but that is another topic for another time.)

As the days went by, I would occasionally scratch my barely visible stubble, pretending to ponder the meaning of life, as I would slip in a few small comments to make my friends aware of my accomplishment; for example: “Gosh, this beard is so itchy!” or “Dude, It’s seriously been like, two whole days since I’ve shaved.” or “If you were wondering what this thing on my face is, it’s just a little stubble.” My friends would compliment my scruff with things like, “I can’t even see anything on your face, bro.” or, “Wow, that’s super freaking cool, idiot.” (I think they were probably either joking, or jealous.)

After about five days I took a good long look in the mirror. I did not see Ryan Gosling’s stubble, and I did not see Gandalf’s long, sexy beard. I saw a 15 year old boy trying too hard to look older. (My dear, loving, mother’s only comment was, “You look like Shaggy from ‘Scooby-Doo.'”) I took out my razor, and after crying for a solid hour, I shaved off the now somewhat visible fuzz.

I really learned a lot through that experience. (1.) Never ask your mother how she feels about your facial hair. (2.) Never expect yourself to look like Ryan Gosling. (Actually, I learned very little through this experience, and I will probably do the exact same thing next week.)

-Ty