A kiss is just a kiss, unless it’s the very first one
NEW YORK — A kiss is just a kiss, but as time goes by the first one can be everlasting.
“I can tell you the exact date,” declared stylist and fashion designer Nicole Grays Owens of Atlanta. “It was Aug. 16, 1985, three days after my sweet 16th. He was my first true love and I his.”
We all have a first-kiss story, from the playground, park or basement, most likely. But do we all know what happened to the people with whom we shared that delicate snip of time? Do we care?
Writer Rachel Vail of Manhattan may not have been in capital L-love with the first boy she kissed, but they WERE a thing, elementary school style.
She was a fifth-grade Kim to his sixth-grade Hugo in their suburban New York school’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” There was supposed to be a kiss between the two in the play. This being elementary school, there was not.
Then came curtain call opening night.
“We met at center stage. He had a bouquet of flowers and he leaned forward and kissed me in front of a packed auditorium, in front of our parents and teachers and everybody else,” Vail recalled. “It was a sweet, chaste kiss, but I wiped it right off my mouth. My dad filmed the whole thing.”
Vail, 50, has worked a few memorable kisses into some of the more than 30 books she has written for young people. In real life, there was a big twist to her first.
Though it left her a “little shaken,” she took her spot at the end of the stage as planned during bows. And that put her next to the boy who played her father. And it was he, years later, who became her husband. They’ve been married 24 years come spring.
“More than sex, that idea of kissing, connecting with somebody, it can be very innocent and it can be so very powerful,” Vail said. “It’s that first thought of yourself as a romantic and eventually a sexual being. First kisses can knock you down and make you feel so different about yourself and about the world.”
Owens, 47, feels the same. She and her first beau, back in Los Angeles where she grew up, courted over scoops of mint chip at the ice cream shop where he worked.
“It was awkward, tentative at first, then it morphed into everything I’d seen in a movie or on television,” she said. “It was passionate, romantic and seemed to go on forever. Maybe passionate is too heady a word for two virginal teenagers, but it felt like passion to me.”
The two drifted after high school, but she doesn’t have to wonder what became of him. Through social media she has learned that he’s the married father of four, a police officer in a small California town. She keeps her distance out of respect.
“He was the greatest first everything I could have had and I still possess every picture, card, love letter,” Owens said, “and the dress I wore to his senior prom, which still fits, by the way.”
For David Rivera, a 62-year-old doctor in suburban Chicago, the first is now bittersweet.
The date: “May 27, 1968, behind the hedges in front of the house where she was baby-sitting! Life was never the same after that. Her name was Cheryl and we used to leave notes for each other tucked into the post for a stop sign near her house,” he said.
They exchanged Christmas cards occasionally over the years. She had a long-term temp job about a mile from where he lives.
“I saw her in 2004 for the first time in 32 years. We met for lunch. That would be the last time,” Rivera said. “She died in December 2012. I didn’t know until I had dinner with three other friends from high school a couple of years later.”
Dana Marlowe, 40, also reconnected with her first kisser, 25 years after the act.
She’s a federal agency IT consultant in suburban Washington, D.C., and new software to access a payment portal included the security question: “What is the name of your first kiss?” Marlowe treated her assistant to the story behind the answer since she’s the one who had to input the name.
The scene: A summer camp in Pennsylvania one hot July night in 1989, near the tree line. Marlowe was 12. Adam was 13.
Marlowe was so tickled by the crush reminder that she tracked him down on Facebook, where they had a couple of old camp friends in common, and privately messaged him his new security role in her life.
“He wrote back within seconds and we wound up chatting,” she said. “He said, ‘If you think that’s funny, I’ve got a story for YOU, Dana.’ “
Adam is Adam Goldberg, a Hollywood writer and producer. At the time they reconnected, he was pitching a TV series based on his 1980s childhood, “The Goldbergs,” which was picked up by ABC and includes a noteworthy young kiss and the pursuit of same in a story line involving a character he left as Dana.
Goldberg uses real-life home movies and other memorabilia to end each episode and it was Marlowe’s turn that time around, in a short snippet of young them.
“So, that’s what happens when you look up your first kiss, courtesy of needing to get paid by the government,” Marlowe said.