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 Like any red-blooded Midwestern boy of the age of 15, when I was growing up, I imagined nothing Allah had created could compare with kissing a girl. I did the whole deal: making out with pillows, caressing the Teddy Ruxpin dolls, feeling up two slightly deflated footballs. When I started to become comfortable with the fact that my parents knew puberty was beginning to rear its hairy head - well, Iím still not entirely comfortable with it, to be honest - I would cut out all the models from Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions, put them on my walls and give them little comic-strip thought balloons, saying stuff like, ďWill, youíre the sexiest!Ē and ďWill, Kevin Costner has nothing on you.Ē (Believe it or not, folks, there was a time that Kevin Costner was considered sexy.).

In my imagination, I was a torrid lover, a machine, a manly cat the kittens couldnít keep their paws off ... well, letís face it, folks, I was Shaft. Unfortunately, I was a most private dick; even though all my friends had tales of heavy petting debauchery, usually at some sort of summer camp with a 22-year-old counselor, typically in a dark wooded area and involving zippers, rubber gloves and mayonnaise, I, at 15, had still never kissed a girl. Iíd never even had a playground girlfriend. The closest I came was taking a girl in my newspaper class at junior high to a dance in the gym; she ended up leaving with another guy when I told her, no, sorry, I canít go to the Dairy Queen after the dance because my mom is picking me up right at 8:30, canít be late. (Emily, I havenít forgotten you ... contact Ironminds, the address is on the masthead, if you ever want to talk.)

I thought it was never going to happen. When we were sophomores, my friend Andy started dating his high school football coachís daughter, and I was lucky (so lucky) enough to accompany him on most of their dates. Mostly, they would sneak off to a dark corner, and he would touch her breasts (He touched her breasts! He even grabbed them!) and kiss her cheek, and I was off trolling around, hoping neither of them noticed that I was watching.

I mean, what must it be like? Youíve got a girl there ... and you can do anything with her! Sure, one time Andy sneaked his hands a little too low, and she let out a squeal and told him to stop it, but I suspect thatís just because they were out in public. When they were in the back of Jay Ramageís car - Jay was the only friend of ours old enough to drive - who knew what kind of insanity went on? I bet he even kissed her with his tongue.

Imagination was all I had. These were ďthe dandruff years.Ē It was right after Iíd at last fought off my fatherís demands that I always wear a crew cut and was struggling with the demands of the increased upkeep. Andy and Shad used to sit behind me in class and throw pieces of paper in my hair, then laugh as I brushed them off, displacing both notebook remnants and dead dry-skin flakes onto the floor. And these people were my friends.

I was helpless with women, and rather than face the embarrassment of being rejected, I just avoided them. It wasnít until I joined a local church (on my own; my parents were not members, mainly because, Jesus, church starts so early) and went on a youth retreat to a ski slope in Dubuque, Iowa, that I finally met a girl who would talk to me.

Her name was Barbara, and I was the first person she ever kissed, too. She was a shy, bookish brunette, with big, square red glasses that I think also helped the sight of anyone who happened to be standing behind her (within 10 feet). She was a grade below me in school and wanted nothing more than to get straight As, be maid of honor in her best friend Kylaís wedding, meet Jordan Knight and not be late to Sunday school. She was a proper sweet straight-laced schoolgirl, and sex was something that would be not be even thought of until her wedding night, and even then only if youíre lucky.

I liked her because she was nice and funny and a good Christian girl - this was during a period of my life in which I wanted to be a minister; that might be surprising to you, and probably strikes you as something I should delve into deeper, but I wonít, because itís not really all that interesting, and besides, it was 10 years ago, I was 15 and Iím such a sinner now Iíd feel guilty even thinking about it - but mostly I liked her because she had enormous breasts and I thought maybe if I was really, really nice and gave her flowers and told her I loved her and took her to movies and made nice with her friends and held her hand in church, she might let me touch them.

I was willing to wait. Once I finally dug up the nerve to ask her out, we had three dates. The first was to a movie, Joe Vs. The Volcano with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan before they were Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. My dad, to whom I had foolishly confessed my evening activities, made me wear a tie and a sweater vest, accessories I was mocked for by Andy the entire evening. (Mom wouldnít let me go unless I had a chaperone ... man, if she knew the stuff Iíd seen Andy do.) The second was also to a movie, the name of which I have forgotten.

The third night, I knew it was time to make my move. It must have been a particularly ribald weekend in Hollywood, because all the films at the theater were rated R, save for one. So Andy and Barbara and her friend Kyla and I marched up to the ticket window, plunked down our $3.50 and headed in to see Ernest Goes to Jail.

The scene was toward the end, when Ernest is hanging from a chandelier while attempting to outwit his evil doppelganger who had pinned a crime on him, a crime that our dear Ernest had, alas, not committed. The tension was high; would this be the end of our hero? Barbara gripped my arm. I touched her hand. She looked at me. I leaned in. She leaned in. Closer. Closer. I puckered up (this was fucking it! Oh jeez oh jeez oh jeez) and planted my lips on hers, where they remained for about, oh, half a second. We were in a theater, but I could still see her blush. As did I, when Andy, sitting right behind us, began to giggle.

And that was my first kiss. Years later, at Kylaís wedding, I gave a toast. I saluted Kyla and her husband, and made a joke about initially spending time with her to get closer to Barbara, my first girlfriend, my first kiss, someone Iíd never forget. Barbara blushed then, too, though I think she might have been drunk. She ended up marrying a grocer or something, and I think they have a couple of children, both shy and bookish with enormous glasses. Curious to see how their breasts turn out.



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