I was interviewing an author about her book on kissing (for a Valentine's Day story) and she talked about her first kiss and how the boy shoved his tongue in her mouth and she didn't like it.
I realized that I couldn't remember my own first kiss, which seemed odd to me. It might have been with Ryan Moss in sixth grade.
That was a bad year for me. I had braces and didn't know how to act around boys and I wasn't getting invited to any of the good spin-the-bottle parties.
One week, the entire sixth grade took a camping trip to Mount Misery in the Pine Barrens (yes, this is actually its name). Everyone was pairing off, and the sexual tension culminated in square dance night (because you actually had to hold hands with the opposite sex!)
When a boy asked you to dance, you were pretty much stuck with him for the rest of the night, so you didn't want to end up with Nickolai Sidwell, who had really big ears, or Wayland Morris, a geeky boy in flood pants, or Stew Craiger, who got a lot of laughs with his "Three Stooges'' impressions but was small and pudgy, a freckled George Costanza.
All the cute boys were taken. But there was Ryan Moss--who wasn't that cute or popular, but he was a cut above Wayland, Nickolai or Stew. He was gangly and mournful, but could sometimes be funny. He was never mean to anyone, and, like me, he slouched.
It seemed inevitable that because Ryan and I occupied the same social middle ground, we were supposed to pair off, too. But neither of us were feeling it, and I felt somehow humiliated, like I had been forced to settle, when only months before, during an orgasmic and never-to-be-repeated rush of fifth-grade popularity, hunky dark-eyed James Ness had been flirting with me while I hung out with Rue Finch, the queen of sixth-grade (see "Election' in my blog's November archives).
Now all I had was Ryan. I think after the dance he might have kissed me, but I can't even remember. Maybe because kissing him felt so much like resignation.
A year later, I had my first French kiss and I remember that vividly.
In seventh grade, I was going to the roller rink every Friday. It was liberating because it wasn't just kids from your school, so no one could tell if you were popular or not. The hottest guys at the roller rink were the ones that could skate backwards. During slow skates, they would put their arms around your waist, just like you were dancing or about to kiss.
The boy I liked, John McGee, couldn't do this. We just held hands during slow skates. But he was adorable, with curly blonde hair, lush lips and green eyes. He looked like my favorite Tiger Beat centerfold, Leif Garret. He was shorter than me, but I was used to that--hence the slouching.
I had been skating with John, and having phone conversations with him, a big step in junior high courtship, when I decided that I was going to French kiss him. I was psyching myself up for this, like I had to run a marathon or something.
That weekend, we didn't go out on the floor during the slow skate. When the pastel lights were lowered and we started kissing I opened my mouth. His tongue felt like a clam wriggling out of its shell. It was like drinking your first shot of whiskey. You wanted to gag, but after it went down, you were glad you got it over with. Now that it wasn't actually in your mouth, it felt good--at least in retrospect.
That summer, at Ocean City, where our family rented a house every summer, I Frenched another boy with dirty blond hair and brown eyes. I think his name was Vince. He had an older friend who was 17, and I was much hotter for him. But I liked Vince, too.
He took me for a walk on the beach at sunset and we made out under the bulkheads. I could finally understand why people wanted to do this. He put his hand briefly under my tube top but didn't linger there, like he wanted to get to second base, but he knew that actually kicking back and enjoying it was more than either of us could bear.
Back then, my friends and I were always wearing Bonne Bell Lip Smackers lip gloss. My favorite flavors were choclate chip mint, Dr. Pepper and strawberry. The smell of strawberry lip smackers and Loves Baby Soft perfume--which I wore when I wanted to get lucky--- makes me think of kissing Vince, or whatever his names was.