Richard Bandler once wrote that the best thing about the past is that it's over, a statement which very neatly sums up my sentiments toward middle school. The acne, the braces, and the general assholery that permeates the early teenage years is enough to deter even the most deluded historical revisionist from wishing to repeat them. Of course, this is not to say that every second of puberty is an angst-ridden disaster; we are granted a few magical moments throughout the horror of adolescence. For me, there was one uncharacteristically sunny day in February 2002 that I accurately recall was pretty great; the day I had my first kiss.
I'd been dating the girl down the street for two months by the time we found ourselves walking through the park behind my house that day. We'd been friends since the beginning of the school year and just before the winter holidays, I handed her a "Will you go out with me?" note after sixth period and then we were official (ah, simpler times). That day in the park was spent like any other -- holding hands, talking about school, friends, family, and each other; our conversation only ever briefly punctuated by smiles and hellos to other park-goers. Eventually we stopped walking, took a seat on a bench, and soaked up the sunshine in silence. Unprompted, we suddenly looked at each other, and only moments after our eyes met, so did our lips.
I've heard a lot of people tell stories about their first kisses; how the buildup was painfully awkward only to be followed by unskilled execution, but that wasn't us. I leaned down as she leaned up; we met in the middle for just the right amount of time, parting ways as if we had agreed on the number of seconds beforehand. Afterward, we both grinned and there were no silly giggles or wiping of the mouth to spoil the moment. It makes sense, really: here were two people who had spent hours talking to each other every night for months, chatting so quickly that full sentences were unnecessary for communication. We weren't just on the same metaphorical page, our chemistry was down to the letter -- so when it came time to kiss for the first time, it would have been silly to expect anything other than synchronized perfection.
As fate would have it, my middle-school girlfriend and I weren't destined to work out romantically. I was a Cancer, she was a Gemini. She listened to country, I preferred rock and roll. Ultimately though, it was not our differences, but one glaring similarity that doomed the relationship: as much as kissing each other was fun, we both wanted to be kissing boys. We dated for eight months before breaking up in my front yard, both of us in tears. Days went by without a word between us, but then she called my house and invited me for another walk in the park, and I agreed. Over a decade has gone by, and while I would never refer to her as an ex-girlfriend now (she'd laugh if I did), I am fortunate enough to call her a lifelong friend.
Of course, some would argue that because I am gay, this incident doesn't count as my first kiss. They'll say that when I'm asked about it, I'm meant to tell the story of my first kiss with a boy, a much less memorable memory. I feel no sense of nostalgia when I think back to the night, years later, when a group of friends and I attended a gay club in Hollywood for the first time. I can't tell you how many shots I drank, or what song was playing when we somehow started dancing together. I can't even tell you his first name. The only details I can provide are that his hair was thick with too much gel and that his breath smelled of liquor and what I hope was cigarettes. I left him on the dance floor without my phone number and I'm sure even if I were to have stood behind him at Starbucks the next morning, I wouldn't have recognized him.
Good or bad, I think our first kiss is important because it teaches us something about ourselves. Certainly, the mere fact that kissing is our first literal taste of physical romance makes the first one unforgettable, but I think every kiss holds a message that makes it meaningful as well. When I compare my first kiss with a girl to my make-out session with what's-his-name, I realize that sexual orientation sometimes takes a back seat to other tenants of our identities, even as it relates to love.
While my first kiss with a guy taught me never to mix body glitter and raspberry vodka and expect a classy night, the lessons I learned about love and romance at the tender age of thirteen have shaped my values and beliefs about relationships in a way that supersedes the gender of whomever I'm kissing. My first kiss taught me that, every once and a while, we are granted perfect moments, that good things take time and are never rushed, and that you should always keep your expectations high, because when they're met, you'll realize you should never have to settle for anything less.
This post was originally published on Thought Catalog, here.