Amanda Tussi Fidgeted on the corner of Dock Street, primed to kiss the midshipmen trooping toward her in their summer white uniforms.
"She's pledging for our sorority," explained native Annapolitan high school senior Julie Sudhoff. "It's a really good night. The mids are out and they're anxious."
Amanda, whose 16-year-old smile was full of orthodontal work, darted up to one mid with single diagonal on his shoulder boards and pecked him on the mouth, quickly extinguishing the hungry gleam in his eyes.
"Wha--" said the nonplussed sophomore, or "youngster" in the academy's jargon. He scrambled to recover that carefully cultivated appearance of availability and indifference that is the pose of a mid without a date.
"So long," the girls said.
"Hey come back here," the mid said.
"I'd rather kiss a parking meter," Amanda said, skipping across the street.
"Squid-bait," the mid muttered.
As the sun went down on the Severn River Friday, ending the first day of the six-day festival of parades, parties, band concerts and other ceremonies commemorating the 130th graduation at the U.S. Naval Academy, a spicier celebration began in downtown Annapolis' Market Square.
Amid this pageant of flirtation and old-fashioned male-female role-playing, the academy is about to mark an historical occasion in the struggle for women's equal rights. Of the 950 graduating seniors, 55 are women -- the first women mids in Annapolis' 135-year history.
The lot of females in the pioneering class of 1980 is not easy. Their short-comings have always been under-scored by some. Last month, somebody snuck onto the women's obstacle course and painted pink all of the barriers that had been lowered for women. Even worse is the hounding they get from the media -- some 60 newspapers and television reporters have invaded the town this week, all wanting to know what it's like to be among the first women to graduate from Annapolis.
"The Class of 1980 is the path-breaker," said junior midshipman Carrie Jones, sipping a rum concoction in one of the quieter bars off Market Square. "They're very tired of being pioneers," she said. "You can see it in their eyes."
Out on the streets, hordes of mids squired dates down a long, meandering trail of window shopping, beer-drinking, and standing by the water gazing at the romantic lights across the river. Unescorted mids mingled with the crush of tourists and out-of-town families, some of whom made their hotel reservations four years ago. Lines lengthened outside Fran O'Brien's and Riordan's and other haunts. Mids' hats were piled up on the cigarette machne in Marina's pizzeria.
Mids who won't take no for an answer -- known to local women as "squids" -- leaned rakishly against jukeboxes and window fronts to press their cause. Local high school girls -- "squid bait" -- cruised redbrick Main Street in Camaros. Hardly anyone was at the movie at the Circle called "Kill or Be Killed."
"Commissioning week is the number two likely spot to lose your virginity," said sophmore Mike Cortez. "The Army-Navy game is ranked first. We read it in Playboy."
Under the small willows along the dock, a junior mid took his hat off to kiss his girl friend -- a "public display of affection" forbidden by academy regulations which permit only hand-holding.
Amy Vanderbilt, too, would have frowned at such a breach of etiquette, warning middie dates (known as "drags") against "lollygagging," and conspicuous conduct. "If you do anything to make a big splash by wearing too sophisticated clothes, or too conspicuous and expensive jewelry" she wrote, "you will embarrass him to say the least. He will wonder why he ever risked inviting you."
Fortunately for the mids, the chapter on Annapolis was dropped from the revised edition. And a more pertinent problem than hazarding an invitation to a woman of dubious character, is finding a date at all, of any character.
"Girls probably occupy a midshipman's mind 98 percent of the time," said Wayne Reif, a senior who will go on to pilot school. "There's 200 women here but it's basically a male dormain. The kind of guy gets recruited plays hard, drinks hard, and likes girls. Mids have to spend a lot of time daydreaming."
Rather than climb the walls, some mids travel to Hood College, an hour and a half drive across the state Carolyn Peck, a 19-year-sophomore at Hood, met her husband-to-be there at a mixer.
"You hear different things about misshipmen," she said waiting for her senior, Rich Medley, to pick her up in front of Bancroft Hall, the great dreadnought of a dorm which houses all 4,300 midshipmen, and where ever niche is occupied by bust of some admiral or another. "You hear how they'll treat you nice and walk on the outside of the street. Others say they only want one thing."
When a mid can get a girlfriend there is a problem of where to rendezvous. The question is out-of-bounds altogether for first-year midshipmen, universally dumped on as the "plebes" of the academy, who are forced to tack "sir" onto every reply and who must make right angles around corners. But for upper classmen who are unleashed on weekends where to rendezvous is a constant headache.
Bancroft Hall, Known as "Mother B," is too risky although there have been some trysts there.
Girlfriends brought up for visits are sometimes housed with local families. Yet as often as not, the women stay at the Thrift Inn, also known as the No Tell Motel.
Still, many are the mids who are romantic at heart and follow the academy tradition of marrying immediately after graduation in the domed granite chapel. This year 20 ceremonies will be performed, a decline from past years, giving the brides and grooms a little more time to linger over their vows, unlike past years when couples were staged through as fast as shells in a howitzer during an artillery assault.
Senior Richard MacInness, of Flint, Mic. plans to be married to a hometown sweetheart in the chapel, despite the high divorce rate that plagues such unions.
"We're not smart enough to know we shouldn't get married," MacInness said, gazing around at the sweet buckeye trees and the imposing marble facades and brick walls coursing the greenward of his home for the past four years. MacInness, who is going into the Marine infantry, said: "I can't honestly say I'll be alive five years from now. But my vision of ideal happiness is a wife, two kids, and a house with a little brook running through the backyard."