My childhood was graced with no shortage of lovely girls, it seems. Some of them were quite willing to accept my company, and it was quite a while before I realized that society's rules for boys and girls differed from society's rules for same-gender friendships.
I can't recall the first girl to whom I was attracted, but I know she lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and that she was a neighbor during the months we lived there while Dad was in the Air Force. I only know of her because of a photo my parents have--a blurry black and white photo that shows an almost-two-year-old me bestowing a kiss on the cheek of the anonymous lovely young lady.
I am told that soon after that, when my parents moved back to Cedartown, I made a fast friendship with a young girl named Kay Sanders, who lived near our home. It's odd that I recall the name and remember the house on Olive Street quite well, but have only the vaguest memories of Kay's face and doubt I would recognize her today. I hope I can be forgiven for such sins of omission, though, since I wasn't quite four years old at the time.
The first girl whose company I particularly enjoyed was my cousin Julie. I recall announcing shortly after my fifth birthday that Julie and I were going to get married. The family seemed to hide their shock quite well. (The relationship wasn't as semi-illicit as it sounds, since Julie was an adoptive cousin with no direct blood relation to me, so the law would not have frowned on the marriage.) Alas, as Julie and I grew older, we also grew apart, although I still value her as one of my favorite cousins--and I've been blessed with many, many cousins.
Next came Allison Rohner, a young girl who lived nearby and whose mother was a close friend of my mother. Allison and I were friends for several years, although she never shared my interest in comics, thereby creating an irreconcileable bond. (Hey, I was six at the time, and didn't know any better.)
The first girl who shared my interest in comics was a young girl from our neighborhood that I met soon after we moved to Marchmont. She lived off Pressley Drive, an older dirt road not far from my house, and we became friends because of that proximity. We played together a great deal, she read my comics, and occasionally she would make the rounds to local stores on my comic book quest. But Rhonda (whose last name has eluded me for some thirty years now) had many other interests, and her group of friends included people with whom she went to school. While we lived less than a quarter of a mile apart, she lived in the county and we lived in the city, so we attended different schools in different systems. I recall my parents' reaction the first time I asked if Rhonda could spend the night; when I was nine years old, it didn't occur to me that there might be some problem with that, since other friends had spent the night at my house on numerous occasions. I do recall that Rhonda was the first girl with whom I shared an exploratory kiss; I don't think we were interested in one another, but more interested in finding out what kissing was like.
Tricia Mullinax was the first girl with whom I shared a serious kiss; that happened shortly after my tenth birthday. Tricia, too, was the daughter of a family friend, and we became friends out of familiarity, I guess. Tricia was cute and flirtatious, and I found her appealing in a way that I had found no girls appealing prior to that time. She explained to me at one point what a french kiss was, and we experimented at it in our juvenile way; I don't think either of us ever figured out what made it so salacious, but we both seemed to enjoy the attempts well enough. Alas, Tricia and her mother moved away months later, and that friendship-with-minor-privileges went away with it. Just as well, I suppose--Tricia never liked comics, though monster movies were goofy, and couldn't understand why I liked plastic model kits.
The first classmate towards whom I ever felt attracted was a slender, doe-eyed girl named Jeanelle Phillips; she was in the fifth grade with me at West Rome, and I was taken with her lovely eyes and her shy, endearing smile. Alas, Jeanelle was the first girl in whom I was interested who had little to no interest in me; my juvenile flirting rarely evoked more than the faintest of smiles, and I soon came to realize that Jeanelle did not share an interest in me. In retrospect, I could have probably saved some moments of awkwardness had I realized it sooner; it wasn't until I went by her house one morning hoping to walk to school with her that her brother made it clear to me that wasn't going to happen. Thankfully, the fifth-grader's heart heals quickly...
After that time, the closest girl friend I had (to be differentiated from a girlfriend... she was a friend who was a girl as opposed to someone with whom I was romantically involved) was Pam Astin, another child of a family friend who also happened to be a classmate. Her father worked for a chemical/petroleum company, I believe (I seem to recall it was Gulf or Shell, but I must confess that my attention was more focused on Pam than on her father); I do recall that he struck me as knowledgeable in a very technical way, and I enjoyed hearing him speak of his work. Her mother was outspoken, gregarious, and jocular, and I always enjoyed her many visits to our house. Pam and I spent time together at school, and we sometimes spoke on the phone; I considered her a friend, but for reasons I could never explain other than sheer thick-headedness on my part, I never attempted to date her as I grew older.
Aside from Rhonda, though, I never found a girl who was willing to share my enthusiasm for comic books. I remember thinking more than once what a remarkable thing it would be, to find a girl who actually enjoyed comics the way I did. I had seen letters in various comics from an Irene Vartanoff, so I knew that there were girls who shared my insatiable appetite for comics... but I never imagined that I would ever actually meet one of them.