Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The First Kiss


We stood behind the elementary school. He was wearing jeans and tennis shoes that made his feet look too big, like paws on a St. Bernard puppy.  His red hair was spiky and uncombed and the freckles on his face stood out even more against his flushed skin. I pulled my shirt down over my too-pudgy belly and pushed a pigtail behind my shoulder.

“Do you wanna?” he asked.

Well not really, I thought. But the dare had been issued. It was 1974, and we were in fifth grade. Steve liked me. I liked him. Or at least we declared our romance for that one afternoon. Now here we were, hiding like lovelorn refugees, contemplating the dare to kiss. 

“I guess,” I shrugged.

Before I knew it, he leaned forward. Two fleshy feeling worms hit my mouth before I could even pucker. Steve ran squealing off to find our friends. I stood there fully aghast for a few seconds. I didn't realize before now, lips felt like big worms.

I regained my composure, or as much as I could, and ran after him laughing nervously.

“Did you guys do it?” Our friends, who now are locked faceless and nameless in my memory, were dying for the details. We had been dared, and we didn't back down!

“Yes,” we both giggled nervously. 

“You can’t tell anyone!” I tried to extract promises that would never be kept.

I don’t really remember the rest of that afternoon or even the days or weeks after. Like all good grade school romances, it was probably over before it began. Steve faded from my life and my memories, except that one moment behind the school.

There were no more kisses for me, an awkward girl turning into a teenager, struggling with self-esteem, never quite fitting the pretty, thin mold of my peers. I wanted to be popular, a cheerleader, the kind of girl who could toss her hair and flirt, but the coy gestures and confidence escaped me.

In the summer before high school, I went to my first real girl-boy party.  It was a warm summer night, and we stood outside on the back porch in the waning light. Elton John blared from the speakers. Teenagers wearing disco jeans milled around, laughing, drinking pop. Suddenly in hushed tones, someone suggested we play a game of Spin the Bottle. A couple of boys laughed, nudging each other with bravado, and the group moved indoors to the basement. (Where were her parents? I don’t remember.)

We sat in a circle. My heart pounded. Other than Steve behind the school, I’d never kissed a boy. Would they use tongue? What if they did? How did I kiss like that? I was in a panic. A boy stepped into the middle of the circle and gave the empty glass bottle a spin. It wobbled like a romantic compass needle, balancing on the arched glass, until it stopped, pointing to a girl. They stood up and faced each other. He slung an arm over her shoulder and she casually hung one around his waist. They kissed for a couple of seconds before sitting back down. She didn't even look phased! 

It was Adam’s turn next. He reached down, a suave crooked smile on his face and gave the bottle a spin. He was like the most popular boy in school, blonde wavy hair, tall, and already filling out with muscles. The bottle stopped, pointing towards… me. I stared. I can’t do this. Not for the first time. Not with Adam. Would he refuse to kiss me?

He stood and walked towards me. I could smell his cologne, heavy with some musky scent. And his breath was sweet, like the soft pink chunks of bubble gum he had been chewing. He leaned in. I closed my eyes, met his mouth, my pulse racing and stomach lurching. My first French kiss.

It kind of felt wormy too.

As the game carried on, my nerves calmed. I felt so worldly now. I even tried tossing my hair, or as much as you could toss hair lacquered with half a can of VO5. The next time the bottle pointed my way, it was to kiss a boy named Graham—a short, skinny kid, still pre-pubescent, a wild mop of red hair and freckles all over his face and arms. I sighed. Perhaps this really was my destiny. 

24 comments:

  1. You know, this post re-awakened my own first kiss and made my stomach lurch just the teeniest bit with the memory. It was after a game of spin-the-bottle, and I "collected" my "prize" after the game; I was too scared during the game. I don't know what possessed me to go back. I liked this kid; he was a neighbor, and we didn't have much to do with each other. He died a few years ago. Odd to remember all this. A really nice posting, Julie, because it triggered an emotional response!

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    1. Ahhh Spin the Bottle. I wonder how many first kisses this game instigated? I never thought of collecting post-game, brilliant! I felt too much peer pressure to act like I knew what the heck I was doing. I think I sought out advice from a friend beforehand and she gave me basic instructions for French kissing, which were enough to fill me with solid fear.

      How sad that your first kiss recently passed away. I have no idea what ever became of any of these boys.

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  2. Oh my, this brought back memories of my first kiss, too. It was at a friend's birthday party (I think I was 12 maybe?) and it was during a game of spin the bottle as well, lol! :D

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    1. I'm laughing out loud. Truly. Ahhh the bottle that binds. 12 huh? You early bloomer you!

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  3. I never played spin the bottle! But this brought back memories of my first kiss, at 14, with a much older man... 17!

