When I was in the first grade I lied about kissing Cynthia Medina. Even though technically we were boyfriend and girlfriend, we had a first-grade relationship. We didn’t call each other on the phone. We didn’t hold hands. And we definitely didn’t kiss. Being her boyfriend basically meant that I was nicer to her than I was to the other girls.
We were only together because her best friend, Natasha, and my best friend, Reggie, were boyfriend and girlfriend. So it made sense that Cynthia and I would be together. (Sometimes I think Reggie and I were best friends only because we shared the same birthday.)
The kiss didn’t happen at my birthday party—even though that’s where I said it had taken place. Reggie was at the party. He helped me blow out the candles. And sometime after that I was alone with Cynthia for maybe a minute in my bedroom. We sat next to each other on the bed in silence. She was wearing a long frock with ruffles around the collar. She had these plump adult-size lips on her round, chubby face. She looked like a Garbage Pail Kid who had cleaned up for a party. She made the thought of kissing seem extra scary. But I was brave enough to lie about going through with it.
I told Reggie and that got him upset. My Cynthia had put out (a kiss) but his Natasha hadn’t yet. His indignation spread the word. Eventually it got back to Cynthia. She was bound to find out about the kiss that all the first-graders were talking about—it was mostly her kiss after all. I told Reggie that she had given it to me for my birthday.
“How could you do this to me?” Cynthia said. “Didn’t you think about my reputation?”
I wasn’t thinking about her reputation. I was in the first grade. I was thinking about everyone thinking a girl had kissed me on the lips. I was thinking about everyone thinking about my lips.
That was the end of our relationship and I never got to kiss Cynthia. I think Reggie and Natasha worked things out and stayed together a while longer. The two of them really liked each other—even though they weren’t kissing about it.
I wouldn’t kiss a girl for real until the sixth grade. Five years! Nearly half my lifetime up until that point! Her name was Alison. She was Korean and an Amazon. Kissing her was all the best parts of scary. And there was no need to lie about it, because we did it everywhere—and always within view of the other students. The first time was near the handball courts in the schoolyard—and with tongue! After that every possible location was scouted and smooched in. The stairwells between classes were particularly hot and heavy and quick. So much so that Abigail (Ham)Burger told on us.
I cried in the guidance counselor’s office—even though he wasn’t trying to make me feel bad. He called me “Don Juan” and I believe he totally meant it. Alison’s father and her violin instructor were disappointed in her. Not only was she sucking face with a boy during her studies—but a white boy! The kissing was over. And Alison and I would go on to treat each other badly.
I wonder why I cried so hard in the guidance counselor’s office. I think it was because for the first time I didn’t feel like a liar.