My First Real Kiss

 When I was 11, I went to Episcopalian summer camp, Camp Crucis.   Up until this time, I was kind of a teapot kid – short and stout.  And kind of a tomboy.  I didn’t think guys liked me like that.  But that summer proved me wrong.  (cue music)

My Granny was kind of a weight-obsessed bitch.  The technical term, I now know is ‘Anorexic chain smoker.’  But back then, we just said ‘bitch’ and we weren’t wrong.  Well, I didn’t say it.  I was a good little girl.  But if I were to go back in time and give that little girl a word for Granny, it’d be ‘bitch.’

She was obsessed with my mother’s and my physical imperfections.  When I was 8, she suggested I make a girdle out of a tire’s inner tube.  That’s what she did, she said.  One summer day, she sat in our kitchen, staring at me and chain-smoking.  Then she opened her mouth and said, “You know, when I was your age, I wanted to get myself in shape for boys.  I made a girdle out of an inner tube.  Then all the boys liked me.  You should do that.”

Um, again, I’m 8.

The kitchen walls were yellow paint and plywood. It was the 70’s in Grand Prairie, Texas.  And it was hot. We were sitting at the table with the red-checkered table cloth.  A giant wooden spoon hung helpless on the wall.  What am I supposed to say to that?  I stared at her age spots as her bony hands delivered her cigarette to her mouth over and over.  Her spiky shoulders and saggy boobs poked at her striped sweater.  The papery skin on her face reached down toward the linoleum fake-tile floor. 

This is the woman who’s counseling me about my looks and suggesting that no man would have me. 

God forbid I’d be an old maid by 9.  She didn’t know abut my affair with Andrew, which was the talk of all my stuffed animals.  Or that I had recently experienced a playground wedding to Jimmy Lakey.  To her, I was just some fat loser.  And she wanted me to contort my form into rubber so I could get me some.

“Um, okay,” I mumbled.  But, I didn’t make a tire girdle, or duct tape corset or any other Days of Yore hillbilly apparatus.  But I did do what any people pleasing 10 year old would, I went on a diet. To appease Granny, and to make myself acceptable to mankind, when I was 10, I went on a crash diet.  Hot on the heels of ‘9 to 5’ success it was called the Dolly Parton diet.  Also known as the Cabbage Soup diet, because you get to eat cabbage soup – all you want all day long.  Yay?  Otherwise, Day 1, you eat fruit, Day 2, vegetables, Day 3:  fruit and vegetables.  Ohmygod, it was horrible.   Day 4 – bananas and milk.  Day 5 – beef and tomatoes.  I forget Days 6 and 7.  I think I’ve blacked them out from self-hatred.

Anyway, the diet worked and I lost about 15 pounds.  One and a half pounds lost for each tender year I’d been alive.  Granny was thrilled.  Finally, a thin granddaughter.  Dreams do come true!

And that summer, at age 11, I went back to Camp Crucis.  This year, there would be boys and girls there together, and I was nervous.  Sure, I could score with my best friend’s brother and guys at school, but these were camp guys.  The Big Time.  I didn’t know if I would have any pull here.  And honestly, it was tough week.  There was a movie, but I got sick from too many Otter pops.  There was a dance, I danced, but didn’t end up with a boyfriend or anything.  No guys said they loved me or tried to feel me up, so I didn’t know if I was pretty.

Until the last day. 

There was a camp counselor there, David.  He was so, so cute.  Brown hair, tan, lean.  Handsome.  There weren’t many handsome people in Grand Prairie, so I was a little star struck, and excited to be exposed to such a thing.  I’d say he looked like Armand Assante in ‘Little Darlings,’ --because he did—but I won’t, because I don’t want you to think I’m making it up, or transferring that movie to my life, which I’m not.  But he really looked like that.  He was beautiful.  We had talked a little, crossed paths here and there during my week of swimming, singing, and crafts.  But there was no real connection.  He was a counselor, 17 at least, and way out of my league.  We were worlds apart.

On the last day, I was emotional, bidding new friends good-bye until next year, packing my things and getting my bags to the bus.  It was about 104 degrees, so mid-waiting, I headed into the cafeteria for some water.  And that’s when it happened.

I opened the door to the Mess Hall, stepped inside and stopped.  There he was.  That Armand-Assante-looking mother fucker.  So cute and dreamy in his Green Camp Crucis Counselor shirt and cut-offs.  Not just any cut-offs, but the cool kind you make yourself, with fringey rectangles at the bottom.  They stopped at the perfect place on his sun-kissed legs, which were cute and tanned all the way down to his masculine sandals. 

He waved and walked over to me.  Can you fucking believe it?  I froze, to make sure he wasn’t communicating with someone behind me.  He stood in front of me and told me it was nice to meet me.  I agreed.  I’m not sure if that made any sense. 

We small-talked a bit, as I blushed and looked down, equally intrigued and terrified to look into his green eyes.   Eventually, another counselor stuck her head in the door and announced it was last call to catch the bus.  A few campers rushed out into the sunlight and David the Camp Counselor and I were alone. 

I managed to look directly at him, just as he wrapped his arms around me, dipped me and kissed me in the most tender, strong, sexy, romantic, inappropriate fairy tale kiss that’s ever been kissed.  I closed my eyes.  My heart pounded and my head spun, just like they say. And somehow I knew to lift one leg, just like in a black and white movie. I wanted to peek, but knew to keep my eyes closed. The most beautiful man in North Texas, maybe the world, was kissing me.  He could have had his pick of any pre-teen campers, but he chose ME.  I hoped it could last forever.  I wished everyone I knew could see me.  Sadly, it would be another few decades before we’d have cell phone cameras, or Facebook, or I would have snapped a quick shot and made it my profile pic, and hoped it wouldn’t lead to any legal action being taken against David.  

The kiss was fantastic.  He was a man and really knew what he was doing.  Not like those 8 and 10 year olds I’d been making out with.  This guy had stubble. 

The kiss concluded and he set me up right.  We composed ourselves and hadn’t noticed that during the kiss … another counselor had walked in.  And seen everything.  “Hey, so, what’s going on?” he asked awkwardly.

Busted. 

Still heady from our ‘The Moment’ I blurted, “We’re rehearsing… for a play,” and David chimed in, “Yeah, for a play.  We’re rehearsing.”   Teamwork!   I’d seen it in a movie or something and knew it was a clever thing to say.  I was also letting David know that I was cool, cosmopolitan.  I lived in Grand Prairie, sure.  But I camped – summered if you will – in Grandbury, a good 40 minutes away.  By bus.   I wanted David to know that he’d kissed, not a child, but a self-possessed 11-year-old woman. 

And, now I knew that I could attract a hot guy.  I could be loved by a man. Boo-ya!  Take that Granny!  Oh, shit.  It was only after the diet.  That old bitch was right.

We smiled and parted ways.  We’d had our moment unscathed.  I hoped he’d bounce back into my life, like happens in Sandra Bullock movies, but I never saw him again.  Hopefully, he’s not still kissing 11-year-olds, but if he is, I hope he’s thinking of me.