- Gender and Relationships
Tips and Chiclets: Tools That Saved Dating for Men Everywhere
In 1970, 10th grade, Hamilton High School, where I had suffered, struggled (for my own identity), and was lacking behind on my classmates' social skills. Heavy drinking at dark and heavy petting in any guy's backseat who owned a car with all of the paint still shining. 10th grade for you I can only hope was better for you than me, but to be totally bullish on the truth, this year until my last year in high school could easily be compared to the rice paddies in Vietnam where Charlie was keen in camouflaging Claymore mines just underneath the G.I.'s boots. You know how that scene unfolded.
Speaking of that dark side, death, and I am being respectful, I happen to be friends in this rough time in my life where all I wanted to do was stay home, smoke cigarettes, read girly books, and have a girl that was "easy." No use in a guy my age having to do manual labor reaching such a special moment and I would have taken her to a junkyard (to reach that moment) if the backseat would have still had the upholstery intact.
Girls in my class in 1970 fell into two categories: Fun to date and prudes to avoid. You pick. I tried desperately to land one of them, but all that I kept facing was face when rejected by wall flowers, bookworms and girls secretly studying to be nuns in the convent and be masters of Kung Fu. Interesting occupation, but dangerous hobby. But hold it! There was always the easy girls whom a few of them would not care that much to be seen with me as long as I stayed way outside the main drag of my home turf. This wasn't a ploy to make her feel ashamed to be seen by my male friends. This had to be her choice. I let the girl lead when I danced. My dance of choice: The Frug.
Now I'm finally finished with the foundation of this piece, a true piece by the way, and one that I pray that you will find not only interesting, but thought provoking. You know thought provoking. People who read Us, Readers Digest and TIME always get told by friends, you read such deep articles in those high-end magazines. Don't you find them thought provoking? And the people who (are) seen as being throught provoking feel that little tingle up and down their spines. I never did. No one ever laid that title on me, thought provoking for reading Sports Illustrated and The Forrest Gregg Retirement Controversy.
I met and liked a buddy, Rodney Ferguson, when I was first getting razzed and made to feel like an outcast in my first few days of 10th grade. Rodney didn't care. He was just one of those special guys who didn't care if the sun rose or not. I cared. But was slowly growing more and more appreciative about how Rodney lived, walked, and breathed. A lot of my classmates didn't know Rodney. And Rodney wasn't breaking his neck to know them. What a guy. A 10th Grade Hero in jet-black slip-on slippers. He and I talked occasionally. Said that he lived 25 minutes west of Hamilton and rode the bus to school. I would have loved to been a radioactive fly on one of the bus walls. What secrets and talents I would learn from watching Rodney.
But THE most outstanding thing I found about Rodney Ferguson, was not as much the cut of his clothing or his jet-black, slip-on slippers, but the feint smell of cigarette smoke that had lodged in the fibers of his red and gray shirt. Each time that Rodney would get up from his desk to toss some waste paper into the trash can, his movement created a small breeze filled with tasty cigarette smoke. I didn't really smoke that much, but I wasn't about to say no to a free cigarette.
I had learned since 1966, in my sixth grade year that guys like Rodney smoke. And most frequently. One day while gagging down the raw horse meat that was served in our cafeteria, I spied Rodney standing with other guys who smoke. Spending their lunch break to simply light up and enjoy a few smokes. And guys like me? We sat. We gagged. We threatened to quit school if decent food was not made possible on our trays. Sounds much like Stephen King's screen play, Shawshack Redemption. Not much difference between this film and our cafeteria.
I would have shown some testosterone and just said, get lost, teachers, I want to join my new friend, Rodney Ferguson from Detroit, Ala,, and have a Winston like men do all across the free United States of America: Land of The Free! I really wouldn't have said get lost, but I might have said, gotta go. I forgot that I have something to do. That sounded intelligent. And as our lunch (or forced meal break as seen in most modern prison films--Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood) I saw Rodney light up another Winston. I just caved as we walked toward our classrooms and said to one of my buddies, "Is that all this Rodney character does is smoke? Why can't we get in on this activity?" Most of my questions then in the 10th grade were of an intelligent nature and even a few teachers remarked that my questions, some of them, were a bit interesting--a dead give-away that teachers who thought my questions to be interesting were either ready to resign to get a better teaching position at another school or just plain bored.
