It was the summer of 1958. This farm boy assumed it would be another typical summer of work from sun to sun … and you know the rest. But then I heard some exciting news. My older cousin had been dating a boy for several months and talk of a forthcoming marriage was in the air. It was to be a lavish affair by Burt county’s standards, complete with a large church wedding and a dance at the fire hall.
Being the only male cousin, I was asked to be an usher. The other usher was the groom’s brother who was about four years older than me and was considered to be one of the cool guys in high school. He basically took me under his wing and said his friends would be meeting us at the dance. I knew of these boys by reputation only, and they were living legends. And now I’d get to hang out with them. What luck.
The wedding was super. It was a lovely event, and I was so flattered to be a part of it. I loved wearing formal clothing, and I felt like a real dude.
After the ceremony everyone reassembled at the fire hall, and at intermission my new friends and I left the dance. We piled into a car and headed out of town. We pulled into a cornfield and a bottle of Jim Beam appeared along with a pack of cigarettes. For the next 45 minutes I watched them smoke, drink, and talk about cars, sports, and girls. I soaked it all in. It was some pretty heady stuff for a thirteen-year-old kid.
Back at home, when I sat down for breakfast the next morning, my mom asked me, “How did you get mud on your shoes?” I simply replied, “It rained.” This was a fairly typical response for me at that age and stage. When dealing with my parent’s prying questions, I absolutely believed in brevity. The most they could get out of me were answers containing no more than two words, such as “wasn’t me,” “probably not,” “I forgot,” “maybe later,” and “not yet.” I considered three words or more a conversation (definitely something to be avoided at all costs).
As a result of successfully seating all of my relatives on the correct side of the church, not letting the wick go out when lighting the candles, and not stumbling while ushering my grandmother to her pew, I received a gift – a bottle of Avon Men’s Cologne. My mother dabbed a bit on her wrist, sniffed it, and remarked, “It smells so clean, so spicy, and so masculine.” I immediately felt older. It was as if I had now become a member of the club Men Who Wear Cologne.
The next fall, as I was getting ready for my first day back at school, I decided to splash on some of my new magic potion. The response was immediate. The girls asked me the name of it, and I said it was Avon Men’s Cologne, putting the emphasis on “Men’s.” The guys being guys asked me, “Phew! What’s that smell?” I could only chuckle to myself about their ignorance of one of the finer things in life. It was evident over the summer I had advanced far beyond them. Not only did I know about cologne, but I had actually gotten to hang out with guys who had drivers’ licenses.