First-date mementos a box of hope
March 24, 2002

My girlfriend called to ask if I had heard back from "Kyle"  after our first date. I hadn't, and she was surprised, since he  seemed so interested earlier.

I had a 10-day-old wilted rose from Kyle sitting in a vase,  and was mentally debating what to do with it. Should I dry it and  keep it as a romantic reminder of our first date, or toss it in my  garden for compost?

I don't think guys trouble themselves as much as women do  with saving things from mutually shared moments. For a hopeful but  sometimes cynical romantic like me, they become symbols of what  could be.

First dates are an interesting thing: magical, nervous and  full of sexual tension. They are the sample taste of what could  become a larger meal. If the first date is good, I can't help  wondering whether it will lead to something more serious.

Such was the case with Kyle, a tall, blond blue-eyed Adonis  who cleans up nicely in a suit. He put in the request through a  mutual friend that I join their group at a formal fundraising  event. My girlfriend served as "date contact liaison," the adult  equivalent of lovenote passer in high school.

Technically it wasn't a date, since I met up with him after I  left an earlier business party. But he chivalrously led me around  the dazzling affair as if it was.

We hit another event afterward. I got to go to a local live  band bar, Herman's, with a country rock band that night, decked  out in my favorite "goldfish" dress (a strapless gold lame number,  gathered to a tight and curvaceous hourglass formation that makes  me swivel like Mae West). We were just a bit over-dressed in  comparison to the bar's regulars.

 My "date" and I hit it off well. He asked me to dance, and we  swirled around the floor for most of the night. The real partner  kind of dancing, with spins and actual steps.

My Fred Astaire may have had a few cocktails before I got to  him, because it didn't register with him that my matching gold  shoes were extremely slick on the hardwood floor. I did remain  composed and upright, so no one got hurt. I was even able to do  some daring dips - without pulling seams or having body parts fall  out of my dress.

Kyle walked me to my car so I could take my leave before all  the inebriates hit the streets. On the sidewalk, we ran into the  intimidating "Rose Woman" on her way into the bar. She's the one  who provides the ultimate date litmus test by offering to sell him  a flower for the lady.

She smiles, but behind it is a secret, mocking question: "Is  your companion a date or a dud?" The only right answer is to buy the over-priced blossom, which men - even toasted - seldom do.

For once in I-can't-remember-how-long, my date did the right  thing. He bought the rose. He let me choose a velvety pink one and  even gave her a tip.

Ding, ding, ding! Huge bonus points for: 1) Walking me to my  car; 2) Buying the rose, and 3) Tipping the Rose Saleslady. Minus  10 points for the wad of chewing tobacco in his jowl, but add 5  for kissing me like an uncle so I didn't have to experience the  Skol firsthand.

I drove home with the smell of the rose wafting through my  car. The aroma lingered for about a week on my kitchen table as a  reminder of an enjoyable evening. But alas, he didn't call back,  and that was the second time I had given him my number. It looks  like that rose will fertilize my garden after all.

I heard that Kyle was a nice guy, but extremely shy. Maybe  that explains why he never picked up the phone to call me again.  More realistically, other factors were involved. But at least, I  thought, I had ventured out on the romantic love limb one more time.

I have a box filled with reminders from old relationships. I  don't actually go through it. I just add new stuff on top, as  little mementos of the life experiences I've had. I suppose I keep  it around as an ego backup in case I'm ever feeling so down I  can't believe I'll ever find lasting love. Luckily, I haven't had  to resort to it yet.

Silly things accumulate, like cards, notes, programs from  events, maybe a few pictures and some odd things, too. A couple of  bottle caps that remind me of unique beers I've sampled, ribbons  from a gift, a lucky penny that fell out of his pocket. More  recent additions are printouts of e-mails, with thoughts and  feelings expressed without the help of Hallmark.

Why do I save this stuff? Because it's personal, it's mine  and I can. It's a nice way to hold on to the good things that came  out of relationships that didn't happen to work for the long haul.  The odds and ends are reminders of the fun times, the helpful  lessons and the caring. For me it's also kind of a hopeful thing.  A past to build from for a future mate.

So what if I save the concert wristbands for beer, the  occasional shriveled up rose or whatever else might be meaningful  to me? They're little relationship time capsules. Being a cautious  but still sentimental romantic fool, I hold out hope that one of  these items may mark the history of my best relationship yet.