Rodney Ferguson never had any trouble getting dates--at or out of school. But at his young age, like us, we kept our sexual conquests to ourselves except on Friday and Saturday nights when we would all meet at Charles Richardson's 66 Station which was closed giving us a place to hang cool, smoke cigarettes, and talk about the hot junior girls who sometimes gave us a smile. To me, a girl, hot as she was, who gave me a smile was the equivalent to handing me a gold key to a night of fun, thrills, and some passionate kissing unlike the kissing unheard of in the United States--only in Stockholm, Sweden. I remember when my quieter friend, James, asked how much it would cost for him to get a one-way ticket to this swinging place. We were excited at his thinking for a little bit. Then the reality of us getting jobs to gain money to board the jetport in Birmingham, Ala., headed to Stockholm: Land of The Blond Babes who do not judge or use curse words when we fumble our words.
There was always that barbwire'd hassle. If it wasn't jobs to do at our local factories, it was trying to pass our Mid-Term Passes that we knew that Rodney, although "The Prince of Cool," hands down, would surely be left behind or head back to his hometown of Detroit, Ala. But Rodney didn't care. He knew people even in 10th grade. He was either left behind or naturally gifted or both to be able to talk such a mean game.
Then one morning, before our homeroom teacher, (a) Mr. P. A. Atkinson, who was a natural paranoid-neurotic and thought everyone was a Russian spy, said for us to wait for a moment for him to go to the principal's office for more Safety Report blanks to in case of a student meeting with a bloody nose flat on the floor put there by some non-caring redneck, not Rodney, and that was just how it was. But while we waited for Atkinson, Rodney asked if I had a spare cigarette? Oops! Time for a diabolical answer. "Uh, Rodney, I smoked my last Winston waiting on my bus this morning." He bought it. Then he reached in his left shirt pocket and handed what meant to me was THE date saver, THE answer to girls being turned off from a guy with cigarette smoke, liquor, or just plain bad breath: TIPS, breath freshener guaranteed to have fresh breath or your money back!
I chuckled at the green liquid in this small bottle. "Rodney, is that stuff good for bad breath?" "Sure, man. Even if you have been eating road-kill laying two weeks on the highway, this TIPS stuff can do away with your baddest breath--I know. I use it all time." Rodney was one heckuva salesman. "Where did you get this TIPS stuff?" I asked. "Down at the 66 Station across from the school--you walk into the front and you see this big cardboard display filled with small TIPS bottles and just buy one. Men at the 66 are cool. All they want is our money," Rodney explained, but left me a mild warning to not spread TIPS around school for he had read somewhere that taking entire bottles of TIPS might cause one to get on a buzz and get into trouble. On TIPS? When it's just billed as breath freshener? Even at this early mental level, I had a shivering sense that there was a major government conspiracy involving the C.I.A. sneaking TIPS to the North Vietnamese, "Charlie," to get them hooked on this easy high and have fresh breath when our military took them to be interrogated.
Then Rodney shared his other Dave-Saver and something sure to make any girl happy: Chiclets. Gum? Real gum? Couldn't I just chew a stick or two of some old fashioned Wrigley's? Those Wrigleys are gazillionaires. But Chiclets? Okay. My ranting over, Rodney handed me a half-box of Chiclets that he said that he didn't need, so I was off just as soon as school was out. The only thing that I didn't have was TIPS. And when Rodney would pop the red lid from this small bottle and throw back a few green drops down his throat, instant good breath. Mixed with a Chiclet, and you were better than Sean Connery ever was in his 007 roles. Better.
Every famous, successful inventors have to go through a testing period. Just look. Orville and Wilbur Wright; Robert Fulton; Eli Whitney and on and on--they all had to test their products to see if they were trade and patent worthy before their fortunes were made. So I decided to use Rodney Ferguson's TIPS and Chiclets to ward off any sign of bad breath near my mouth when I went to pick up my date for the upcoming Saturday night. Her name was Frankie. Seriously. She is still around and lives far away nowadays, but I do not want to gamble with her calling me up and giving me a tail chewing.
