What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time?
My first kiss was in a dark movie theatre when I was fourteen. A freshman in high school, though young for my grade, I was embarrassed that I’d never kissed a boy, when so many of my friends already had. By the time the big moment finally happened, I’d just wanted to get it over with. I remember the movie we were seeing—Gran Torino—a Clint Eastwood film where he’s angry and racist (isn’t that all Clint Eastwood films?). Not the most romantic setting. My best friend was there with a guy, too, but they were too busy making out behind the dumpster outside to even care that they’d spent seven dollars on a ticket. Big sexual experiences always went down in that movie theatre.
His lips felt like raw salmon on mine. I remember describing it like that. Now, I don’t fault him with this. Rather, I blame myself. I had no clue what to do with my mouth once his was on it. I went slack. It lasted a total of five passionless seconds, and then it was over. Just like that. What I’d been waiting for—what I’d been wanting to get over with—over just like that.
Later that night, curled up in my friend’s bed, probably listening to Paramore or Regina Spektor, I drank stolen Jack Daniels, cried, and told her I never wanted to kiss another boy again. She stroked my hair and told me that it’d get better, really—but what did she know? She’d just made out with a skater boy behind a dumpster (who, by the way, would never call her back).
She was right though. I got better at kissing boys. (Most importantly, I stopped crying afterward.)
I always imagined my first time having sex being special, though. I never imagined my first time being with my future husband—I was realistic. I didn’t picture roses or candles or any of that bullshit, but I did picture it with someone I loved, at least. Someone who would tell me how much I meant to them before and after the “big” moment. That’s all the special I needed. All the special I wanted.
I recognize not everyone feels this way about sex. For some, sex is just sex, even if it’s the first time. Others may want roses and candles. And I think that’s great, because there’s no one way to think about sex. Everyone’s different. But for me, this was what I hoped for.
My first time, however, was as unspecial as you could imagine. I was nineteen and the very last of my college friends to do “it.” Much like my first kiss, I was embarrassed and just wanted to get it over with. And also much like my first kiss, it lasted a total of five passionless seconds. I got it over with. The boy didn’t love me. It happened on a cold February night, and we’d already been seeing each other for a month. He’d grown impatient. And frankly, so had I.
He fell asleep, so I left, because suddenly I felt fourteen again, so small and dissatisfied by these things that are supposed to be big deals. Walking at 5 AM, alone, I thought of Gran Torino. When I finally got home, my roommates were long asleep, so I curled up in bed, this time alone, and this time I didn’t cry.
The first time for anything is tricky. And so often, wasted. The fault is not with these boys, but with me and with the societal ideal that we must accomplish these sexual milestones in a timely manner. I rushed my first kiss, and I rushed losing my virginity, and because of that, it was disappointing. It felt contrived. The boys felt like pawns, merely there so I could tell others that, yes, I’d finally done it. So these moments that I’d been told for so long were important, were suddenly so incredibly unimportant. And yet I cannot forget them. That’s the saddest part.
I wish someone had told me that these things would happen when they do, and to rush it is to force it. Instead, I was teased. I was seen as a prude. And I was told that, somehow, this behavior was not normal for a girl my age. How could I be fourteen and never been kissed? How could I be nineteen and a virgin? I saw these things as weird. I thought they made me lesser, somehow. And so I robbed myself of great moments for mediocre ones, all in the name of timeliness.
I wish my first kiss had been at a bonfire, underneath the stars, listening to the crickets. I wish it had been in my first boyfriend’s car, as we listened to whatever moody, teenage band he liked. Or, I wish it had been in my parents’ basement, where I was holding hands with a boy I really liked, and I didn’t have to listen to Clint Eastwood yell racial slurs in the background.
I wish I lost my virginity to a boy that loved me, no matter how fleeting. I wish it would’ve been with a boy who I didn’t want to leave in the middle of the night. Mostly, though, I wish I hadn’t rushed it.
If I could go back in time, that’s what I’d tell myself. You have time. Just wait.
This article originally appeared on Real Talk Magazine.
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