But for the first winner, I want to present a kiss from the other end of the spectrum, from a blogger whose love story is an inspiration to me. Winner #1 is Phyllis Smith, who blogs as Granny Smith:
The first time I was kissed, other than by my close relatives, I was outraged. Phillip had no right to seize my face with a hand on each cheek and press his mouth to mine. I was almost four years old. He was a few months younger. As far as I was concerned, kissing rights belonged to one’s daddy or mama, not to a playmate chosen by Mama. Phillip lived on the high side of the street and I lived on the lower side. One or the other of us had to be escorted across the street so that Phyllis and Phillip (and weren’t those names cute together?) could play while their mothers visited.
Yes, I was truly outraged by that unsolicited kiss. I burst into tears while Mrs. Lathrop told my mother how they had always encouraged Phillip not to inhibit is feelings but to express them freely. She frowned at me. Apparently she felt that I was expressing my feelings much too freely.
With this early conditioning against kisses, I managed to avoid most of them for the next fourteen years or so. That’s when I had my first real kiss, the kind that can resonate for a lifetime.
It was a late afternoon of a spring day, the air balmy and fragrant. I felt pretty in a floaty green dress with white polka dots instead of my usual sweater and skirt for a day of classes. I knew that he - he of the blue eyes and wavy brown hair - would probably be sitting on the curb in front of the art building in which he thought that I would be working on an assigned project.
We had held hands. We had compared philosophies. We had hiked together, gotten poison oak together, sung together. But we had yet to kiss. And I wanted desperately to be kissed by Otto.
As I crossed the quad and skirted the chapel, I entered a cloud of fragrance from a planting of small trees with tiny flowers with the texture and scent of gardenias. I broke off a twig and stuck it in my pocket. The sun was setting and the first star appeared, and, quickly, before the appearance of other stars destroyed the magic, I wished on the first star that tonight he would kiss me.
I don’t remember exactly how we reached the hill overlooking lake Lagunita, on which waters of which myriads of stars were now afloat. I think I may have positioned myself so that it would be very easy for him to kiss me. And he did so.
It was the first of seventy years worth of kisses from the only one I ever loved. He couldn’t return the last kiss, which I gave to him in the hospital as he lay dying. I miss his kisses, but I have a treasure trove of ones to remember. Especially that first one.
* * *
Seventy years. How amazing. I found Granny Smith's blog via Sunday Scribblings, and it became the first link I would look for every week, to see what new fascinating saga of her life I might discover: coffee-farming in Paraguay, perhaps, or Phyllis's experiences manning a crisis hotline in Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love. Whatever it was, it was sure to be fascinating. Phyllis and Otto have led an extraordinary life of love and adventure, and Phyllis writes so beautifully about all of it. When I clicked over to her blog this past spring and read the news that Otto had passed away, it was terribly upsetting, as if I had known him personally. This long, beautiful marriage is an inspiration and an education in love.
The second winner is by Melanie Leavey. It's fiction, and I just think it's really well-written and appealing, and it pulled me very quickly into the characters' world and made me want to read more about them. So, yay for good fiction!
Gavin and I had an agreement. We made it when we were ten, forged in high ritual in the arms of our favourite tree, sealed with blood and spit. Quite appropriate now, looking back.
I knew he was gay since ever we met. It was like knowing who you could lend your favourite book to, knowing they wouldn't fold over the page corners. You just know. I probably didn't realize what it all meant, back when we were six and forced together through a Single Parent Meet 'n Greet in the basement of the Lutheran church. I just knew he wasn't like everyone else. Which, in this Jesus-lovin' shit-hole of a town, is anything but a good thing.
Anyway, the minute Rhonda shoved me in the room with three snot-nosed toddlers and tottered off on her cheap stilettos to wallow in the spiked punch, I figured it'd be one of those best-of-a-bad-thing situations and headed for the bookshelf. That's when I saw Gavin. He was perched on the edge of a miniature stool, folding paper flowers out of a Spiderman napkin. We've been best friends ever since.
We made the deal as part of our Survival Strategy. Designed to hide his gayness and my general freakitude from the predatory masses, it was the perfect cover. Everyone expected us to become a couple anyway, we just went along with it. It saved suspicion and intrigue -- nothing folk around here liked more than a witch-hunt -- and it served us well all through junior high. No-one wondered about Gavin's preference for books and art over football and moose hunting, they figured it was just him going along with his freak-nerd girlfriend who lived with one paint-splashed foot in a dreamworld and the other one more misguided impulse from a stint in Juvie. I mean, what did they expect, me being Rhonda's kid and all? Some days I wondered who was playing more of a part, him or me.
Like I said, it was good for a long time. No-one bothered us and life went on, as it does, one day blending into the next. The trouble started at Lacy Flanigan's thirteenth birthday party. It was one of those 'invite the whole class' deals, otherwise, we wouldn't have made it onto the list. Suddenly we were standing in a lavender-scented closet with Lacy's webcam pointing right at us. "Two Minutes in the Closet" with a Big Brother twist.
"We have to do it, it'll blow the cover if we don't," he said, glasses glinting in the half-light. He had way more invested in this charade of ours than I did. He'd be all but tarred and feathered and run out of town if anyone ever found out the truth.
I shrugged, not wanting to show how much the idea of kissing him weirded me out. Not that he was repulsive, quite the contrary. It was sweet scandal that he'd chosen me for his girlfriend and not one of the fleet of chesty cheerleaders from the high school that were forever sniffing around like so many randy bitches in heat. He might have been younger than them, but worth slumming for apparently. Anyway, it was weird because I knew that he wasn't the tiniest bit interested in me in that way, and it made me feel small and grubby. I hate feeling like a charity case.
