I was fourteen. I’d already suffered through a bunch of unrequited crushes and still was no further forward to kissing anybody, but I’d stopped eating cheese and onion crisps a couple of years previously, just in case. It finally happened at the disco after my cousin’s wedding. He came over and asked whether my sister or I would like to dance. My sister had been glowering all night and wasn’t about to break the habit, so I duly stepped in. He turned out to be twenty-three, which I would stress whenever I subsequently told the story: initially because it was flattering and exciting to make out with someone nine years older than me, and later when I realised it was weird and inappropriate for someone in their twenties to make out with a fourteen-year-old.
He kept offering to buy me a drink, but I hadn’t even started drinking yet (this took place a few months down the line), so I declined. He kept wanting us to go outside, and finally I agreed. He was from London, which was a bonus because it meant I never saw him again. He talked about going clubbing and taking drugs, so I promptly filed him under ‘drug addict’ because I was not yet aware that people take drugs recreationally. Finally, at around half midnight, it was time for me to say my goodbyes. We stood. He kissed me on the cheek, considered for a moment, and then kissed me on the lips.
This all seemed to happen in slow motion. I did my best to act like I was used to this. When he stopped kissing me, I reached to wipe my mouth, whereupon my arm knocked his accidentally and he dropped his pint. Beer and glass everywhere. I was mortified, but he just kissed me again. At this point, I had my eyes open, so I was aware of the unfamiliar woman approaching who was presumably someone’s aunt. “Mind if I stay and watch?” she asked brightly. “I might pick up a few tips!” She left the vicinity, and he kissed me one more time; this time, his tongue slid into my mouth. And then it just sat there, like a big slug, and I wondered dully whether I was going to have to just choke to death politely or what. And finally, it was over and I was free to go home.
My sister and I drove back over the hills in characteristic silence. The only thing I remember is the song on the radio, I Love Your Smile by Shanice.
I didn’t really eat the following day. I was struggling to fit this new weird experience into the context of my life. It sure as hell hadn’t been romantic, and after I gained some more experience I felt that he really hadn’t been a good kisser, but it didn’t really matter, either – I’d got the first one out of the way. Plus I had keywords to throw into conversation which might make me cool and/or mysterious. Who else could say they’d kissed a 23-year-old drug addict from London? And so commenced a long tradition of having experiences just so I could say I’d had them.