What first kisses can teach you about female empowerment

My senior year of high school, I experienced every teenager’s worst nightmare: I was eighteen, and I had still never kissed anyone.

I walked around my high school’s campus wondering if the words “She’s never been kissed.” were plastered on my forehead or taped to my back. I carried this with me each day as my own secret shame.

My friends tried every manner of comforting words to soothe my fears, but as the year progressed, all I could think was that something must be wrong with me. Why else would I be the only one among my friends who had never come close to that most glorified of romantic milestones? As time ticked away, I began to wonder what would happen when I turned up at college. Would my inexperience scare away college boys?

A few weeks before graduation, as I was beginning to feel desperate, I went to one of the many “good-bye to high school” parties. It was a small party, and I was friends with everyone there, but when someone suggested we play Spin The Bottle, I froze. I made an awkward string of excuses and my friends accepted my refusal. Most of them knew about my inexperience, and no one wanted to push me.

As I watched the game from the sidelines, I envied my friends who could be so at ease playing the game. I’d never felt comfortable in my own body, and I wondered if that would ever change. Then I began to think that maybe I should play. I’d been waiting all these years for someone to kiss me, but maybe the problem was that I needed to take initiative and kiss someone first.

This idea struck me as something brilliant. This was the 21st Century, and I was always preaching about female empowerment. I didn’t need to wait around to be kissed. I should just do it!

“Hey guys, I want to join in,” I called before I could lose my nerve. My friends turned silent and stared at me in shock. They all knew that this wasn’t my scene and that I was uncomfortable in these situations, so none of them understood why I’d suddenly changed my mind. A few of my friends, who suspected my reasons, tried to talk me out of it, but I’d made up my mind. I grabbed the bottle with shaky hands and spun. I watched the bottle spin around and around until at last it stopped. It landed on my friend, Andy.

The kiss itself wasn’t bad, although a little awkward, and afterwards, I wondered what all the fuss had been about. It wasn’t until the next day that the reality of my actions sank in.

I liked Andy; I really did. He was a great friend, and we’d shared a lot of great memories, but that kiss was not one of them. I’d never seen Andy as anything more than a friend, and that translated into an awkward experience for me. Afterwards, I wasn’t sure how to act around him. I knew it hadn’t been a big deal to him, but I had spent years dreaming of my first kiss. I found myself wanting to go back in time and stop myself from ever spinning that bottle.

I rushed into my first kiss before I was ready. I let the pressures of society’s expectations make my decision for me, and I’ll have to live with that any time someone asks me about my first kiss. After my experience at that party, I learned what I should’ve known all along: I’m OK where I am. I’m not at that point in my life where romance is my first priority, and I don’t need to be at the same level as all of my friends. I don’t need to have sex, or kiss boys, or do anything else that I’m not ready for in order to validate my existence. I justified my first kiss by saying it was part of female empowerment, but sometimes empowerment means knowing when to wait until you’re ready.

Alanna Bouloy is a full-time student at Stetson University where she studies English and Creative Writing. She has a deep love for all things Harry Potter, and an addiction to Tumblr and YouTube. She describes her dream job as “anything that pays me to travel.” Her hobbies include a hot cup of tea and a book on rainy days, obsessing over her ships, and pretending she’s in a Broadway musical. You can find her on Twitter @writergirl1995 or on Tumblr at yerawizardlani.tumblr.com.

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