Confessions of a Late Bloomer
One of the things I’m more embarrassed to admit to myself, along with my big feet and my abandoning of vegetarianism, is I didn’t get (consensually) kissed until after I’d turned nineteen. Lot of other coming-of-age milestones had come to pass; I’d cut off my hair, graduated, left home, moved into my own apartment. I had small high school romances, but none serious or remotely physical. Boys sometimes told my friends that I was cute, a boy convinced his band to cover one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs, I’d held hands with a friend fireside, but never been kissed.
This was sometimes a source of surprise to the boys I found myself around in my later teenage years. I remember one friend said he’d make it his mission to be my first kiss (this made me way too nervous) and one friend told me “don’t worry, tons of boys will like you in college.” But then I got to my liberal arts college, and found that much like my arts high school, the girls vastly outnumbered the boys (and I thought I was 100% straight at the time). The numbers pushed down my odds even more than my personality did. I never found myself especially at ease around new acquaintances and I often felt inferior to my bustier and more outgoing friends. It seemed that the longer I went without intimacy, the further away the possibility got.
I know I’m not the only person to have had this feeling. I have two other friends, both of whom are friendly and beautiful, who didn’t have great luck with dating in high school or undergrad. Now more than six years after my first kiss, I know that the timing of my first kiss isn't actually important. But still, my late-bloomer friends and I agree that it remains a sore spot for us. We don’t like to hear those songs about teenage love affairs. We bristle when we watch the episode of Gilmore Girls in which Dean presents Rory with a car. I know it doesn’t matter anymore, that all three of us shed our unkissed skins long ago, and yet it feels like we missed a part of the teenage experience. Maybe we’re bothered because we can’t talk to those versions of us. I can’t tell myself at sixteen or seventeen to be more confident. I can't go back in time to comfort my past self, to give her what she craves and needs. Sixteen-year-old me needed someone brave and persistent. Seventeen-year-old me needed someone brave and understanding. Eighteen-year-old me needed someone who would make sure she wanted to be kissed, rather than someone who would messily force his face on hers on the street (yes, that happened). Nineteen-year-old me got sweet friend with a short attention span but willing lips. But need didn’t end with a first kiss. It only gets harder from there.