My First Kiss

First kisses can beautiful, psychedelic, and terrifying experiences.

Like LSD, crystal meth, or hallucinogenic mushrooms, they can forever alter your neurochemistry. “Just one,” you tell yourself. “I’ll just eat one of these bright red Amanita Muscaria mushrooms and have a story to tell my friends.”

Oh contraire, my friend. You’ll ruin your life.

I was in the 8th grade. Sarah’s friends made it known to me that I should make our mutual crush official by asking her to “go” with me. That seemed so 5th grade to me, yet going against their better judgment to appease the women they want is something that men do all the time. Pubescent males, in particular, have this Achilles’ heel, not that they have much wisdom or discernment in the first place.

I’d grown up hearing my parents preach that compromise is to relationships what oil is to engines, so I went ahead and asked her.

I was fifteen and couldn’t go pick Sarah up, which meant that my dear old dad had to drive me out to her house anytime I wanted to see the object of my affections. Sarah and I always came back to my house, or my parents took us to the movie theater or mall.

Sarah and I made plans to have a date the same night that my parents were headed over to my grandparents house to play cards. We were stuck. We had no choice but to tag along.

My dad was driving the blue Suburban, my mom was riding in the passenger seat. Sarah and I were sitting in the second seat. I was trying to figure out how to hold her hand without my dad being able to see in the rearview mirror, as if he would have cared.

As I was conceiving my plan of attack, my dad slammed the brakes, something smashed into our truck, and gray-brown fur flashed across the windshield.

We’d just bagged us a whitetail deer.

Back in 1997, a lot of the land on either side of Hillsboro Road, heading into Green Hills, was still undeveloped, and the woods ran right up to the road. Opossums, raccoons, deer, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, and roughly a billion suicidal squirrels would cross from patch of trees to the other. Sometimes, you’d see the carcass of a smushed opossum or the sharp stink of a careless skunk.

My dad drove straight to my cousins’ house, and Uncle Scott came out to look at the damage. He stuck a fingertip in some mud on the side of the truck, and after smelling it, wrinkled his nose and frowned. It wasn’t mud.

“You scared the crap out of that deer,” he said.

How come he got to say “crap,” and I didn’t?

Eventually, we did make it over to my grandparents’ house. The adults played Hearts upstairs, and I escorted my lady down to the basement where the cousins played pool on the same table our parents had grown up using and ping-pong on the table that Granpa Parkes had built himself.

I hadn’t made up my mind to kiss Sarah that night. Just the thought of actually closing my eyes, leaning in, and pressing my lips against hers made my stomach feel as though I’d lost my wallet or caught a kickball with my groin. When Sarah and I were together, I could think of little else. I mean, how did it feel? Would I be “good”?

I’d experienced the paralysis that came from a similar interior monologue while sitting next to a girl in a dark movie theater. Staring at her hand out of the corner of my eye, I faced that moment of truth:

“Do it now, Austin. Take her hand right now. Okay, okay, relax. Oh no, I’m sweating! Cardinal Sin of Handholding #1: Nobody wants to hold your sweaty hand. Why does she look so calm? She’s just sitting their watching the movie like I’m not even here. Maybe she doesn’t even care if I hold her hand. Maybe she doesn’t even want to be here. She probably doesn’t even like me. What was that? She smiled at me! There is hope! Okay, do it now, Austin. Take her hand right now…” and so on.

I’m sure the girls had it just as bad, if not worse. They had to worry about some putz asking them out on dates. Even if they liked the guy, they had to think about what they were going to do if Prince Charming got handsy. Or, maybe he was a really nice guy and lacked boldness, and she had to sit there wondering what was taking him so long.

Well, cowardice, for one thing. Fear of rejection. Insecurity. Ladies, you can be guaranteed that no matter how exciting or suspenseful the movie, your date took you to a movie for one reason and one reason alone: to hold your hand, put his arm around you, make out, or something similar.

However much we men may love superheroes or cowboys or chase scenes or watching the good guy get the girl while reducing the villain to a mewling babychild, we love females more. Have you ever stopped to wonder why movies are the default date? Movies are about the worst possible way to get to know someone and find out what you have in common. Spending two hours sitting next to someone you barely know and watching as a man and woman onscreen end up together in bed despite all the odds isn’t the best way to decide if you want this woman to be the mother of your children, if you want this man to open salsa jars and drive to the store for tampons.