Frankie was very hot. Very friendly and had "those" looks from her pouty lips and flashing eyelashes that made me crazy, so I decided to give my TIPS (that I paid $1.45 at Richardson's 66 Station in Hamilton, Ala.) and the Chiclets from a nearby Foodway store and just see if these two chemicals would work to help me keep a girlfriend for more than a week. If Charles Lindbergh could fly (alone) from the U.S. to France, then I didn't see how these two products that were Rodney Ferguson-endorsed could go wrong. I trusted Rodney although when he talked, he seldom made eye contact.
On the way to pick up Frankie, on purpose I smoked a few cigarettes, ate an order of onion rings and waited to use my "Secret Date Keepers"--my TIPS and Chiclets when Frankie noticed my foul breath. I knocked on her door and there she stood in such a fitting blouse and skirt that I almost froze with fear. This gal was ready for business, I thought. We embraced and kissed quickly and walking back to my dad's 1964 Chevy, our family car, she giggled and said, "Ewww! What have you put into your mouth, sweetie, a dead rodent?" Eureka! Time for action. I told her to get in as I opened the door for her and while I walked behind my car, I took a good dose of TIPS and put a couple of white Chiclets in my mouth and let them go to work.
I sat down. Made my eyebrows move up and down-- a sure-fire way to make Frankie want me even more. I was still chewing the white Chiclets. I could tell that she had noticed my bad breath which was now fresh as the outdoors in Vermont in spring. But she had "that" look on her face--wrinkled and turning to look outside the window of her door. I felt like death. She is bound to bail, I thought. I am doomed. Here on a Saturday night with a gorgeous girl dressed fit to kill and smelling like a French fashion model ready to drop the hammer on me.
"Kenny, sweetie, do not take this the wrong way," Frankie said softly. Uh, oh! I saw the heavy blacksmith's hammer rise to the air.
"What's . . .the . . .problem, uhhh, . . .Frankie?" I said fumbling for a cool way to act innocent.
"It's your, uhh, well, you didn't wear any deodorant, did you?" Frankie said very firmly.
Gulp! Uh, oh! "Uhh, no, and there's a reason why," I said. "I thought that I would impress you with my fresh breath tonight so you would not be put off with me showing up with bad breath," I explained as if I were tap dancing telling the truth.
"Kenny, sweetie, let me say this: Now you know that I am fond of you and would not hurt you for anything, but between you having bad breath and not wearing any deodorant, I had rather have bad breath," Frankie said staring straight into my eyes now filled with tears. It was now Judgment Day. Time for one of us to leave.
"Why is that, Frankie?" I asked hoping for a conciliation prize.
"Well, sweetie. My first boyfriend would not take me out unless he stopped by a drugstore and bought a stick of Old Spice men's deodorant. I cannot stand a man without deodorant," Frankie explained.
"Then my breath is okay?"
"Sure, sweetie. It's just the lack of deodorant thing that gives me bad memories of my "EX," Frankie said.
I started the engine. And headed to main Hamilton. Fast as my 327 cubic inch engine could carry us.
"Where you heading, sweetie," Frankie asked with a rather relieved tone.
"Got to stop at the drugstore in a minute. Something that I need to get."
"Oh, (giggle), protection, huh?" Frankie said as she winked to me. "Any particular brand?"
"Yeah, Old Spice deodorant's my favorite," I replied.
"Make sure 'they' fit," Frankie said with her eyes emitting an extra glint.
Oh what a night.
Sad Epilogue . . .the years went by and even TIPS and Chiclets took the place of just being myself, which did work at times especially when the girls I wanted to date just happened to be ovulating when I asked them out. Go figure. As for my cool friend, Rodney, he was gunned down in his own hometown of Detroit, Ala., by an obvious wrong move by a disgruntled customer who Rodney was allegedly trying to clear a warehouse of off-the-open-market supply of "white powdered sugar," that is used solely for dressing up those tasty mini-doughnuts.
I still miss Rodney.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery