So sweet: a 14-year-old boy goes door-to-door asking people if they want their lawn mowed for the very competitive price of $5.
Cody Mitschelin wasn't having much luck, though, last week with this time-honoured way for teens to earn some money.
As he sloped dejectedly away from yet another house, the homeowner, Ryan Cox, called him back.
He asked Cody what he so badly needed the money for. To buy video games?
Cody replied that he had been seeing this girl for the last six months. But they hadn’t been on a real date yet – he had just been bringing her for walks in the local park.
Cody is one of six children in a single-mother household. The reason he was going around people’s houses offering to cut their lawn was to make enough money to bring his girlfriend out on a “real” date – to an actual pizza restaurant.
Cox was impressed by Cody’s work ethic and good intentions: he hired the 14-year-old to mow his lawn.
He took a picture of him while he was working and posted it and Cody's romantic story on Facebook. Little did Cox know he had just opened Pandora's box.
Cody made a very commendable $45 from mowing lawns that day last week.
True to his word, the next day he excitedly brought his girlfriend, Audrey Fierro, out to lunch to Safari Pizza in Oakdale, California.
Audrey was really proud of him for earning the $45 in one day’s work, telling Cody:“That’s my man!”
It was just as well he had earned so much because a single pizza at Safari Pizza costs $14 and he had been advised to bring along a hand-picked bouquet of flowers which were expensive to buy.
When they arrived at Safari Pizza, the manager was waiting for them. The couple were escorted to a table which was draped in a tablecloth.
Despite it being lunchtime, the manager had lit candles. Cody says when he sat his girlfriend down, all the other diners went “Awwww!”
As a 14-year-old on his first real date, Cody was “embarrassed as hell”.
The restaurant had heard about the Facebook post so the food was complimentary.
Internet hearts Cody
So had everyone else: the tale of the 14-year-old mowing people’s lawns so he could bring his girlfriend out on a real date “melted the heart of the internet”.
The media were also waiting at the restaurant. A still photograph of the table where Cody and Audrey ate their pizza appeared in the newspapers.
The young couple were interviewed by news crews and were charmingly gauche – utterly bemused by all the attention.
This being the land of the Kardashians, Cody and Audrey’s mothers were also interviewed on camera by media outlets. They were radiating pride.
Cody told reporters that he was going to save up to buy a truck so he could start his own lawn-mowing business.
When they left the restaurant, Cody took Audrey for some ice-cream. He also bought her a baseball cap and a bar of her favourite chocolate.
As the pictures and video footage of the first date went up online, messages of love and support came in from thousands of people in places as diverse as Switzerland and Vietnam.
One young woman who had been in a domestic violence situation wrote to say that her faith in humanity was restored because of Cody’s actions.
There were other messages too: people mocked and ridiculed Cody’s appearance and his shy demeanour. Some men wanted to know what age Audrey was.
Advice on his first date was offered – the type of advice that really should be shielded from a 14-year-old. There were also comments about what else a 14-year-old boy could do to make some easy money.
And a row broke out: wasn’t it downright sexist of Cody to insist on paying the bill? Why wasn’t Audrey paying her half? Was this how the relationship was going to progress –with the “man” paying for everything?
All this aside, is it not embarrassing and nerve-racking enough to be 14 and going through a rite of passage without having the eyes and the ears of the world watching and listening? And commenting?
Cody wanted to do a lovely thing for his girlfriend. But when his story was put online (however well-meaning that was), Cody was thrown on the bonfire of the vanities that is today’s social media.
A 14-year-old (who is legally a minor) should have the inalienable right be left alone to experience all the excitement, apprehension, joy and fear of a first date as a personal and significant event.
Cody and Mary Jane
Because Cody became a media story (which he never asked to be), there was “additional research” carried out on him.
His local Oakdale Leader newspaper "unearthed" three Instagram accounts under his name and profile picture.
On these accounts there were pictures of him smoking marijuana.
Having their Watergate moment, the Oakdale Leader solemnly informed readers that Cody captioned one of the smoking marijuana pictures with the phrase: “Boring weekend, gotta buy me some weed”.
When confronted with the existence of the Instagram accounts, Cody – with his mother present – admitted they were his.
Cody was then asked by the tireless news hounds at the Oakdale Leader if “the mowing of lawns was for drug money in lieu of taking out his girlfriend”.
Cody replied that he gets the marijuana he smokes for free.
A 14-year-old smokes marijuana – that’s something that’s between Cody and his mother.
A 14-year-old mows lawns to make enough money to take his girlfriend out on a first date – that really should have stayed between Cody and his girlfriend.
The latest we have on Cody is that he is sitting at home. Crying his eyes out.
Love’s labour lost.