My first kiss was also my worst kiss. I was at a school disco at the tender age of 14, dressed in a beige Pocahontas-style fringed top that my mother had decided was the height of fashion, when a slightly gossipy overly-enthusiastic friend approached me to ask if I would ‘pull her mate’. As a late bloomer, I was insecure about my flat-chested, awkward tiny frame, thick dirty blonde hair and rabbit teeth, so I jumped at the opportunity to experience my first kiss and become more like the super glamorous curvaceous teenage girls surrounding me, who smoked, said ‘shit’ and drank Bacardi Breezers on the weekend. One of them had asked me on that same night if I remained a ‘VL’. For anyone who didn’t grow up on the west coast of Scotland in the early 2000s, ‘VL’ was teenage slang for ‘Virgin Lips’, and was definitely a state with which one did not aspire to be associated.
I walked to the centre of the dancefloor where my acne-ridden bespectacled beau awaited me. We’d never exchanged two words but he was in the year above me at school so I believed this made him a mature choice for my first kiss. There was no physical attraction on my part, being an undeveloped 14 year old with confusing lesbian leanings, who was pretty convinced that Heath Ledger’s character in ’10 Things I Hate About You’ was the only male worth pursuing. Nonetheless, it was now or never, so I nervously approached the pale nerdy teenager standing before me. My confusion about not knowing what to do was quickly assuaged when he clamped his larger than average jaw around my mouth and proceeded to dart a cold wet tongue in and out of my mouth, disarming me completely. After thrusting his tongue repeatedly at me, the young man would pause and allow me to move my tongue nervously around his mouth. I’m not sure how long the kiss lasted for, but all eyes were upon me, and it felt like the longest moment of my life.
The next day, gossip followed me through the hallways – the quiet geeky girl had kissed a fourth year, and this was shocking news. Even my Maths teacher asked me about my encounter, and then commented in an amused tone that she didn’t know I had it in me. Despite my misgivings about all this attention, I definitely changed in the eyes of my peers that day. From then onwards, I was no longer simply the weird short skinny girl who spent suspicious amounts of time in the library – I had a name, I was a viable option for boys to admire, and this attention was amplified over the course of the following two years, as I developed larger than average breasts, dyed my hair blonde and started wearing pleated mini skirts to school.
Having found my first kiss to be somewhat of an anti-climax, I ignored boys for about a year after this encounter, until I met A. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, A was probably the most beautiful guy I’d ever seen up close in my short life. With high feminine cheekbones, striking eyes and a ponytail, he was just the right mix of masculine and feminine qualities that stirred up feelings in me I didn’t know I could feel. We went on our first date in town with his friend as a third wheel, before going back to A’s house. When he walked me to his close door, we paused inside the flat building and he kissed me deeply and passionately. It was everything I’d dreamed that my first kiss would be, except it wasn’t my first. It didn’t matter though – by all standards that mattered, A was my first love. We had a perfect four month long love affair and, looking back, I honestly believe that at only fifteen, he was one of the loveliest men I would ever date.
After A, there came many others, but none of them made my heart flutter as he once had, so I convinced myself that he was the one and I’d made a mistake ending our relationship. Over the coming years, I became addicted to chasing these beautiful transient moments with strangers, friends and partners, trying to replicate the magic of the first time.
As the years passed, so did many short-lived flings, one night stands, and messy long-term relationships. I was always searching for something. I kissed bad boys in dark corners, played with strangers in alleyways, and told boyfriends my deepest darkest desires as we smoked cigarettes in the middle of the night. I became obsessed with transience, convincing myself there was no greater joy than in a single moment, and that these moments must be constantly interspersed with reality to make it more bearable.
In every relationship I entered, I thought that we needed to tell each other everything that had come to pass in our lives. The words would come spewing out, and I would reveal too much too quickly. After a couple of months, the relationship would blow up in flames, because that intensity cannot be maintained long-term. If I didn’t feel an immediate connection with people, I dismissed them as not worth my time. Club nights became like gold to me, as I could interact with many people in a setting where alcohol was readily available, allowing us to talk frankly and honestly. I stopped caring about ‘real world’ issues like money, university and work, because I believed that the secret inner life of people was more compelling and relevant than paying bills on time.
I’d always thought of my intensity and passion as being endearing traits. I thought of myself as ‘not like other girls’; more compelling, more honest and mysterious. The men I slept with told me they’d never met anyone like me, someone who felt everything so deeply and threw themselves into everything full force. Around the time before I started dating my now husband, I fell for a guy who told me I was too intense and he couldn’t handle it. This hurt my feelings, and I spent some time reflecting on whether there was truth in what he’d said. It seemed to me that I was caught between two extremes. Men would either become obsessed with me, begging me never to leave, gripping me in the night in fiery passion, or they’d run away frightened. It was the same with my friends – I’d make what I thought were deep, intense connections with people, and then they’d tell me they couldn’t handle my force of personality, and cut me out of their lives. I began to beat myself up, believing that I was messy, intense and unlovable in the long-term. I told myself I was the type of woman who people loved in the short-term, but not worthy of any long-term commitment.
In around 2010, I found some new friends, who took me seriously and listened to me when I spoke. They were interested in the things I had to say, not just my physical actions, and this completely revolutionised the way I thought about myself. My passion, my intensity, my sexuality, these were all factors of who I am, but they didn’t define me. I wasn’t a one dimensional character in a quirky rom-com who the main character ditches for someone more stable but less interesting. I was a complex being with thoughts, and I was fluid and changeable.
When I had my first kiss with my now husband in 2010, I knew for sure that this was love, true love, and not the superficial transient love I had relentlessly pursued for years. The kiss was simple and magical; as we stood at my flat door, full of red wine and optimism, I politely asked him, ‘Will you kiss me please?’ and nervously glanced at the floor. Gently, he placed his fingers under my chin, tilted my head towards his, and gave me the tiniest, sweetest kiss of my life. I knew in that moment that love didn’t need to be rushed, and it didn’t need to be destructive or painful to feel good. Over the time in which we dated, I kept expecting the relationship to become codependent and destructive. I kept expecting him to turn me into his ideal pixie dream girl, and was repeatedly surprised when he treated me like an actual human being. If I made a mistake, he didn’t lose all faith in me or fall out of love with me, because he wasn’t under any illusions that I was anything but a human being.
I still love the thrill of the chase, in all aspects of my life, and I really do believe there is magic in human connection. I still enjoy the odd moment when life seems to have paused and, to paraphrase that wonderful young adult novel, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, in that moment, you feel infinite. I still have days with my husband where everything feels perfect and magical, and like we are falling in love for the first time, and I have moments with friends where we bond so deeply, or laugh so hard we cry, that I realise we are all connected on this planet. When humans are young, we tend to think the world revolves around us alone, but I think it is extremely important, as a human being, as a vegan, as an environmentalist, and a humanist, that I, and those around me, respect our space on this earth, and those beings around us who occupy their own space. The world is not ours; we’re just living in it.
x L x
P.S. I’m collecting first kiss stories! I’d love to hear yours!