Sunday, June 28, 2009

First Kiss

She had long blonde hair. Her name was Norma Jean. Later she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. Elton John never met her, but he wrote a song to her, "Candle in the Wind."

"Goodbye Norma Jean..."

Start over.

She had long blonde hair. Her name was Norma Jean. We were in 5th grade together.

She was the prettiest girl in 5th grade, so of course she didn't even know I existed. She didn't even bother to kick me in the shins like some of the other girls did. When they did that with their pointy cowboy boots it hurt so bad you almost had to cry reflexively. Of course you couldn't do that. Boys don't cry, at least not in front of girls. So you just turn and walk away really fast, feeling the double rebuff of your clumsy overtures inside and the real physical pain outside.

But Norma Jean never kicked me. You don't kick someone you don't even know exists, right? She was always surrounded by the cool guys anyway. I wasn't cool. None of the things I had in my head all prepared to say never seemed to come out right.

Every Saturday afternoon found all the kids in our little town - or so it seemed - at the Strand Theater for the matinee. A nice dark place where all the cool guys in 5th and 6th grade could make out with their girlfriends for a couple hours while their parents were off shopping or doing whatever parents do on a Saturday afternoon. I don't think it even crosses parents minds that 10- and 11- and 12-year-old-children sit in dark movie theaters on Saturday afternoons and make out.

I went to the Saturday matinees like all the others. I wasn't supposed to, but I did (a story for another time.) I didn't make out, though. I watched the movies. The same theater where years later I would be employed and would explore other options with the popcorn girl down in the storeroom. Some of you long-timers may remember that post.

I had just turned 11 years old. It was still winter. I remember I had just recently broken my right arm and it was in a big heavy cast, past the elbow, right up to my shoulder. It rested in a home-made sling my mom had made out of a folded pillowcase and safety pins.

Saturday afternoon, almost 1:30 in the afternoon. I was late, having just finished my paper route, walking since I couldn't ride my bike with one hand and still carry the papers. So I was late. The movie started at 1:30. As I hurried around the blind corner to the box office, I almost ran into someone in my haste.

Suddenly the world stopped. Just like that. Stopped. Slow motion. Only two people in the entire world, standing alone in front of the theater box office in the softly falling snow. Me. And Norma Jean.

I didn't have time to think. I had never been this close to her before. In the slow-motion world, the first thing I noticed from my new up-close perspective was that Norma Jean had brown eyes. Isn't that a crazy thing to remember? Somehow, when I had daydreamed about her, she always had had blue eyes. Blonde girls have blue eyes, right? Uh-uh. Not always.

"Sit with me."

I almost looked over my shoulder. Was that MY voice? Was that ME that just said that?

I don't know what I expected her to say. I guess I expected her to kick me in the shins. But she didn't kick me and she didn't say a thing. Her brown eyes suddenly looked amused and I discovered that Norma Jean had the most beautiful dimples when she smiled. Then I felt her warm hand take mine and still without a word she led me into the theater. Good thing, too, or I would still have been standing rooted there still.

Did I mention Norma Jean was the prettiest girl in 5th grade?

I walked down the sloped aisle in the darkness - the movie was already starting - with Norma Jean still holding my hand. I was conscious of the stares we were getting from the already-seated guys with their girls. Now I had a girl too.

Halfway down. Left side. She gets in first and I sit by the aisle. She is sitting by my good left arm. Good. We slip off our jackets and put them on the backs of the seats. We sit there. We still haven't spoken. Does she even know my name? Of course she knows my name. We are in 5th grade together. I take her hand in mine again and she doesn't pull away. Cool.

Now what?

I am still conscious of the eyes boring into me in the darkness and the whispers behind me. To her credit she doesn't turn around and greet any of her friends. She pays attention to me. I am almost floating. A dream. Has to be a dream. I always dream about her. I will wake up soon.

What do I have to lose? - I put my arm around her. Not exactly around her, around the seat behind her, actually. Then, just like it was the most natural thing in the world, she leans her head on my shoulder and my arm goes around her for real. And soon her hand is holding mine as it drapes over her shoulder. Just like it was the most natural thing in the world.

I don't know how long we watched the movie. I knew that my arm could go to sleep if it wanted to, but I wasn't about to move it.

And then - and I still don't exactly know what happened, how it happened, or where I got my courage from, but - suddenly we weren't watching the movie anymore. We were looking at each other, faces really close together. I caught another glimpse of those delightful dimples again in the flickering half-light, and then, with no real conscious thought, our lips were touching.

Neither of us knew how to kiss. Not really. I'm sure it wasn't her first, but it was mine. Soft. Warm. Lingering. Just the right amount of pressure. The whispering behind us stopped.

Did I mention Norma Jean was the prettiest girl in school?

