500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer

I was 15 when I met Brandon, a blue-eyed high school junior, who played bass in a punk band. After a few weeks of flirting over MySpace and avoiding each other in person, I was smitten.

The evening he asked me out over text — “I like you, do you want to go to the movies?” — my heart pitter-pattered like never before. I waited two seconds before responding “Yes!!” and throwing myself onto my bed in a love-size haze.

The only catch? I worked that Saturday. Oh, and I wasn’t allowed to date. My parents had a strict “no dating until 16” rule, and even though I was just a year away, my mother wouldn’t budge.

By the morning of the big day, however, I had a plan and an accomplice. My friend Andrea agreed to drive me to the theater, then pick me up and take me to work. That way, Brandon wouldn’t have to go anywhere near my house, and my mom would think I was hanging with friends.

An hour before the movie started, I was in my bedroom, flat-ironing my hair into a silky sheet and applying a third coat of mascara (dear god why). My flip phone buzzed with a text from Andrea: “Running 20 minutes late. Sorry!”

I shot Brandon a text, explaining I’d be late but was still excited. Cue the next 20 minutes of obsessively checking my phone for updates from Andrea. Then I got her second text: “Sorry! My parents are keeping me here forever. I’ll be there in another 20 I swear!” At that point, I felt queasy — what if Brandon thought I was blowing him off? Or what if he decided to cancel? When Andrea’s car pulled into the driveway, I dashed out the front door.

Driving up to the front of the theater, we spotted Brandon, sitting awkwardly on a bench near the entrance, where moviegoers filed in and out, unaware of the tiny teenage melodrama unfolding before them. I jumped out of the car, ready to start my apology speech. But to my relief, he cut me off, grinned, and said, “Come on, let’s get popcorn and watch that movie.”

Since the film we’d planned to watch was almost over, we ducked into a 3:15 p.m. showing of Baby Mama. As I settled into my seat, the nerves hit and my cheeks were on fire. I, Jannelle Sanchez, was on a real live date! I forced myself to grab a handful of popcorn, and Brandon wrapped his arm around my shoulders. For the next 30 minutes, we were enshrouded in teenage bliss.

Not even halfway into the movie, my phone vibrated with a text from Andrea saying “I’m here,” and just like that my first date was up. Before tiptoeing out the theater, I gave Brandon a side hug and whispered “thank you.”

During that hectic, wonderful half hour, I learned something: the perfect date doesn’t need to happen in a perfect setting. The most romantic moments often happen in unplanned or unpredictable ways. Today, whenever my husband and I get a night off from parenting and a hiccup pops up — like a cancelled dinner reservation or sold-out comedy show — I’m as cool as a cucumber and even a little giddy. Because I know something magical might be right around the corner.

What was your first date like? Was it embarrassing, amazing, or both? I’d love to hear.

P.S. Awkward dating stories and what’s your relationship status?