"Okay then. I guess we'd better just get it on. Pucker up, cowboy!"
"Why do you have to be so crass? This is really important, Clo, really," He's got a knack for high drama. I like to point out that he's a slave to stereotype.
"Just shut up and kiss me, idiot,"
It was like one of those slow motion after-school-special kissing scenes. All that was missing was the cheesy music and fade to misty waterscapes and soaring birds. He leaned into me with his eyes squeezed shut. I know this because it was all very scientific for me at that point. I remember wondering if I should close my eyes or not, which way I should tilt my head, whether our noses would get in the way. I don't really remember how I got there, but suddenly our lips were touching. I wondered if I was expected to use my tongue.
He always smelled of sandalwood. His mother, a lapsed Bohemian, still burned incense by the wagonload, mostly to cover up the smell of their ancient cat who forgot how to get to the litterbox. The added whiff of peppermint and cinnamon from his perpetual chewing gum cocktail made me think of all the cold nights we spent huddled under a Navajo blanket after Rhonda locked me out.
His lips were cool and soft. He had a peach-fuzz of a mustache that didn't warrant a razor. A strange, but not unpleasant, tingle started somewhere at the base of my spine and flooded a rush of warmth to my face. Shocked at the intensity of the feeling, I pulled back. He stayed where he was for a moment, eyes closed and lips slightly apart. I saw that he was beautiful.
The sound of applause and cheering jolted him out of it. He pushed up his glasses and flashed me his mega-watt grin. Throwing an arm around my shoulder he squeezed me and said,
"Not so bad, huh?"
Laughing, he burst from the closet to shoulder slaps and high-fives. I followed, my face still on fire, to the delight of my giggling, shrieking classmates. For a time, I could be one of them.
It was three days before the memory of cinnamon faded from my lips and a week until I realized I'd fallen in love with him. Well, as much as a thirteen year old can love her gay best friend -- which, as it turns out, was a powerful lot.
* * *
The third winner. Now, I know I said there would only be two winners, but I've decided there must be three, because I just have to let the gross kisses represent too, and because this one made me laugh. It comes to us from "Flemmily" (which is funny, because we call my sister Emily that, though I always spell it the grosser way: Phlegmily :-)
I have a really awesome first kiss story.
Especially if by "awesome" you understand that I mean messy, awkward, and really embarrassing.
Let me take you back a few years....it was 2001, and I was about to start my senior year in high school. (Yeah, I was a prude.That'll come up again.)
I was attending the National Student Council Conference in Charlotte North Carolina. I'm from Montana, so this whole week for me is a fog of 'y'all'.
There were many bus trips involved--mostly short ones, but a few long ones as well. I believe we were on our way to the Panthers stadium, and we were playing "I've never" to pass the time.
The "we" involved was a host of student-council-loving high schoolers from across the country.
"I've never" basically involved holding up your hand in the air. Whenever someone listed off something that you'd done, you lowered one of your fingers. The first person to have a fist in the air was considered the loser, and then had to do a dare as ordered by the person listing off the activities.
At first, this was a terrific game for a prude to play. Most of the activities were either related to drinking, kissing, or sexual activities. I was safe.
So, the leader says something like "I've never made out in a hot tub," or "I've never gone to third base." With groans or embarrassed sighs, people lower a finger on their hand and continue on.
I never had to lower a single finger.
Suddenly, one of the guys caught on that a few of us were never coming close to losing, and the theme of questions changed drastically.
"I've never taken an AP class."
First finger down.
"I've never gotten a perfect score on a test."
Second finger down.
"I've never done an extra credit project"
Third finger down. I now had only my thumb and pinky in the air.
"I've never written a paper over 10 pages."
And the pinky stands alone. I hoped and prayed that I wouldn't be the first one out.
"I've never read a book longer than 800 pages."
Darn you, Anna Karenina. Darn you. With a fearful groan, I lowered my pinky.
I had only a fist in the air. I was the first one. I was officially the biggest nerd on the bus.
With an odd little smile, the Californian who had been the architect of my demise said. "Switch your shirt with the guy sitting next to you."
The guy next to me whipped his off immediately.
I was wearing a see through bra underneath my tee-shirt.
"No way." said I. I was a prude, after all.
"Okay....well, then kiss the guy sitting next to you."
Now, the guy sitting next to me was pretty cute. Hot even. He was a Texan. He was muscular, currently shirtless....
...and wearing lipstick.
Hot pink glossy lipstick.
See, he'd done a LOT of things, and lost a few rounds of "I've never" before I had.
One of the dares had involved a hasty coating of Maybelline. About six boys on the bus were currently sporting this look. Rather proudly.
"Kiss him?" I confirmed.
"Yep." Said the Californian. "And don't wipe your face for 10 minutes."
So, I did. I turned to my right, leaned forward, and got a slippery, messy kiss slopped right on my mouth. And on parts of my cheeks. It was kind of a smeary kiss, overlapping my mouth on one side and traveling over to the other side.
When it was over, we both had lipstick all over our faces. I'm pretty sure that my face was so red that you couldn't see it though.
So, in retrospect, I kinda get why guys don't love it when you're wearing lipstick, but I have an awesome first kiss story.
Yes. I was in North Carolina, and I kissed a sexy Texan wearing lipstick.
* * *
Thank you all so much for participating! I had so much fun reading about kissing. I hope you'll all give Lips Touch a read and help me spread the word about it. If you live here in Portland, remember Jim and I are signing tonight at Powell's on Hawthorne at 7:30, and also at the Wordstock Festival this Saturday at the Convention Center at 3 pm, where I'll be sharing the stage with Sarah Rees Brennan, author of The Demon's Lexicon, which is a very cool book.