There’s a first time for everything. As I’ve learned from many (very) personal experiences is those firsts can carry a lot of clout… especially in the youthful experience-deprived mind of an adolescent. Probably the most memorable first for me was my first kiss (of the non-familial variety). It was nothing like what I’d imagined because… well, you’ll see…

At one point in my young life, I found to my complete and utter shock there was a young lady with a crush on me. I’m not sure how I made this initial discovery. Maybe it was due to her stalker-like qualities… showing up everywhere I’d be. Walking by my house every day after school even though she lived in the opposite direction. Watching me in classes we shared. Leaving stuff behind in classes I had after her, so she’d have an excuse to go back into the classroom after I was seated.

Yet, I ignored her. I was in love with the most beautiful girl in our class, and this other girl… well, she didn’t exactly turn heads. If you looked close enough, there was potential for her to develop into a gorgeous woman, but as is the folly of youth, you don’t spend much time looking ahead (and just noticing the undeveloped girl). But I did notice her eventually. It was difficult not to. Especially when she gathered up all her courage one day and asked me out on a date.

I knew deep down I didn’t really have a shot at the girl I was in love with, and I was (extremely) single at the time. Probably due to my poor boy’s wardrobe, excessive nerdiness, super-svelte figure, extreme shyness and an uncanny ability when I did speak to nervously say what I felt in the most embarrassingly wrong way. For pretty much all of my younger days, I didn’t handle social scenarios very well and wasn’t comfortable with communicating what I thought (I learned much, much later in life these were aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome). As I considered her offer, I remember thinking at some point, “Maybe I don’t handle myself with all this boy/girl stuff because I haven’t practiced it enough. I always get better at sports when I practice. Maybe it’s the same principle underneath it all.”

So, I agreed to go out on a date with her.

Dinner was rough to get through. Being shy, I usually hung out with groups of people. People that liked to talk, so it didn’t make much difference if I didn’t say much. I was an expert in conversational camouflage. But at a dinner table, one-on-one with a girl. I was completely out of my element. I was hoping she’d be a talker, and I could just sit back and be a good listener, but there’s one thing to note for all those people out there dealing with someone crushing on you–even if they already know everything about you, they still like to ask a ton of questions hoping to find out even more about you. So, I had to talk. Well, kinda talking… I spat out verbs and nouns and adjectives and sometimes they were even in some kind of order that resembled real sentences. Since I was fumbling words left-and-right, I just decided to blurt out a quick joke about it. And she laughed at the joke. That one laugh calmed me down enough we were able to have a decent conversation (she was also filled to the brim with nerdiness, so that made it easy to discuss on-the-edge topics like chemistry and geometry and literature).

After dinner, we began our walk home (it was a small town, so you could get to most places without much wear-n-tear on your sneakers), and she led us by the park where we sat down to watch the last little bit of the sun setting. She sneakily wiggled her way closer and closer to me as we continued to talk, and when I turned to say something to her one time, she was right there… whispering her response where I could barely hear it as she stared deeply into my eyes. I leaned closer to hear what she was saying, and it suddenly hit me… this is gonna be my first kiss. Growing up schooled heavily in the ways of the hopeless romantic, it was a moment I’d thought about often. In my mind, it had been built up as something special. Something magical.

And when our lips touched, something “special” happened.

My mind raced through a gazillion thoughts… Am I gonna screw this up? What if I turn out to be a bad kisser and she tells everyone? Then no other girl in town will want to kiss me and my lips will remain virginal until I go to college where I’ll screw up another kiss and find myself banned from kissing any girls on campus. Then I’ll be selling blood to scrape up enough money just to get prostitutes to kiss me.

For some reason these thoughts caused a little anxiety. My face went pale, I started sweating, and I pulled away from her with a look of horror on my face. Then I stood up and ran.

Ran to the nearest set of bushes in the park where nerves and anxiety were transformed into vomit. Large quantities of vomit. And when she came over to see if I was all right, she caught sight of me upchucking and got hit with a serious psycho-sympathetic response as she started heaving her dinner into the bushes as well. She apologized to me over and over thinking we both got food poisoning from the restaurant she chose for dinner. The apologies quickly became tears. I figured this date hadn’t turned out anywhere close to what she had planned. I think she was hoping for a magical moment as well.

I wanted to make her feel better. I wanted to let her know it was all gonna be okay, but I wasn’t really sure how. So, I did the first thing that came to mind (well, second since I wasn’t sure how well kissing works with vomit-breath). I grabbed her hand and squeezed it tight. When she looked over at me, I looked into her eyes, smiled and said, “Maybe we should try this before dinner next time.”

It was enough to make her smile. And at that moment, it was the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. From that day forward, I found myself attracted to nice smiles. Sure, a woman with a healthy pair of legs will get noticed, but smiles always seem to keep my attention.