Stephanie Ashe
August 21, 2015 9:55 am

I spent my high school years convinced that no one would ever find me attractive.  I had body image issues, hair issues, and a quirky personality that was not always appreciated in a pre-Juno world.  I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life surrounded by my more attractive friends until they finally got married, had children, and simply forgot I existed.   I’d be alone, but at least I would always have my cats.  This all changed when I turned 16.

At that point I had never had any boyfriends, or even gotten close to having one.  One night I was sleeping over at my best friend Hannah’s house, not knowing that her step-brother was inviting over his friends as well.  They were older than us, so I assumed they could never be interested in me. After all, they had beards and piercings – these were obviously cool guys.  I tried to act casual. One of them liked me. I mean, he really liked me. We laid on the floor talking all night, where he told me about his girlfriendm while also asking if he could kiss me.  I answered that question with a clear and concise “NO.”

I’ll admit that the girlfriend was an easy way for me to avoid the kiss. I was so scared of doing it wrong. Where do my hands go?  How long should it last? What do you even do with your tongue? The unexpected nature of this night freaked me out.  I hadn’t had time to mentally prepare, or you know, watch some teen movies as research, so there was no way I could do it.

Over the next few weeks we talked more and more, and eventually he did break up with that girlfriend so we could be together.  I was excited, nervous, and scared to death. Obviously we’d have to kiss soon, right? I had to be prepared.

My purse was always stocked with mints and chapstick, just in case a surprise hangout happened.  If a date was going to happen, I spent forever getting ready. I practically bathed in perfume and lotion. No one had ever been that close to me, so what if I smelled bad without knowing it? I cleaned my face multiple times in case my face looked gross that close up. Sometimes I would try to back out, because I was just too panicked.  The night that was to be our first official date, I forced my friend Hannah and her boyfriend to go with me.

The plan was simple – dinner and a movie.  I was pretty sure the movie would be where a kiss would happen, because I’ve seen enough TV shows to understand what happens when teens are in a dark theater. After dinner we had some time to kill, so we decided to go buy some candy to avoid paying the insanely high prices for candy at the movies. I grabbed my Raisinets, and I was ready to go.  When we got to the checkout line, I made small talk with my date. Then, out of nowhere, he kissed me. It was sudden. It was quick. It was in Walmart.

For so long the lack of a kiss had been a huge stressor for me.  I compared myself to my friends who had multiple boyfriends by this point.  I constantly wondered what was wrong with me that put me so far behind them in that department.  Kissing was this huge event I had worried about and prepared for.  Then, in a matter of seconds, it was over, and it had happened in the least romantic place I could have imagined.

I remember nothing else about that night.  I remember nothing about the movie or driving home or any conversations we had.  The whole night was about that kiss. It didn’t happen with candles or moonlight, and there wasn’t string music playing. It was far from perfect. But as I grew older, I realized: That’s how it happens for most people. First kisses, like the rest of relationships, are often messy. That’s OK. In fact, it’s even kind of great.

[Image via iStock]

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