Now, I have kissed a girl or two since that winter day in the dark theater - even a few in that same theater over the next few years. And each one was special. I remember Carolyn in 7th grade. Carolyn was another blonde, a gorgeous farmer's daughter with equally gorgeous sisters. But Carolyn was a twin and I learned the hard way not to confide in her twin and expect what I said not to get back to MY twin. But it was as good as 7th grade gets.

I remember, in the same theater in 8th or 9th grade, Judy (yet another blonde, but with blue eyes) kept me in awe at the marvelous things a girl can do with her tongue. I was always an eager student.

Yes, there have been one or two other ladies over the intervening years.

But if I live to be 100, I will never forget the pretty little girl who took my hand in hers, never forget the twinkle in her brown eyes and the dimples in her cheeks when she smiled at me, never forget the soft warmth of her lips as she gave me my first kiss that winter afternoon so long ago.

Thank you, Norma Jean, wherever you are.

Tell me about YOUR first "real" kiss.


  1. Here or on our own blogs?

    This was wonderful and sweet, though I was clearly backwards - I was sixteen before I was ever kissed.

    How wonderful for both of you. Even if it wasn't her first kiss, I bet Norma Jean remembers it as well.

  2. That was a lovely post. Yes indeed...But as for me, I was even more backward than Stephanie, and it was not quite worthy of poetic prose.

    I will tell you that my high school class was the first co-ed class in 100+ years of the school being all-girl, and as such we had only a few boys therein. That explains things a little :)

  3. @Stephanie - Of course here. Dont be shy. I spilled my guts, you can too! :)

    @Lidian - That doesn't explain things better. Not in the least. Talk to us. Be brave!

    @Ettarose - I know you haven't commented yet, but I don't want you making up any lies. Just a warning. :)

  4. I was not a popular girl. I was backward, spoke in complete sentences, was, throughout my childhood, the smart kid from out of town. All I had to do to repel males of my age was open my mouth.

    My mother dressed me funny, I didn't wear makeup and I wouldn't play dumb. So, I was not popular.

    It wasn't until I started hanging out with ROTC (Navy) crowd at lunch that I found any people who didn't care that I wasn't rich, that I was smart, that I had no social skills. They were buds and I'd never had any.

    One of them, Theodore Louis XXXX the third (called Teddy by me alone) asked me out. We went to see a double feature Rear Window and To Catch a Thief at a retrospective theater.

    I saw all of Rear Window, which was nice because I'd never seen it, but I effectively saw nothing of To Catch a Thief.

    I wanted to be kissed, dreamed of it (if not of Teddy specifically), but I had no idea what I was doing. I needed coaching and fortunately Teddy was patient and quite good. He still ranks in my top five kissers of all time and we dated the rest of the school year. And I learned. Kissing was one of my strong suits and still gets my husband terribly excited, even after seven years of marriage.

    It was my junior year of high school and I was sixteen.

  5. My first kiss - he may have thought it was real, I didn't. Later kisses have been much more memorable.

  6. Stephanie, that was so cool! And I think you are very brave to tell us. ROTC, eh? And I thought all they did was march around and be all soldierly. Seamanly, I mean. Shows what I know. :)

  7. @A. Don't cop out. Tell us the first one that meant something. I hear Irish lasses bloom early. :) Later kisses are often more exciting - I can vouch for that - but not more memorable. You can remember. :)


  8. @A. - Okay, doesn't have to have meant something. Just something more than kissing the 5 year old neighbor boy behind the garage. :)

  9. Max, you will probably not believe this but my first kiss that I can remember was with a........ girl. Yes I said it. I was probably about 11 or so and one of my friends Carol was over. Oddly enough she was blond and had blue eyes. She was my best friend. She asked my to close my eyes, she had a surprise for me. We were in my Dad's garage and it was summertime. When my eyes were closed she leaned in and kissed me. At first I was confused because I did not know about girls kissing girls so my first thought was she had sneaked a boy in. When I opened my eyes I saw that it was her and I started crying. Oh was I naive. We did not see each other after that hot afternoon in my Dad's garage.

  10. @Ettarose - I think that was very sweet. I'm sorry you weren't old enough to understand the sentiment behind the kiss, and that it made you feel awkward. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Awwwwwww. That's so cute! And no, I don't like to think about 10 year olds making out in the theater. I didn't even know 10 year olds could go to the theater by themselves.


    Of course, our nearest theater is 40 miles away...

    Anyway, my first kiss (the one I remember) was in college. I had gone with a roommate to see one of her male friends and when they went off into a different room, I was left with the other dude. I don't remember his name or what he looked like, I just remember he was tall. I think he was a basketball player?

    Whatever. I put chap stick on and he took it as an invitation. He was a good kisser. I just remember going out of my way to be "busy" whenever he stopped by our apartment to talk, LOL.

    I think I still assumed all jocks were idiots back then...

  12. Angelika, I liked your memory story a lot (although I don’t think I believe your first kiss was in college).

    Putting on Chapstick is a blatant invitation though. :)



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