Finely Peter Dunne once wrote that that past always looks better than it was simply because it is no longer here; never has this sentiment been truer than when thinking back on middle school. Remembering the acne, the braces, and the general assholery that permeates the early teenage years is best done in the context of being glad you never have to do it again. I agree wholeheartedly with this attitude and believe that anyone who looks back fondly on their years of puberty is at best deluded and at worst a sociopath, however, that isn’t to say I hated every moment of my middle school experience. For example, there was one uncharacteristically sunny day in February 2002 that was pretty great; the day I had my first kiss.
I’d been dating the girl down the street for a full two months by the time we found ourselves walking through the park behind my house that day. We’d been friends since the beginning of the school year and sometime just before the winter holidays we paired up officially (after I handed her a “Will you go out with me?” note between sixth and seventh period). The day in question was much like any other we’d spent since then – holding hands, talking about school, our friends, our families, and each other; our conversation only ever briefly punctuated to smile and say hello to other park-goers. Eventually we stopped walking and took a seat on one of the wooden benches, opting to simply soak up the sunshine, our faces toward the clouds, and enjoy one another’s company in silence. After a while, unprompted, we suddenly looked at each other, and only moments after our eyes met, so did our lips.
I’ve heard a lot of people tell stories about their first kiss; how the buildup was painfully awkward only to be followed by unskilled execution, but that wasn’t how it went for us. For us, it was perfect. I leaned down as she leaned up; we met in the middle for just the right amount of time, parting ways as if we had agreed on the number of seconds beforehand. Afterward, we both grinned and there were no awkward giggles or wiping of the mouth to spoil the moment.
It makes sense, really. Here were two people who had spent the last few months gossiping on the phone after school every day for hours and hours, chattering so quickly we often finished one another’s sentences in order to get on to our next thought. We weren’t just on the same metaphorical page, our chemistry was down to the letter — so when it came time for us to kiss for the first time, it would have been silly to expect anything other than perfection.
As fate would have it, however, my middle-school girlfriend and I were destined not to work out romantically. I was a Cancer, she was a Gemini. She liked country, I preferred rock and roll. Ultimately though, it was not our differences, but one glaring similarity that doomed the relationship: as much as kissing each other was fun, we both wanted to be kissing boys. We dated for eight months (a veritable eternity for a couple in middle school) before we broke up outside my house, both of us in tears. Three days went by without a word spoken between us, but then she called my house on a Sunday afternoon and asked me to go for another walk in the park with her, and I agreed. It’s almost ten years later now, and while I would never refer to her as an ex girlfriend (she would laugh at me if I did), I am fortunate enough to call her a lifelong friend.
Of course, some might argue that because I am gay, this incident does not count as my first kiss. They will say that when I am asked about it, I am meant to tell the story of my first kiss with a boy, a much less memorable memory. I feel no sense of nostalgia when I think back to the night, years later, when a group of friends and I attended a gay club in Hollywood for the first time. I can’t tell you how many shots I drank, or how exactly how we came to start dancing together, and I certainly can’t remember what song was playing at the time. I can’t even tell you his first name. The only details I can really provide are that his brown hair was heavy with too much gel and that his breath smelled of vodka and what I hope was cigarettes. I left him on the dance floor without my phone number or any way to get in touch with me and I’m sure even if I were to have stood in line behind him at Starbucks the next morning, I wouldn’t have recognized him anyway.
Good or bad, I think our first kiss is important because it teaches us something about ourselves. Certainly, the mere fact that kissing is our first literal taste of physical romance makes the first one unforgettable, but I think every kiss holds a message that makes it meaningful as well. Upon comparing the lessons learned from kissing a girl for the first time to those gleaned from making out with what’s-his-name, I become more convinced that my middle school kiss mattered more. Sure, my first kiss with a guy taught me that a combination of body glitter and raspberry vodka never makes for a classy night, but the lessons I learned at thirteen years old were far more significant and have had a greater hand in shaping my philosophy on love and romance; gender and sexual orientation aside. My first kiss taught me that, every once and a while, we are granted perfect moments, that good things take time and are never rushed, and that you should always keep your expectations high, because when they’re met, you’ll realize you should never have to settle for anything less.