My first kiss cannot be discussed without first revealing the kiss before the kiss. And the kiss before that.
Seventh grade was nearly over and my secret love for Mike LaMarche was at its peak. I had exactly five days to win his love, and if I didn’t, I’d be spending the entire summer wondering what I could have, should have, done differently. So, I spent every daylight hour after school on the back patio with my chin glued to a foil tanning board. I spent a whole month’s allowance on Frye boots and experimented with a cast-off tube of my sister’s Great Lash mascara. My Dorothy Hamill haircut was growing into an Olivia Newton-John haircut and I’d trimmed the blond hair on my arms with my brother’s art scissors. I was ready for love.
Almost.My best friend, Jennifer, told me Mike was planning to kiss me. Nothing could have pleased me more, except the week prior, when my family got together to celebrate my dad’s birthday at The Magic Pan, my aunt tried to kiss me on the cheek and we bumped noses. She looked at me like I was disappointingly un-European and said, “I hope you don’t kiss your boyfriend like that.” This was devastating. I might not have had any kissing experience, but I’d always planned to be rather spectacular at it. Suddenly it was not only possible, but very likely, that I had no talent for kissing at all.
Jennifer and I sat on my bed that evening, the night before our final day of seventh grade. She tried to give me second-hand advice from her skanky cousin, but all it really amounted to was a whole bunch of slutty theory I’d be way too nervous to implement. Between us sat my man-sized stuffed frog, Frog. Frog was much taller than Mike LaMarche and not quite as good looking, but I had no time to be picky. I propped Frog against the wall, wrapped his arms around me and made out with him while Jennifer shouted instructions and encouragement from the foot of my bed.
I floated through the next day in an amphibious blur, my every thought focused on the romance of Frog’s arms slung across my shoulders and how outrageous it was going to be when those arms were Mike’s. Finally, right before the 3:15 bell rang, I bumped into Mike in an empty stairwell. My heart thumped wildly as he approached me with a James Bondian smirk on his face. He said, “Hey,” then pulled me close, pressing his lips against mine. His lips were soft. They were warm. They were filled with seventh grade passion.
But they weren’t like Frog’s.
Don’t get me wrong, Frog sucked at kissing. But when I kissed Frog, in my mind, I was kissing my 12-year-old version of perfection. I wasn’t kissing a boy who barely came up to my sternum; whose hair—close up—smelled like he’d run out of shampoo; and who had pretty much ignored me all year until that moment. The moment the kiss got going, I realized it was a mistake.
Unlike the fairy tales, my frog hadn’t turned into a prince. But my prince had definitely turned into a frog