It seems silly, but to the adolescent mind no single moment seems as important as the first kiss. It is often seen and portrayed as the culmination of sexual development; once the first awkward meeting of lips is accomplished other actions follow naturally. It is a moment of extreme stress, each party fretting whether they performed correctly and adequately and wondering what the other is thinking. This is not helped by the media, that staple of teenage life, who present the first kiss as crucial to adolescent development.
As I entered the whirling hormonal storm that is teenage dating I kept myself alert for the appropriate circumstances. My friends quickly bypassed me on the road to pubescent maturity informing me the first kiss was awkward, shy, and usually wet. Still, I remained convinced that my first physical romantic encounter would occur as I had seen it depicted; passionate, forceful, and direct.
The summer of before my junior year of high school I was set up on a blind date with Maggie. She was tall, slender, and had long brown hair. We were naturally at ease together and began seeing each other regularly. After a few weeks we had an opportunity to attend a music festival in Salem with a group of friends. Though only 30 minutes away, Maggie's parents were wary of her traveling so far without an adult present. Though okay with me going to Salem, I opted to remain in town with her.
We had an enjoyable evening together, spent at Borders Books. We listened to CDs, read books, ate at the café, and walked together hand in hand. Our date, as had all others, closed on her doorstep. Typically I said good night, we hugged, and she went inside. This night, however, after our embrace she stared deep into my eyes, placed her right hand on my hip and with her left grabbed my shirt collar. I recognized this as the iconic moment, my first kiss was imminent, and I was terrified. Sinking into flight or fight mode I watched as my body clumsily placed my hand on her hip, blurted out "I had a great night tonight," turned and fled to my car.
Now married, the stereotype shattered, I sometimes wonder how life might be different had that night gone differently and always decide it could not be better.