The lime green dress was right out of the ‘sixties, replete with woven bodice and sleeve detail like groovy guitar straps wrapped around my ribs and wrists. I adored it. Green flats were purchased to match. It was the eighth grade dance and I was free to attend, though afraid of towering over boys shorter than I at that age. (Not long afterward in our cultural timeline, the diminutive Dudley Moore made coupling with tall women not only acceptable but fashionable and hip.)
Not too long before, I had been separated from many of my childhood companions. It was not our choice so much as the fact that we were now divvied up and bused across town to our respective junior highs. Despite the awkwardness of being thrust into a much larger school with kids from all walks of life, it was an exciting time, too. And it was here that I made intriguing new friends that included a girl whose parents ran a burger joint across town. Having been raised in an upper middle class suburb, journeying to her tiny house in the heart of the city and eating at her parents’ corner diner were high spots of my teenage years. Slipping loose from what up until then proscribed physical boundaries allowed me a taste of unparalleled freedom.
I had experimented as most children do, in the context and safety of the familiar. I kissed boys I grew up with in the park, but that was childish, benign. I had in fact kissed a boy just a year before, at thirteen when our class went to Disneyland and I started my period in white bell-bottom slacks. That too was different, a dare of sorts, and my obvious discomfort at having to conceal my backside with a sweater lashed around my waist dampened any real adolescent thrill that kiss might otherwise have elicited. Up until then, I was still mistaking the fright of being discovered for the flutter of firsts.
An overdeveloped conscience, blessing and curse of a fundamentalist upbringing and heavy handed parents, prevented me from truly enjoying even the most innocent of burgeoning bodily sensations. I was, in terms of the times, uptight, though the upside was doubtlessly an effective form of birth control. After all, it was the ‘sixties – and free love proved never really free when pregnancy loomed large in the milieu of adolescent androgens.
And so it was then, and it was there – on a rosy chenille art deco sofa in Judi’s tiny living room – that I finally experienced my first real kiss. Sitting and waiting for my friend to rejoin me, furtive whispers in the background failed to warn me of impending revelations. Childhood chums gauging possible responses to bold maneuvers.
From behind, gentle hands cupped slender shoulders. Warm breath wafted into ears hot with discomposure. I like you. I really like you. Followed by the kiss.
This time, punctuated by profession of admiration, a languorous tender kiss brought prickles and heat, magic and mayhem, and I knew, though I felt much too awkward, confused and afraid to commit further to this boy’s gentle ardor, I would never forget it. Or him.