Saturday, August 7, 2010

One, two, three- Let's kiss!

Rewind. Fast playback. Let your movie-mind display on the back of your eyelids a montage of all of the kisses you've ever had.  I mean to say start with the last one- a few moments ago. This morning. Last night. Last week.

Whenever it was.

And go back. Edit out the lick on the face by your dog, because that's just gross. And go ahead and take out the peck on the cheek by your grandma, because that's just assumed. What's left? Your spouse? Go back. That guy you dated with the teeth that always hit yours. Back...further. College. The kiss in the middle of the street at 3 a.m. Go back...further. High school. Kissing your sister's college roommate. Go back...further. 8th grade. Kissing an ex-boyfriend at a party and being disgusted by the taste of stale beer on his breath. Go back...just a bit further. Summer of 6th grade.

Now you're at your first kiss.

In 5th grade I received a hand-written note that roughly stated the following: Meet me behind the tree by the playground during recess. I want to kiss you. Love, Geoff. I quickly folded the note and tried to hide my flushed face. This was the stuff of IBS producing stress and anxiety. Had Geoff, the rosy-cheeked crush of my life, actually written the note? Was I being teased? Set up? What if he had written it- was I ready to make such a mature leap into the world of people who press their lips together and turn their heads from side to side, like I had seen on The Loveboat?

During recess, I feigned interest in a game of tether ball while eying the big oak tree several yards away. I couldn't bring myself to walk over there and see if Geoff was waiting for me or not. I wasn't even sure what to do if he had been.

I wasn't ready.

By the summer of 6th grade, I'd invested all of my crush energy in one boy: Neal Cain. So devoted to the idea of our everlasting love was I that when he suggested we prepare ourselves for what would be my first kiss, I was ready.  I had, I thought, perfected my technique on my larger-than-life poster of Adam Ant hanging on my wall at home, and was quite certain that I could transfer my abilities onto a real-life man. Boy. Child, I guess. We were twelve.

The kiss was to take place at Julie Wilhelm's pool party. I spent the day burning up the phone wires, gathering moral support from all of my girlfriends. I had a cheering committee. They believed in me. I exercised my mouth muscles throughout the day like a swimmer warming up by the side of the pool. Ooooooohhhhhhh. Eeeeeeeeeeeee.  Ooooooooooh. Eeeeeeeeeee. I had no reason to believe that my tongue would have any part in the activity. I mean, who would actually put their tongue in someone's mouth? Totally gross!

I was in the pool, skirting around the perimeter, for a good hour before the kiss even happened. Neal had been preoccupied, no doubt, by various older and more curvaceous girls in their swimsuits. I mean, there were 8th grade girls there. Come on!

Finally he hopped in the pool and dog-paddled his way over to me.

"Are you ready?"
"I guess so."
"Do you think our braces will get stuck together?"
(uncomfortable giggle) "I don't know?" (odd question-like inflection)
"So, I thought on the count of three, we should go underwater and then, you"

This was his bright idea. To go underwater, where historically humans can't breathe, and open our mouths. I also had the problem of not being able to open my eyes underwater. I was an eye-shutter. This, to me, sounded like a total disaster.

"Um...okay. Sure."

We held hands and counted off to three together. "One....two...three" and down we went. Sounds of teenage yelling and splashing were instantly muffled the second my ears hit the water.  Afraid to admit that I couldn't open my eyes under water, I simply hoped that his lips would find their way over to mine. My heart was exercising its free will to pound its way out of my chest. My feet were kicking in a frantic attempt to keep me from sinking to the bottom of the pool, and all of a sudden, our teeth clicked.

Our teeth clicked.

That was it. Unable to hold our breath any longer, we broke through the surface of the water and clung to the side of the pool, panting and heaving in utter defeat.

"Let's try again," he suggested.
"Okay. Let me just wipe my-"
"Onetwothree!" And he was down again. I sensed his determination.

This time, it finally happened. My lips were met with his. Mushy. Warm. Alien. I started to turn my head, as I had practiced so many times before, when I was met by an unexpected participant.

His tongue.

Wiggling around like a sidewalk worm after a summer rain was his tongue, trying every which way to make a full sweep of my entire mouth cavity. Had I been choking on something, his tongue would have surely cleared my airways, such was the thorough job it was doing. Chlorinated water rushed in and mixed with this tasteless oyster I now had taking up space in what was moments before a perfectly happy mouth. Before long, I was gagging. Coughing. Drowing. This was horrible.

Once again we rushed to the surface to breathe, and after wiping my eyes and getting my bearings, I looked over an Neal, who was grinning, nodding his head, and giving the thumbs up sign to everyone within viewing distance. He was a man now, and everyone should take notice. Neal: the lady kisser.

I, on the other hand, was mortified. Was this all there was to it? Was I doomed to a life of claustrophobic tongue-wrestling sessions in the pools of classmates who weren't really friends of mine to begin with?

Having jumped on the kissing bandwagon, Neal was ready to perfect his new-found passion. Each time became progressively less-creepy, although I often found myself opening my eyes and looking around, like, "This is just too weird."

Fast forward. High school kisses. Coffee house kisses. Homecoming kisses. Prom kisses. Off to college. Art studio kisses. Dorm room kisses. Traveling across Europe kisses. Getting older. "I do" kisses (yes, two) and kisses good-bye.

What's the story behind your first kiss?

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