I originally posted this here on February 11, 2018 @ 02:56 but later un-posted it because I thought that maybe I was airing too much of my “dirty laundry”. But then I remembered how I wrote about fearing making a caricature of myself, being afraid to post my real thoughts and feelings, so now the post is back. Hopefully, it stays that way.
There doesn’t seem to be anything great about aging at all. My eyes are going. My memory is going. The main purpose of this post is to preserve a memory from adolescence, the first date that I ever went on. Sprinkled in is some parental resentment that has bubbled up during these past couple of years. As you can see, there was a flurry of activity on this site in the first half of 2017, with a dramatic slowdown and a few inconsequential posts in the latter half, followed by no activity at all these past few months. We finally moved back to Hong Kong, because we couldn’t take living with our parents anymore. I’ve been mourning the end of the first half of my life. Perhaps I’ll explain further at a later date, but for now here is the first post in a long while, my first ever date.
To a person from a normal, loving family, it would never occur to them that another family could be so broken that it would produce a person who did not know how to express his own feelings. I was taught to never approach a love interest because that would make me “less valuable. Let them come to you, that’s how you know you’re a catch.” Sadly, as a result of this type of thinking, my sister, who is only a couple of years younger than I am has never regularly dated a person and has probably never known love. My mother continues to infantilize her today, advocating a policy of “there’s no rush, whatever will be will be”, which means she probably never will.
My first date was with a girl named Julia from my class. It was probably around ’92 or ’93, because I remember my dad taking care of us at that time. Those were the years when my mother had to return to Hong Kong to sort out her legal status. Anyhow, I remember at the time that it was just two classmates hanging out, but maybe I was just dense.
So Julia came to meet me at my old house, that little tiny apartment that I’ve mentioned before. My dad was super (and unusually) happy to meet her, maybe because his son was going on a date, or maybe because Julia was white. My dad and his side of the family have always had white-worship, something not uncommon amongst wannabe upper-class Chinese people. I remember the gray metal gate at that place when I recall this memory. Also, introducing Julia to my dad inside the kitchen which was also the entryway and first room when entering the apartment.
Julia may have been coming from a play rehearsal. She was into the arts and in later years when I looked her up I was glad to see that she continued on the thespian path. I remember her giving me a flyer to go see her performance.
First place I remember going to is Mission Dolores. Despite having lived in the Mission for years, I’d never actually been to the place it was named after. In the years since, I haven’t gone either. I was amazed to see a graveyard and to learn that cemeteries aren’t allowed in San Francisco, with the church being one of the few exceptions.
Next, I think we went to the Randall Museum. For all these years, I would drive by and see the green sign, and have a feeling that this was where I went with Julia, but I never confirmed it until today, when I looked up some photos after reading of its remodeling. There’s no doubt now that we went there.
It’s foggy but I think there were animal displays. That’s all I remember of the interior. But it would seem I remembered the exterior all these years and just never knew it was Randall. When I googled it tonight, I saw the little hilltop where Julia and I sat on some rocks to appreciate the view of the city from up there. It was cold, and she put her arms around me. Thinking about it now at this moment, I remember that she was wearing a gray sweater. The sky was gray as well.
When she put her arms around me, I remember being confused. Did she like me? I tried looking at her face for a clue, but she had this cool look, like she was just taking in the moment, a look of contentment. She inhaled the crisp air through her nose.
Looking back at it now, I think she did like me, but I was completely clueless. I didn’t know how to enjoy that moment at that time, filling my head instead with inconsequential thoughts. Typing this out now, I remember my heart beating fast. I wish someone had told me about love back then, even the puppy variety, and that there was nothing wrong with it. My family treated it as a mutually-exclusive enemy of education.
After this, I remember being in Chinatown, specifically next to the Pagoda Theater in a Chinese restaurant. I’d eaten there with my family before and after watching HK movies next door. I recall introducing and explaining wonton noodles to Julia, and she seemed to like the dish. I don’t remember how we got there, but it seems logical that we might have taken the N or the J downtown before transferring to a 30 Stockton or a 45.
The next thing I remember is dinner. I think I was supposed to go home, but we were having such a good time that we wanted to keep going. I called my dad from a payphone outside the restaurant, and I think I also called my college-age cousin to ask for a ride later on. The restaurant was at a corner, an Italian place in North Beach where we had pizza. One of the streets might have been Grant, with the other being the one that goes up to Coit Tower.
I think it was my first time having pizza in an actual restaurant. Since then, I’ve tried to find a pizza restaurant like that, without success. The closest with a similar vibe would be the pizza place Admiral Kirk went to with the whale biologist in Star Trek IV, but apparently that’s not really in SF. Maybe I was just trying to chase a feeling that can never be duplicated.
The last place we went to before my cousin picked us up was Pier 39. I don’t remember how we got there or even what we did there. It was definitely wet and cold. We sat on a bench near the vehicle waiting area, on the left side (vs. the right where the arcade used to be). This time, Julia took my hand. It was an incredible feeling. We held hands until my cousin arrived.
When Julia got out of my cousin’s two-door car, she hit her head. It was on Army Street, and my cousin’s car was a silver Acura Integra. I can still see that image inside my head. Later, my cousin and his girlfriend took me to McDonald’s in Serramonte and I shared the day’s activities with them over a sundae. They were excited for me just from talking to Julia in the car, asking me if I liked her and all that. I think on my end I still wasn’t sure if it was a date.
The next school day I remember sitting in reg and our mutual friend Emily telling me she’d heard about the date, and asking whether I’d go out with Julia again. I recall being a bit wishy-washy about it, giving off an impression that I wasn’t interested. In the coming weeks, I didn’t really talk to Julia much, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, there was one interaction where the disappointment was clearly visible on her face. When I finally saw it, it was years later, in hindsight.
In my mind, I thought that if she liked me, she would ask me out again. I had no way of knowing that what my mother taught me was so fucking ridiculous.
Over the years, I’d see Julia around the neighborhood every so often. Things were always cool between us and we’d ask each other how things were and all, but we would never go further. I mean, not in a continuing-from-Pier-39 type of further, but more like an extended conversation. We would say bye and then not see each other for years again. At one point, I said that the next time I ran into her, I’d tell her how I really felt back then. But sadly, the last time I thought I saw her last year, I chickened out and didn’t even go up to her.
In conversations with JC about the crazy that I come from, I’d tell her that I regretted my inaction because I probably hurt Julia unintentionally. Perhaps it’s just a projection on my part: my first date, the impression it made on me that 25 years later I still remember it, perhaps it was only a big deal to me, and not so much for Julia. I mean, I’m married now. What does it matter to tell all this to a person I haven’t kept in touch with whom I’m not even certain liked me 25 years ago? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that if I don’t it will be another regret. When I look back on that day with a proper lens, I’d like to think that there was something there. And I would want Julia to know that she was totally awesome and I would’ve totally asked her out if I hadn’t been fucked in the head as a kid. We’re not getting any younger, and some of us have even departed. Who knows who will be next?