by Conor Friedersdorf

Corey offers a haiku:

First kiss in backyard

This girl knows more than I do

Painfully awkward

Lots more, both magic and tragic, below the fold.

Warren writes movingly:

My first kiss was in June of 1975. I was a 15 year old boy living in Ft. Collins CO. My best friend was another 15 year old boy, shorter than me, but with the same blond hair that wouldn't comb into any semblance of order. His name was Billy. I loved him, but I dared not tell him. By this time I knew my attractions, sexually, romantically and emotionally were for other boys, but I was scared to death to voice them to anyone, much less him.

It was only a few months before that a county clerk in Boulder Colorado issued a marriage license to a gay couple. It was all over the news. The vitriol being spread all over the TV and in the newspapers ("why don't we start marrying men to horses!" is one comment I still remember 35 years later from someone on the TV). It did nothing but make me feel even more frightened.

Billy and I spent pretty much every day together. One warm summer day in June we were both swimming in his apartment complex pool, having a blast. When we finished, we went inside, got dressed and were sitting on the floor in his room. He looked at me and said "I love you." Just like that. I didn't know what to say so I replied "I like you too." "No," he repeated "I love you." I just sat there stunned and silent.

Billy was much more outgoing than I. He was the the one that instigated the train-jumping rides to Denver, the jumps off the cliffs at the reservoir and the late night horror shows. So I guess it only made sense that he was the one that bent over and kissed me. I let him, but then started crying, the emotions overwhelmed me. He must have understood, because he just slid closer, put his arm around me and kissed me gently again. It was sweet and loving. I returned the embrace and the kiss. By this time we were both crying. We lay there embraced in a kiss for a long time.

Eventually,  I pulled away and said "I love you."

We were together as young lovers, friends and inseparable companions for 2 more years. He killed himself in 1977. It sent me into a suicidal spiral that almost ended my life too. . I became a Mormon and immersed myself into reparative therapy, religion and family. It wasn't till 1990 that I finally came out, and not until 1996 that I kissed again. That man 20 years after my first kiss is now my beloved husband of 14 years with whom I am raising 2 daughters.

That kiss in 1975 though has lasted 35 years. I don't think it's hyperbole to say that the memory of that kiss, the love and sweetness of it, is what got me through some pretty dark times.

John started youngest:

I was in kindergarten and each day we'd get out our mats for naptime. The teacher would dim the lights and leave for twenty minutes or so. We didn't nap, of course, it was just quiet time, meaning as soon as she left we jumped up to tell jokes and be silly.

One day, and I don't remember how this came about but it was probably a dare, myself and a Japanese girl got up in front of everyone and kissed. We kissed several times while the kids made "Oooooooo!" noises.

We were classmates through high school, never dated, and when she asked me about it in front of her friends in fourth grade I denied it.

But to this day, I remember the salty taste of that sweet little kiss. I didn't kiss a girl again until I was twenty-one.

Sue hates this subject:

Such a seemingly harmless question. A few years ago, I was at an national Episcopal Church committee meeting. Someone decided this exact question would be a good ice-breaker. I shriveled up inside and lied. Another woman simply said: "That's too personal a question. I prefer not to answer." It's not too personal a question for your uses: There's no pressure for me to answer! But, when you posed this question, did it occur to you that for a fair number of people the memory is not treasured? (At 12, I was molested by an 18 year old young man. That was my first kiss.) At the risk of popping the romantic bubble in which we collectively wrap "first kisses" -- I really hate that question.

Shelley writes:

In retrospect, I realize the story of my first kiss might be kind of creepy, but at the time, it was magical. I was 11, in Grade 5, and because of the mumps, had been home from school for three weeks. I had convinced my father to take me to see Anne of a Thousand Days at the North Hill Cinerama (did you know that I know more about Anne Boleyn than any other person?) and I thought the popcorn was poisoned. My mother, a nurse, left me alone  on the couch the whole next day and my appendix burst. I rode in an ambulance to the Rockyview Hospital. It was all very exciting.

When I woke up, I was quarantined all by myself in a six-bed ward on the adult floor because they were afraid I might still be contagious because of the mumps.  His name was David, he was 16, and he was recovering from a drug overdose. He saw me all alone, this tall, thin girl in this huge ward, and came in to talk to me. His father raised Arabian stallions and David said he'd name one after me. We started going on walks, both of us with our IV poles. (I can still remember my nightgown; it was one of those 70s peasant styles.) On Oscar night, we went together into the adult lounge to watch the show (David Niven was one of the hosts) and we held hands, which made the old folks apoplectic. He walked me back to my room and kissed me.

The old folks said something to the nurses, who freaked out and told my parents, and that was that.

I didn't get kissed again until I was 17.

Tom's story is right out of a John Hughes movie:

My first kiss was the summer after my senior year, 1985. It was awesome. I barely remember it.

I was a nerd in high school: braces, acne, thick glasses, a bad haircut, profusely sweating. (Always sweating. Even on the coldest days I'd have sweat rings before first period.) I had never gone to a party or dance, let alone a date.

At the end of the high school, the braces came off, and my acne cleared up. I got contact lenses. I discovered anti-perspirant. I did a Billy Idol thing to my hair. (Actually it was a Billy Zoom thing but most people didn't get that.) Big makeover. Don't kick me 25 years later: for once I felt presentable. And I started meeting kids who didn't know the "old" me. I had gotten a job at a local deli, and some of the kids working there were from the other high school across town. I started looked forward to the afternoons at the deli when this one girl had her shifts. She was funny and sweet and cute, and we laughed while shredding chickens and making meatloafs.

