I was a complete ninny when it came to kissing. After my aggressive first kiss in third grade with Seamus O’Leary, my love life suffered a dramatic decline. I’m sure it was a combination of my redheaded ferocity and my unfortunate awkwardness that successfully kept the boys at several arms’ lengths. At the time I attributed it to being homely, a concept which was fostered by my mother.
By eighth grade, in middle school, I jealously watched the popular kids pair off. They stood by their lockers between bells, arms wrapped around each other, the tall gorgeous guy with his hands in the back pockets of the beautiful blonde’s Vidal Sassoons. The only time I had any interaction with any of these godlike football, basketball, or baseball players was when they said, “Hey, Frizz Head, you got the Social Studies homework?” Despite my desperation to be kissed, I was savvy enough to know that this was not the route to take to get there. However, one winter Friday it seemed I might be offered a chance at it.
My best school chum, Melissa, and I got invited to a party at Kim Tyler’s. Kim Tyler had all the right clothes and did all the right extracurricular activities. She knew exactly what was cool and what was not. Her hair feathered perfectly and she knew how to be flirtatious without being a slut. Regardless of all this perfection, Kim Tyler should not have been popular in our totally superficial school. Kim Tyler, unfortunately, was fat. Her weight was forgiven though because every Friday night Kim was able to open the rec room in her basement to her popular peers. There she hosted parentally unsupervised parties where it was rumored alcohol was served and makeout sessions abounded.
“She likes us, silly. You helped her with her science project and she sat at our lunch table a few times,” was her crap response. I didn’t really help Kim with anything. She was about as dumb as you can get and the teacher had assigned her to my “smart” group in hopes that she would get something out of the project we were all assigned. As for the lunch table, Kim sat at the absolute end of ours once or twice with a few of the other popular girls when their usual table was full.
“She’s just inviting us because you’re going out with Tom.”
“Who cares? Even if that’s true, what difference does it make? Let’s just go and have a good time.”
I complied of course, secretly hoping something magical would happen and that back pocket boy would fall in love with me at last. We got ready at Melissa’s. I shimmied myself into my nicest Calvins and did what I could to try to feather my unruly red mop. This was not the era for a naturally curly ginger.
When we arrived at Kim’s the REO Speedwagon was cranking. A tall beautiful boy looked at us askance momentarily and then handed us two beers, both of which I appropriated. Wihin minutes Melissa spotted Tom and for the rest of the party I only saw her from between others’ tangled limbs across the dance floor. Enviably. she appeared to be surgically attached to the only reason we were at this exclusive event.
I was leaning against the wall into about my fifth beer when someone tapped on my shoulder.
“I’m Michael. I go to St. Agnes. Wanna dance?”
“Um yeah. Sure.”
Michael was about my height so there was not going to be any romantic head-on-his- shoulder dancing. The music was far too loud for conversation beyond me shouting my name into his ear. There wasn’t much else to do other than for him to lean in and plant his lips on mine. Then his tongue deftly slipped into my mouth and I, as in me, was making out with a real live boy. Not my pillow, not in my imagination, but with a live one.
I would like to say this was a turning point in my adolescence. But kissing a Catholic school boy at a party at Kim Tyler’s was not going to turn this brainy geek into some sort of swan. It did change how I thought about myself, though, and that made all the difference.