SparkNotes Blog

The First Kiss Story I Don’t Tell

I lied about my first kiss story for the SparkLife feature. I lied because I am used to lying about my first kiss—it’s easier. That other story is so cute and, well, normal in that it was with a boy when I was an adolescent.

My actual first kiss is more complicated and it took me a long time to feel comfortable sharing the story—and often I still don’t. But I think it’s important to share, because once I started telling others, beginning with my first serious boyfriend, at age 21, in college—yes, that is how many years it took for me to tell someone else—I also started hearing other similar stories, of first kisses or strange first quasi-sexual experiences, and they helped to normalize my own story, which I had feared precisely because it seemed so aberrant and because of what I thought it implied about my sexual identity.

So, here goes: my first kiss was at age five and it was with my female cousin, who’s a year older than me. We were very close: she and her sister and me and my brother spent a chunk of every summer at our grandparents’ house. My grandmother loved to garden and so her couple acres of property included not only a lawn, a pool, and a small plot for vegetables, but also a wooded area we called “The Bramble.” It was there that my cousin, whom I’ll call Sarah, and I would go to play “the boyfriend game.” I can’t remember much about it—which of us came up with the idea initially or how many times we played it—but it was pretty simple: we would pretend to be boyfriend (Sarah) and girlfriend (me) and go to the Bramble and make out, or something approximating making out, while lying on top of each other. That was it. I only remember playing it once, but in my memory, it also seems to be a habitual thing and our secret. Even then we knew the adults would not be quite alright with what we were doing.

My grandfather died when I was six and my cousins and I stopped seeing each other as much, so “the boyfriend game” died, too. I didn’t think about it until middle school, when kissing and boys were suddenly, even at my all-girls school, favorite conversation topics. Revisiting the memory then, at an age when I had learned enough of the world to know what was “appropriate” and “conventional,” flooded me with shame and confusion. My first kiss had been with a girl. Did that mean I was a lesbian?

As I mentioned, I did go to an all-girls school, from kindergarten until eighth grade, and I did find myself occasionally obsessed with a classmate—or rather, one classmate: the most popular girl in the grade, who was a gymnast and a dancer and a singer and very wealthy and funny and always at ease socially. I wanted so badly to be friends with her that I even wrote her a letter—yes, a hand-written, stamped, and delivered letter—to tell her that I thought she was cool and I’d like to hang out (we never did). So, yes, I did wonder if I was a lesbian, even though I was also entirely, totally, absolutely boy crazy during this time and had a nightly routine that involved kissing a photograph of Freddie Prinze Jr.

It didn’t help that freshman year of high school, a few of my female friends and I decided to practice kissing on each other for feedback (advice: do not tell your friend she is a bad kisser if you want to preserve your friendship), or that, later, I was one of those girls who would happily make out with another girl at a party for the spectacle of it (advice: this is pretty stupid, don’t let boys talk you into it) and also kind of, I thought, enjoyed it? Basically I was confused, though I don’t know if I ever would have been if it hadn’t been for that first kiss.

I’ve only ever had boyfriends and I’ve never felt a lack or a longing for something intangibly different. I probably could have dated a woman at some point—I liked remaining open to that possibility on principle—but it was also never something I felt compelled to pursue.

I think what I’ve realized is pretty obvious but also worth sharing: kissing a girl if you’re a girl doesn’t make you a lesbian. It doesn’t even make you bisexual. Ditto for guy on guy. And it’s okay to try it out to see how it feels. It doesn’t mean you have to commit to a new identity, and, as long as you’re happy and satisfied, not knowing for sure-for sure where you stand with your sexual identity, is 100% ok. And kissing a girl at age five doesn’t make you a pervert. Kids explore everything and, even though it’s taboo, that includes sexuality. Most everyone has a story about playing “doctor” or enacting strange romantic scenes with their dolls. It’s part of growing up and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Do you have your own “first kiss vs. ‘first kiss'” story?