My first kiss was an event I feverishly anticipated throughout three long years of junior high. I had attended an all-girls Catholic school since the age of nine, and the only boys I knew were the brothers of my girlfriends. These gawky, spotty teens were the targets of near-constant obsession and angst. A tongue-tied and shy pre-teen, the act of calling a girlfriend was something I would spend half an hour preparing for, a list of possible conversational topics in hand in case a Brother answered and I was lucky enough to stumble into a dialogue. I harbored a particularly brutal series of crushes on my friend Georgia’s older brother and the members of his garage band, but remained romantically disappointed. They were, after all, sophisticated high school freshman and regularly in the presence of girls far more developed than me in the breast region; I wasn’t even allowed to wear makeup. After drooling over the band boys and some secreted issues of Tiger Beat, I composed an idea of what I wanted my first boyfriend to be like.
He had to be mature and sophisticated, like me, and might even be as old as 16. He would have to be creative so that if he were a musician, he could dedicate his songs to me; if he were a painter, he could paint pictures of me; if he were a writer, he could write anguished poems about our torrid love. I definitely leaned toward a poet, as I had just read Romeo and Juliet and felt that passionate, fatal love was a very desirable thing. I understood poets to have a high mortality rate. He had to be tall with intense eyes and healthy teeth and should photograph handsomely so that I could take pictures of him to school and brag about his prolific creativity, adoration, and general hotness.
Jeremy and I met at a mutual friend’s 8th grade graduation party, and I decided that he would make a reasonable first boyfriend. He wasn’t exactly what I had fantasized, but he had an artistic air and was available. Jeremy was a devoted hiker/biker/mountain climber/yoga student who ate multigrain bars three meals a day and hydrated himself with natural spring water. He was also a ballet dancer, which seemed exotic enough, although I was perplexed as to how he would choreograph numbers to the score of our love. He had a thick ponytail that hung midway down his back, which was not only acceptable but even desirable in the mid-90s. More importantly, he was 15 and I was thirteen, which presented a sufficiently impressive age gap for my classmates.
Although his New Age tendencies were a slight drawback, he thought I was smart and beautiful; even in my tender and inexperienced youth, I recognized this as a major plus. I decided to overlook the gap between his front teeth and the fact that he didn’t write anguished poetry. He had extremely strong thigh muscles and could pick me up, which sent unfamiliar shivers through me. In retrospect, I was never really attracted to him, but to have such maleness in close proximity was intoxicating enough.
When Jeremy was at my house one day, I cunningly suggested that we take the dog for a walk. Our “dates” up to this point consisted of closely mother-monitored movie viewing, hours-long phone conversations, and some variety of athletic activity. Three weeks into Operation First Kiss, and things were progressing too slowly for my liking. I was eager for an opportunity to be alone with him away from the house, anticipating that he might finally try to kiss me. Despite some photographic boyfriend evidence, my friends were growing skeptical. I chose to be on the safe side and took the mile-long route, mindful of giving Jeremy a few extra minutes to prepare. We walked the first half-mile quickly, immersed in a conversation about Jeremy’s progress in his yoga class and his ability not only to see the colorful auras of the people around him but to manipulate them. My attention was diverted from the conversation during the second half mile as I became aware of the nearness of my house and the gradual dwindling of kissing opportunities. Jeremy was still babbling about his God-like powers, and I was increasingly fidgety and frustrated. How obvious did I have to be? Would no one just kiss me, for the love of dog? Was I going to be the last girl on the planet to get KISSED?
We arrived at the house next to mine with zero attempt made to widen my realm of romantic experience. Sweaty handholding would suffice no longer. My front door was in sight, and I has surpassed fidgety into proper, steaming mad. I stopped walking and folded my arms. After a few steps, Jeremy noticed that I was no longer moving or at all interested in his monologue. Perhaps detecting a darkening in my aura, he approached nervously, looking at everything but me. He cleared his throat, cracked his knuckles, and smoothed his hair before inquiring in a tiny voice, “So, is something wrong?”
At that point, I’m afraid I lost my temper, in the sense that I screamed, “I hate you!” and sat down on the curb to cry. I think that Jeremy may have been in shock for a few minutes, but he sat down and put his arm around me awkwardly as I snuffled into my shirtsleeve. Somehow, it happened, just how kisses are supposed to happen, unplanned and quiet, without a discernible beginning. I wasn’t surprised when it happened and was beginning to feel a tingle in my legs when I became aware of other sensations.
Sensations, such as: I realized that Jeremy’s tongue had found its way into my mouth and was approaching my tonsils. I observed that Jeremy tasted like he hadn’t brushed his teeth that morning. I then found I was having a difficult time breathing through my nose and that there was a distinct shortage of oxygen, making me unpleasantly light-headed. Only a minute after it had begun, I decided that kissing was a disgusting and ill-advised thing to do. I pulled away quickly and stood up to brush my shorts off, rein in the confused dog, and head home. Jeremy looked up at me, bewildered. “That’s so gross, Jeremy,” I told him. “You should never do that again.” We went into the house to watch “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” and I decided not to tell my girlfriends about the graceless incident at all. They could find out about kissing for themselves.