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    1. What? So stingy with details? In the back of a car? Fourteen and seventeen. You would have been a woman of the world to me!

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  4. Ohhhhh.......the memories Julie!!!! LOVE IT!!!! Welllll, we played chase the girls. The boy's would chase......but of course I let the boy "catch" me!!! His name was Jerry and we were in 2nd and 3rd grade.....yes, I got "the kiss!" We were an item until high school. I liked the name Jerry so much that I married one! LOL!!!

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    1. I was wondering if they were one in the same. Way to be coy, Deb. A little chasing but allowing yourself to be caught. I will remember this technique next time I'm vying for a kiss!

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  5. I love this! I'm not sure if it brought back good memories or bad. ;)

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    1. True. Might depend on that first experience!

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  6. I can't help but smile! My first kiss was in 3rd grade - a boy named John, with red hair and freckles. It was also my first initiation into the world of jealous little girls.

    Sadly, my innocence was ripped away not long after - life isn't always nice and neat, eh?

    Although, to this day, I'm a sucker for a redhead. Dated a redheaded fireman before Hubby. Still talk to him on occasion, and he always sends pictures of his little redheads :)

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    1. Those redheads are lethal little tempters. What's a girl to do but pucker up? I am sorry life got more difficult and painful after that. Not good.

      A redheaded fireman though, eh? Sounds like a calendar boy to me.

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  7. I swear, is this how we all recieved our first french kiss?
    Julie, you did an amazing job of bringing the panic and butterflies of that moment back! (I've even got goosebumps, lady!)

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    1. Spin the Bottle for you too? My daughter read this post and then the comments and laughed, "No one plays that anymore, Mom." She thought it was funny that there were a few of us who received our first kiss that way. Thanks for stopping by, Chris.

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  8. I loved your story. With your sense of details, I can't see why you think you do not have a poetic eye. Only a poetic vision could render the the first kiss so eloquently as you did. I was a late bloomer in everything with my first kiss being one of them. I didn't get mine until the summer before I entered 11th grade. The feeling of worms is what I would use to describe that French kiss. I got sloppy kisses, akin to buckets of slob, until I met my husband in college.
    I never played Spin the Bottle. I think that was a rite of passage I was robbed of due to my shyness and my parents' overprotective nature. Great post!

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    1. I think you weren't probably robbed of too much, Alexandra. Better to get a kiss from feeling then because the open end of a bottle points your way. The thought of it actually makes me laugh (and made my daughter giggle-- they apparently don't do such things now).

      Sad thing is, I can't even remember my first real kiss from passion. Maybe a guy named Mark. I'd say he was my "first love" or all 6 months that it lasted.

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  9. My first kiss was in first grade but it was on the cheek. I was mortified. We were coming in from recess and Curtis (yes, I remember his name) planted one on me. Eww! I told the teacher and he flat out denied doing it. LOL!

    My first "on the lips" kiss was when I was eleven. I like your description of your first kiss feeling wormy because that's exactly how I remember it. Wet and wormy. :)

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    1. I'm laughing at the wormy kiss. Steve's reminded me of those worms on the sidewalk drying out. Nevermind, that's really gross. Let's bear in mind I was 10. Boys were just barely getting out of the gross stage to me!

      Curtis was a brazen little lad, wasn't he?

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  10. LOL. I'm soooo glad I didn't read this when I was waiting for my first kiss. I never would have kissed if I had read this.

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    1. hmmm.. was it the worm description Stina? lol

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  11. Yeah, my first kiss was like that, too. All wet and mushy and kind of gross, lol! You were brave on your second kiss - the third? Well, you know the saying about kissing a few toads before you find your prince. You were probably his first kiss :)

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    1. It was the Bottle of Fate, Gwen. ;)

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  12. I went to a birthday party with a boy, the son of a friend of my fathers, my first real date. His brother drove us. They played spin the bottle and I refused to participate. They couldn't understand why. I told them if my father found out, he'd kill me. My 'date' said, "she's not kidding!" I wasn't -- he would have. My first kiss, if I don't count the cop who picked me up in a bear hug and planted one on my lips when I was fifteen, or the boy who stuck his tongue down my throat with 'no' warning. Both situations shocked the life out of me! So, my first kiss was with my first boyfriend, I was sixteen. If I'm allowed to forget the other -- it was perfect and everything I ever dreamed of!

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    1. Sounds like the first two were not OK and appreciated-- sorry. :(

      Glad the real, first kiss was warm and wonderful.

      Good for you for standing up to the spin the bottle peer pressure. I have only fond chuckles to offer the memory, but it's not a first kiss immersed in sweet memories.

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