Near the end of summer, another coworker's parents were out of town and there was going to be a big "Sixteen Candles" syle rager. I got up the nerve to go. The door opened and there she was with the biggest smile. She grabbed my hand, and pulled me inside. And it just hit me. I knew. An hour or two later we had our first kiss. A week later we had our first date. A few weeks later we had a wonderful, sweet goodbye, and I left for college. First party, first drink, first kiss, first date, first girlfriend. I wish there was a happy ending, but it didn't survive the distance.

As for that first kiss: I remember we were in the bathroom, sitting on the floor as people pounded on the door. But the kiss itself I don't remember. It's the look she gave me at the door as she took my hand and pulled me into the party-- into the future, into the rest of my life--that's the memory I've kept.

Russel is wistful:

I had my first kiss at the age of 25.  It seems pathetic when I write it, but I think my late age may have made it feel even more special.  I was in graduate school, as was she.  She had just failed out of the program; I had passed my exams.  It was a late night and we were talking our way through this terrible new development.  She took it better than I did, I think.

It was warm and pleasant, a perfect Midwestern summer night.  We had known that we liked each other, but had been putting things off until exams were over.  It was clear something would happen soon.  We spent the evening looking at stars in the park and talking. When it got late, we walked back to my place, and kissed on the porch steps.  Somehow, even at 25, I felt like Kevin on the Wonder Years.   She went home right after that.  The kiss was it that night, and it was perfect.

She moved away 6 months later and started a new life after grad school.  I think she just wanted to forget the whole grad school thing.  She dumped me when she met her future husband.  I don’t think I ever really got over it.  I am still single.  I have been looking for that magic ever since, and I have not found it.  There was another memorable first kiss on the steps of the US Capitol, but even that one can’t compare to a quiet street on Midwestern summer evening.  

I went back to my University last year after a decade away.  I went to see the old house where I lived while I was in school.   There are lots of memories in that place, but only one unforgettable moment.  The soft glow of the streetlight; the gentle slope of the hill leading up to the house; the porch where it happened.  I can still see it clearly even now.  Being there was bittersweet.   Strangely, it is the place, the light, the ambiance that I remember, even more than the kiss.

So why did it happen so late in my life?  I don't know.  I never had the right mix of opportunity, desire and courage until then.  That night, it felt right, and I was glad that I had waited.  Now though, I am sure it would have been better to do it in high school and get it over with.  To her I was just another guy, while she was the kiss I'd waited years for.  The whole relationship meant more to me than to her.  It was destined to fail, and it did.

Jeanne had Catholic guilt:

"Sweet sixteen and never been kissed".  That was an epithet I did not want applied to me.  When I was sixteen, I met up with a young soldier.  He drove me home one day, parked in the driveway, and then gave me my first kiss.

Unfortunately, it was a "french" kiss.  Being raised as a Catholic girl in the 50s the nuns had left a powerful impression on me.  Why, we were taught that if a girl must sit on a boys lap, she must put down a newspaper as protection!  The morality of a "french" kiss had not been discussed but it seemed to me terribly sinful.

When the moist contact was made, I bolted out of the car, ran to my house.  My first stop was the bathroom where I washed my mouth out.  Mortal sin was lingering there.  The church told me girls are responsible for the carnality of boys.  Therefore, I had to dilute that vile contact.

The young man followed me into the house a little dazed.  I didn't try to explain the toothbrush protruding from my mouth.  My parents arrived home.  I also did not explain my actions to them.  The young man, happy to do so I am sure, quickly left.

Scot is one of money who had his first kiss at camp:

It was summer camp in upstate NY.  I believe I was 11 or 12.  It was around this time that all the kids were moving onto their first "French" kiss (do they even call it that anymore?).  Anyway, I was with a girl for a month or so and several of our friends had already done it and we decided that we should do it too.  We had it planned for a Saturday night and I was very nervous all night building up to it.  Most of the kids knew that we had it planned and a lot of them were offering advice, most of it unsolicited... My girlfriend and I walked to the road with another couple and they told us that they would go first to demonstrate for us (they were old pros because they had started French kissing about a week or two earlier).  After they finished, we walked a little ways away and made out for the first time in our lives.  It was weird and it was awkward but I just went for it.  Like most other coming of age experiences, it was more of a relief when it was over and I could say that I had finally 'done it'.  For the rest of the night, I was giddy and told everyone who asked about the entire experience.

It was not until much later that I realized there was such a thing as 'technique', and apparently, stuffing your tongue down the girls throat was not the appropriate technique.  It turned out that my girlfriend had a somewhat different experience that night.  After we had finished our magical first kiss, she did not go back to her bunk and recount the lovely time she had kissing me, or the air that she was walking on, but rather told all of the girls how uncomfortable and icky the whole experience had been.  And then to a fine point on it, she proceeded to vomit for the rest of the night.  So in some way, it was magical for her too.  Although to her credit, she did not break up with me and we kept practicing that summer and the next.  

The lesson that I came away with is that first times for most things in life are usually awkward, disappointing, overrated, or just don't live up to the hype.  It takes years of practice and dedication to be good at anything.  Luckily, some things are more fun to practice than others.  And in general, being mindful and considerate that the person you are sharing the experience with is enjoying it as much as you are is paramount.  Otherwise your stories will involve copious amounts of vomit or a reputation as the bad kisser who makes girls vomit from his kissing. 

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