After reading Sedaris, I'm very much in the mood to write a personal narrative. So here goes...
When I was a junior in high school I did what all juniors with negligible self-esteem do: I dated a freshman. Her name was LeAnn and I was attracted to her for three very good reasons. First, it was rumored that she liked me, or at least liked me enough that she thought I might be a suitable person to accompany her to the junior/senior prom. Second, she was a freshman and so would be obligated to look up to me. And third, she looked really good in her volleyball uniform. Her butt was like a soap bubble, nice and round, but somehow delicate.
I knew that LeAnn had been out a few times with one of my basketball teammates, Steve. They were rumored to have partied together. By which I mean he picked her up in his beater of a car, drove her to a pit party, supplied her with adult beverages, and made out with her. This didn't really bother me. I would have done the same, were I not terrified of getting caught or making a fool of myself.
The potential for embarrassment played a prominent role in my lack of success with girls. I hadn't kissed a girl since eighth grade, which, not coincidentally was the last time I'd hoodwinked people into thinking I was cool. I had no clue how to go about it with LeAnn. Should I just close my eyes, lean in romantically, and hope for the best like they do in movies? Should I play the part of aggressive upperclassman, grab her, and force my tongue down her throat? Should I politely ask?
All of these options were replete with peril. What if she turned away? Or slapped me? Or said, "Um, no thanks?" My fragile ego wouldn't have been able to handle it. So for a long time I didn't make any kind of move at all, hoping that she would save me the trouble and initiate the process.
She didn't, of course. I was the junior, she was the freshman. I was the guy, she was the girl. It was my show. As we playfully wrestled on my bed, I'd think to myself, "Now! Go for it!" but then I'd roll away, grab the remote control, and turn on Degrassi High. Instead of the self-loathing you would expect, I usually felt relief. I'd exhale and think, "Whew. Close one."
After three months I knew I needed to kiss her. You can't go on pretending to be a couple in high school without at least making out. Her friends surely knew the situation. They'd have talked. It was the sort of thing I didn't want out in the general population.
"Didja hear Murphy hasn't even kissed her yet?"
"You don't think..."
People might come to the wrong conclusion.
When you wait that long to do something, the something starts to seem impossible. That's why parents count to three when their kid's standing at the edge of the diving board. The kissing of LeAnn, already rife with potential pitfalls, became an albatross around my neck. When I pulled to a stop in her parents' driveway and we uttered our awkward goodbyes we did so because the words didn't matter. The kiss was what mattered. Was tonight the night? she must have wondered on many occasions.
The problem was Steve. Steve had kissed her. He'd probably kissed her good and hard, fueled up on teenage hormones and cheap beer. Every time I thought of laying one on her I pictured Steve and imagined how he did it. He probably slid his tongue right in her mouth, licked her teeth, twirled it around in there. Oh, she'd liked it, I was sure. Kissing LeAnn became not about pleasing her or even myself, but a competition with my teammate. Was I better than him? That's the only question I cared to have answered.
It's not a question you can ask. But as it turned out I didn't need to. Two days after finally mustering up the courage to plant a gentle, what I thought to be extremely sensitive, caring, romantic, and appropriately brief kiss, I heard via the extremely efficient system of high school gossip that I was, in fact, a terrible kisser. Much worse than Steve.
LeAnn and I kept seeing other for a little while, but the thrill was gone. With the kiss out of the way and her verdict so decisively and publicly rendered, there was little desire on my part to try again. We both knew how she felt. Any more kisses would have been interpreted one of two ways. Either I would still suck at it or I would be trying too hard to overcome my initial performance. Mostly, when we got together we watched bad TV in my bedroom. Afterward, I'd take her home. She'd scamper quickly from my Sunbird before things got uncomfortable. And I'd go back home and make out with my pillow. It never once complained.