I don’t tend to believe in omens, but my first kiss was so bizarre that I’m inclined to consider it the preview to a love life so weird that Tim Burton would make a movie of it. First kisses come in two flavors: Hollywood and Reality. First kisses in Hollywood are usually sweet, strange little learning totems in which bittersweet lessons are imparted. There’s usually very little clacking of teeth. No one has terrible breath or strangely cavernous pores up close (seriously, there’s a reason why people keep their damn eyes shut for kissing). Hollywood first kisses are innocent and exploratory and everyone respects each other afterward.
In reality, first kisses are often messy, angry things that aren’t pleasant or aren’t wanted or worse, are so disappointing that you consider for a while that maybe you just hate everyone and really, why are tongues so slug-like anyway? I don’t know, maybe people in Real Life have Hollywood kisses now and then, but my first kiss was absolutely mind-bendingly horrific. Not to mention confusing as all hell.
Picture this: I’m on my own at the mall to pick up something for my mom. I’m wearing a green sweatshirt and disgusting jeans. I already consider myself FAR TOO OLD to not have been kissed – I’m sixteen – and that in and out of itself is something to be horrified about and clearly there’s something gravely wrong with me. Also, everyone sucks. But I’m not thinking of that as I walk through the food court. Suddenly, someone stands in my path. It’s one of those annoying people who sells magazine subscriptions! Oh no! I’m too nice to tell him to fuck off at this point in my life, so instead I plaster a smile on my face and listen to his story about how he’s trying to go to some camp in Florida and that I can buy an overpriced subscription to Entertainment Weekly to help contribute. And because I’m a pushover with no spine, I say “okay”, and fill out the little card that will guarantee that my address gets junk mail from now until the second coming of Christ.
It’s when I hand him the card with my information that he makes his move. He puts a hand on my waist and I freeze in shock. He made contact! A boy actually touched me! Willingly! And he’s not doing it on a dare! …he’s not bad-looking, really, outside of the fact that he’s an annoying magazine-subscription selling guy. He’s definitely older than me and of the male persuasion. I can tell, because he has that quasi-stubble thing going on and Eau d’Axe wafting from him and WHY DO BOYS WEAR AXE, I wonder, but it’s a sure sign that holy crap, he’s making a move and what do I do? Do I let this happen? He’s making eye contact. What the hell does he see on my face that spurs him on?
For one moment I consider detangling myself and running, shrieking away, but instead, I harden my resolve. I haven’t been kissed. I’m sixteen. It’s time for the trenches. Sack up, Whitney, and do your duty. Get kissed. Get kissed for America.
He kissed me outside the Taco Bell. I was still so shocked by the experience that I just stood there unattractively. Moved my mouth around a little. Guys like that, right? Or maybe he liked his girls unresponsive and stunned. Who knows. But after, he thanked me for helping him get to Florida and took off with a purposeful stride that seemed to indicate that he’d done me a favor.
And I stood there, my mouth warm, still smelling that Axe, with an Entertainment Weekly in my hand wondering “holy shit, did I pay money for my first kiss? Am I a prostitute? I’M A PROSTITUTE. I paid MONEY for my first kiss! No one loves me!” And I cried all the way back to school for play practice because I was unlovable.
Years later, I’ve changed my mind on what actually happened eight times. I went through a phase where I thought he’d taken advantage of me, and then I decided that no, I had my moment to tell him no or react positively, and then I think “well, consent is supposed to be vocal”, and then I think “HE KISSED ME IN FRONT OF A TACO BELL. THE FRAGRANCE OF GORDITAS WAS WAFTING NEARBY. WHAT. THE. FUCK.” I don’t know his name. The worst part about this first kiss is that when girls in high school got together to tell their first kiss stories (yes, lads, this is something we do/did), I had to invent a Canadian model at the roller rink or whatever because HELL NO I’m not telling the above story.
But I’ve made my peace with it, now. It’s weird. It was inappropriate. It was sixteen. It happened. But analyzing it just makes for confusion and irritation.