My Almost-First Kiss

It’s June and I want to write about TV, so there’s only one option:

Playoff hockey.

Just kidding!

Unlike many others in Chicagoland, I’m not going to talk about hockey like I’m some expert. Guys, it’s OK – nobody is going to accuse you of being a bandwagon fan if you just watch the playoffs and enjoy it. You don’t have to start talking about all the obscure rules like you’ve been a hockey fan your whole life. JUST RELAX.

Anyway. The show I will talk about is the only good show that’s on in June. Yup, you know it – Mad Men.

If you watch Mad Men, please note that there are spoilers below.

If you don’t watch it, please keep reading anyway, because you’ll get to read an awkward story about my pre-teen years.

In Sunday’s episode, 14-year-old Sally Draper is still reeling from seeing her dad in a compromising position with the neighbor lady. (“Oh Sally, I was just comforting her. She was sad!”) Don Draper is a terrible father and doesn’t realize a teenager could never be fooled by such lies (mistaking “sex” for “comforting”) – or maybe, he does know that she can’t be fooled, but just doesn’t know how to have an honest conversation with another human being.

Sally is distraught and wants to get out of having to see her dad regularly, so she decides she needs to go away to an all-girls boarding school. Her mom, Betty, drives her to her interview then drops her off for a night, so she can get a feel for living there with some current students.

Sally spends the night with two slightly older teenage girls, who seem fairly harmless at first, until they ask her for alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, access to boys, or some combination of those four. Not knowing what to do, Sally calls her creepy friend Glen, who brings another boy along. The other girls are pleased with Sally, and they start drinking some of the alcohol the boys have brought with them. Sally sweetly and sadly shares she knows how to make a Tom Collins, like teenagers care that their alcoholic drinks taste good. Oh, Sal.

One thing leads to another, and Sally and the non-Glen freaky drug boy find themselves alone in one of the girls’ rooms.

The boy leans in to kiss her.

And then there’s that moment – that one where, as a teenage girl, you feel like you have an opportunity to do something that you might not want to do. I mean, you WANT to do it. It’s a cute boy! You could kiss him. But something inside you also violently rejects that idea.

Are you ready to do that? Do you want to?

And even if you want to kiss somebody, do you want to kiss THAT guy?

So that all brings me to the story of… not my first kiss, but the time I thought I could’ve had my first kiss.

Of course it happened in sixth grade, because sixth grade is that awful period in life (haha – “period,” good word choice, because you also deal with your new period, which is awful) when you’re no longer young, and people start to do things you’re not sure you’re ready to do.

Kissing, having “boyfriends” and “girlfriends,” drinking (only for the TRULY bad kids), breaking the rules.

You maybe kind of want to do those things, but you’re just not sure. And plus, middle school aged boys are sweaty and dirty and pimply and have braces with food stuck in them – the fact that some of them were cute was offset by their grossness. Like, do you really want to kiss them?

So anyway. Sixth grade. I mostly had really nice, sweet friends who did well in school and respected authority and sat at the front of the bus so they could talk to the bus driver (yup, that was me!).

However, I made this friend in sixth grade who was a little bit edgy. And by edgy, I mean like, she watched rated R movies sometimes and her parents DIDN’T CARE.

One day, she had a boy-girl party. I really don’t remember much about the party, but I do remember at one point, we were all in her basement, segregated – boys on one side, girls on the other. Then, somebody had the idea to play Spin the Bottle. I think my heart dropped into my stomach and then fell out my butt.

I was terrified. Many thoughts went racing through my brain:

I’ve never kissed a boy.

I might kiss a boy today!

Oh my gosh, oh no, I cannot. I don’t want to.

But maybe I want to.

But… these boys can’t even put deodorant on. They can’t be trusted to kiss me.

Oh gosh, everyone else wants to. This idea is picking up steam!

How do I get out of here?

HELP.

HELP ME! 

It seemed like everyone else wanted to play. I freaked out. I was just not ready to do this. How could I get out of this? It would be so obvious if I tried to sneak away, and even if I could sneak away, I’d have to wait for my parents to pick me up, and I’d have to sit upstairs with my friend’s parents, and then everyone would make fun of me forever.

Then, one of my friends piped up.

“Guys, how about we just say you have to hug someone instead of kissing them?”

Oh, praise the good Lord! I felt a mixture of sweet, sweet relief, and also pity for this poor, silly girl who preferred to deal with a problem head-on instead of planning to go sit in the bathrooms for 15 minutes then act like I was sick and had to go home. Now she’d have to bear the weight of everyone thinking she wasn’t cool enough to play the REAL way.

From the crowd of sweaty, pubescent faces came several voices:

“No way!”

“That’s so stupid”

“That’s dumb”

And, I mean, in hindsight, it was pretty dumb. Why would a bunch of sixth graders just hug each other? But it was an astronomically better option than kissing, in my opinion. I would hug these boys all day long! Every one of ’em! But I wouldn’t kiss them. Not yet, anyway. Maybe someday when they were bigger than me and had learned to bathe once a day and I wasn’t terrified of them.

At that point, my new ally hadn’t been able to change the rules, but she’d created enough of a stir to get everyone to re-assess the rules. How long do you have to kiss for? Who goes first? What if you get the same person twice in a row?

A discussion ensued, and soon, several of us lost interest and walked away. At the time, I thought some of the others who walked away were simply bored and were probably too good for a dumb game. But now I know they were probably just like me – terrified, looking for an out, and eternally grateful that someone else fell on the Spin-the-Bottle sword.

So I didn’t have my first kiss that day. Like Sally Draper, I turned kissing down. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because it just didn’t seem right, and I wasn’t ready to kiss some random boy I didn’t even know if I liked.

So Sal, good for you. I hope you continue making decisions that make sense to you, regardless of what other people say. Matthew Weiner, are you listening?

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