Movies are really about that electricity of touch. Darkness dials up the voltage. I want to get drunk on her perfume, her closeness, her warmth, her softness, our arms grazing, a glance, one corner of her lips turned up in a smile. Of course, the uncertainty enhances the excitement, and as the feelings fade, a deeper, more stable intimacy should replace the physical and emotional fireworks.

Perhaps I had no intention of kissing Sarah for the first time. Perhaps I had every intention of kissing Sarah for the first time. Considering all the hormones coursing through my veins, I’ll bet it was both—hoping that I had the guts to kiss Sarah for the first time.

The year before, my seventh grade year, I’d dated a girl named Lauren. Our group of friends went trick-or-treating in Kyle’s neighborhood on Halloween night. To encourage me to make a move, my buddies and the rest of the girls kept on walking ahead of Lauren and me to give us time to ourselves, only to catch up with us after a couple of minutes, pull me aside, and ask, “Did you do it? Did you do it?”

I was always a romantic, and my first kiss seemed like a special rite of passage, not the sort of thing you waste on any girl who catches your eye. This type of nudging from my friends diminished its significance. I really just wanted them to leave me alone and make up my own mind about when was the right time and which was the right girl.

Though I meant it as no slight, I never did kiss Lauren. Still a lip virgin a year later, I was in my grandparents’ basement teaching Sarah how to play pool, which supplied a convenient pretense for putting my arms around her.

At one point, I tickled her, and when she wriggled away and faced me, our eyes locked and with that peculiar gravity, I leaned in and touched my lips to hers.

When I pulled back, she was smiling.

I was very pleased with my boldness and with her reaction, and planned no other operations for the evening. We continued playing pool until my dad yelled from the top of the stairs that it was time to go.

The wonderful thing about tickling is that the girl inevitably ends up in your arms. So long as you can discern when enough is enough, tickling is one of the most effective and versatile tools in our flirtation arsenal. On the way to the stairs, I grabbed Sarah’s calf or jabbed her in the side.

Apparently, this set the mood because when we got to the stairs and I flipped off the overhead basement lights, the yellow light from the stairwell caught Sarah’s face, and she had The Look. How I knew what The Look looked like or what it signified, I cannot tell you. No one taught me. I just knew somehow that The Look means business time.

I leaned in to kiss her again. Our lips met, and something strange happened. She stuck her tongue in my mouth.

Woah! I guess I figured that we were working on my timeline. One thought entered my foggy mind: “I have to fight back.”

I returned the favor, and we had a fist fight with our tongues for a couple of seconds. Then, it was over. Sarah wiped her mouth, and not knowing any better, I thought this was normal and did likewise.

Unfortunately, I chose to commemorate that momentous occasion by making an observation.

“That was weird,” I said.

Sarah just smiled and started up the steps.

“Idiot!” I thought. “Why’d you have to go and open your stupid mouth and say the something so stupid?”


I thought about nothing but kissing and my embarrassing little speech for the next twenty-four hours. Sarah and I talked on the phone the next night. I couldn’t leave it alone. I couldn’t let her think I was that uncool.

I took the conversation there: “I can’t believe what I said after we kissed last night?”

“What?” she asked.

Surely, she couldn’t have forgotten.

“Don’t you remember?” I said. “Right after we kissed I said, ‘That was weird,’ like the dumbest thing of all time.”

“I completely forgotten about that!” Sarah said and start laughing.

“Idiot!” I thought. “Why’d you have to go and open your stupid mouth and say the something so stupid?”

At that point in time, I was unacquainted with a quote that is most often attributed to Mark Twain: “It is better to be thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Moral: After kissing a girl, say nothing. Give her a hug, hold her face in your hands and smile at her, or tuck her hair behind her ear—all these are fine. If you must wipe your mouth, do so discreetly, and make a note to yourself to learn better technique. If the kiss is a disappointment, you can whisper, “Let’s try that again,” but don’t come crying to me if that backfires. I warned you.

Does anybody have any good first kiss stories?

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