A Catholic Girl's Awakening © Eileen O'Brien


A Catholic Girl's Awakeing by Eileen O'Brien


In 1965 when I was 15 years old, my very Catholic Irish mother and Italian father allowed me to attend my first high school dance.   After eight years of attending St. Ann’s, a parochial school run by the strict Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, I felt anxious that I would not fit in.   I never experienced the sexual awakening my public-school friends did at the local Junior High Schools.   In those bastions, they would mingle with the opposite sex at parties, sporting games, and dances--all taboo at St. Ann’s.

I learned how to fast dance with my friends by watching American Bandstand, Shindig and Hullaballo.  My dad led me around the living room rug in slow dances performed by “The Big Bands” which ultimately resulted in my scuffing his polished shoes.  With that bit of confidence, I went to my first dance at Boston College High School in Dorchester.  My father drove me and my friends to and from the dance.  He ensured we had dimes in our penny loafers, and he left us with strict instructions to call him at the “first sign of trouble.”   My mother, however, was reassured we would be safe as the dance was organized and chaperoned by the “Good” Jesuit priests.  To gain entrance, girls were inspected for modest clothing, while the boys had to breathe into the faces of the priests to detect for the presence of alcohol.

My friends and I had a blast.  We danced with each other and with boys we did not know, and no one noticed if we had the correct rhythm   The no nonsense priests circled the dance floor, looking for any signs of sexual improprieties that would not allow “room for the Holy Ghost..”  It was toward the end of the night when a handsome, sandy-haired boy asked me to slow dance.  Initially, he held me at a respectable distance, but as the song, “Surfer Girl” played on, the boy gently pulled me closer, his head resting against mine.  He smelled of a mix of sweet sweat and English Leather cologne.  Suddenly, his lips moved slowly across my cheek.  If I had known what a “hot flash” was at 15, I would have sworn I was melting.  My lips slowly moved toward his and we kissed—very gently, no tongue--French kissing would have resulted in severe repercussions in the confessional.  “The Kiss” could not have lasted more than a minute.  In a flash, large black arms came crashing down, splitting us apart.  I was told to move on to the other side of the room “for shame.”  The boy was hauled out by his collar, not to be seen again.

I never did learn his name, this boy, this first kisser.  Thanks to him, all my parochial school inhibitions were wiped away in that one very splendid moment.

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