Rippppp! The tug at my back took me by surprise. The instantaneous breeze on my bare back was even more of a surprise! I spun around to see what had happened, but the huddled group of giggling girls gave no real clue. If I had been better prepared, I might have noticed one of them hiding a tiny piece of reinforced cloth in her hand. Still clueless, I turned back around to my conversation with my friends, but now they were guffawing and pointing at my back. Suddenly, it hit me! I had no back panel in my shirt! Hanging below my waist, it was still attached, but only by the bottom hem.
Just moments before, I had been wearing an intact button-up Oxford style shirt. Granted, it was a little wrinkled, and there was a little ice-cream dribbled near the pocket, but it covered my torso completely. No longer. I finally figured out what had happened, but way too slowly to get any benefit whatsoever from the disaster. Benefit, you ask? How would a boy receive a benefit from the shirt being ripped off his back? To answer that question, you would have to go back to the 1960’s and its more innocent culture. It was a day of jump ropes and yo-yos, bobby socks and saddle oxfords, and folded paper “fortune-teller” games. At the time of this event, instead of tee-shirts, most boys wore button-up shirts and some companies had started sewing in something we called “fruit loops” on the back near the yoke. We couldn’t see much of a purpose to them, but they were actually “locker loops”, intended to be used as a way to hang up the shirt when it was taken off in the locker room to change into athletic gear. The young ladies had a different use for them. It became a popular pastime to sneak up behind a boy they liked and jerk the loop off the shirt. In this way, they could acquire a souvenir from the young man without the embarrassment of being rejected and they also could send a message (if they wished) to the other girls that “this one was taken”. Two birds with one stone. No one got hurt.
Well, almost no one. On this particular day, I discovered that sometimes the shirt manufacturer could be a little more conscientious in sewing the loop tightly in the seam and it could have disastrous results. Mom was not happy. I wasn’t happy either, partially because I never found out who the secret admirer was. My guess is that there was actually no admiration involved and it had simply been a lark for the girl, maybe even a dare by her friends. Whatever it was, I went home wearing a ruined shirt and more than a little embarrassed by the whole affair. You see, as intriguing as the mystery was (and is), I prefer to have a say in who I’m paired with. No one is going to be writing “Paul + ______” on a desktop without the Paul part of the equation being consulted. I have come to distrust the common schoolgirl (and schoolboy) crushes that involve a non-consenting party. They usually lead to a fair amount of frustration for both individuals.
Years later, when the Lovely Young Lady was in my sights (and I in hers), I never lost my shirt back, or even the “fruit loop”. She did get my senior ring, which she wore on a chain around her neck. I was happy that she had it, even though I had paid a large sum (to me) for the ring only a couple of years before. The difference between this situation and the shirt incident is that I gave her the ring; she didn’t jerk it off my finger. It was a choice that both of us made. I offered it to her and she accepted it. We both understood and were happy to live with the implications. She walked around wearing the ring; I walked around wearing a silly grin.
If you’ve read my posts for very long, you may now be expecting me to illuminate some great truth, making a life-application to which the above anecdotes lead. I think I’ll leave you to work this one out for yourself. The soapbox is open for you to step up onto. You want just a little nudge? Okay, here it is. You get to choose. You’ve already been asked. If you’ve not already given an answer, He’s still standing and waiting for your decision. No torn shirt, no name carved into a tree trunk. The next move is yours.
Oh…She never gave me back the ring. It can be found in her jewelry box today. I think I’m okay with that. Especially since I can still be seen occasionally with the silly grin she gave to me.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.”
“There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
When she was good
She was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~American poet~1807-1822)