I've french-kissed exactly one girl in my lifetime.
The year was 1995. Bill Clinton was president. Bill Gates was getting ready to announce Windows 95. And Atlanta was putting the final touches on the '96 Olympics.
I don't know the exact day of the kiss, but I know the exact week—the third week of March.
The number one song in America that week was Madonna's "Take a Bow." We weren't allowed to watch MTV in our house back then, but the music video begins with a sepia-toned Madonna hugging a television set that's showing scenes of a sexy Spanish matador. Later in the video, she rubs her hands all over the TV screen as if she was polishing a giant crystal ball. Lyrics...
Take a bow, the night is over
This masquerade is getting older
Lights are low, the curtains down
Wish you well, I cannot stay
You deserve an award for the role that you played
No more masquerade,
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say good-bye
Say good-bye (Bye bye), say good-bye
Of course, as I assume all Madonna videos do, she ends up hooking up with the dude in the end which is precisely why we weren't able to watch MTV at our house.
In 1995, I was a 7th grader at Forest Hills School in Florence, Alabama.
It was your average public school, grades K-8. In junior high, I was always on the fringes of the popular crowd—never quite cool enough to break into it, but close enough to not feel like a loser.
In 6th grade, we were all just normal kids—candy, cartoons, and video games. But in 7th grade, everyone started pretending to be an adult—who liked who, love notes in class, and a liberal use of cheap cologne.
Another stop on the journey through adolescence back then was school dances. They were chaperoned by teachers and usually held on a Friday night in the cafeteria. They'd turn off all the lights, set up some multi-colored disco lights, and hire some crappy local DJ who would scandalize our pre-pubescent, Alabama ears with the raunchiest music the mid-90s had to offer. I can remember dancing to "Pony" by Ginuwine which is a terrible song for kids. I have no idea how they got away with it, but they did. Everybody brought a date to the dances and grinded the night away.
The first dance I went to in 7th grade was the Sadie Hawkins dance.
And this was the only dance of the year where it was okay for the girls to ask the boys to be their dates. Bevin, a really sweet girl whose family went to our church, asked me to be her date. Of course I said yes.
My only memory of that night was not knowing what to do when the first slow-dance song came on. A white, pre-teen, Baptist male is as equipped to dance in public as an armless monkey is to use Snapchat. Nevertheless, I was determined to try.
When the song came on, I found Bevin. I gave her an awkward look and squared my body up with hers. She put her hands on my shoulders. I didn't know what to do, but reciprocation seemed like my best move. So I put my hands on her shoulders.
She looked at me funny.
We both stood there for a few seconds, arms out, awkwardly swaying back and forth like two kid mimes pretending to be the London Bridge. Feeling sorry for me, Bevin eventually reached up, grabbed my hands and placed them on her hips where they belonged. I looked around and noticed all the other guys doing the same thing. I was mortified.
The school dances were always monitored by teachers which all the cool kids thought was lame. In our world, the real action happened at the movie theater.
On Friday nights, the cool kids of Forest Hills would all meet up at the Hickory Hills theater and go to a movie. This theater was in a strip mall, and it was anything but charming. Built in the 70's, it was cheap suburban brutalism—a big block of a building with plain beige stucco walls. There was an Arby's in the parking lot, and our teenybopper mob would overrun the place after the movie. They couldn't make Jamocha shakes and fries fast enough.
Back then, all the cool guys would ask a cool girl to be their date to the movie. And EVERYONE knew what would happen when you took a girl to the movies...
Making out at the Hickory Hills theater was a sacred rite of passage in Florence. Pretty much everyone got their first kiss in those hallowed halls. I'm not sure how long it had gone on, but I think my older brothers' friends did it too.
By 7th grade, the pressure was on to get my first kiss.
I was trying to break into the cool crowd, so in March of '95, I worked up the courage to ask a girl to be my date to the movies. I'll call her Jessica.
Jessica was a card-carrying member of the cool crowd. Her family had money, and she was very, very cute (I looked her up recently on Facebook, and she's still very pretty. 13-year old Brett had good taste in women).
Back then it wasn't cool for your mom to roll up to the front curb of the theater in the minivan and drop you off. No, not cool at all.
So I had my mom drop me off waaaayyy in the back of the parking lot, near the highway. Now I could make a much more chill entrance—casually strolling up solo, wearing my freshest Tommy Hilfiger polo and Timberland boots. I guess people just thought I walked there myself. Cool Brett, cool.
On this night, I met Jessica outside the theater. There were maybe a dozen kids all huddled up on the curb. They all decided to go see one movie, but I had a plan: Jessica and I would go to a show by ourselves. I didn't want to kiss this girl with the other idiot-guys watching. So we chose "Bye, Bye Love," a PG-13 rated rom-com about three divorced men trying to find love. Perfect movie for a pre-teen date. 😑
We grabbed some popcorn and found seats right in the middle of the theater.
I had not thought through seating, and this was a terrible strategic decision. I realized tons of people behind us would be gawking at my first make-out sesh. I started getting nervous.
The movie started, and I couldn't have been less interested in it. Oh, Randy Quaid, you're trying to find love again? Well, so am I, so get in line.
I was a man on a mission: Kiss. This. Girl. And I'd heard enough locker room talk to know that this couldn't just be a peck on the lips. It had to be full on, tongue and everything.
About 15 minutes into the movie, I mustered the courage to reach over and hold her hand. Phew. Got that out of the way.
15 more minutes passed. Randy Quaid was still annoying.
Excited but nervous, I knew what I had to do. My hand was sweating profusely, and my heart was about to explode right through that knit polo.
It's go time.
She's sitting on my left. I look at her and wait for her to look at me. Our eyes lock, and she gives me a bashful smile. Boom...that's the green-light.
I lean over, pucker up like they do in the movies, and attach to her face like a human vacuum cleaner.
This is a first, so I quickly realize I don't know what to do next...
In the movies, they wiggle their heads back and forth so I try that. I've always been kind of a germaphobe so that crosses my mind. Germs. Ew. NVM. Keep going, Brett....
Tongue! The guys said to use your tongue. So I do. Lots of flapping...like the tail of a dog eating a bucket of cupcakes. She does the tongue thing back. Good sign! She's into it.
I don't know how long we held the kiss, but it felt like forever—10 seconds, maybe more.
Seemed like I hit the quota of time, so I pulled away and leaned back in my seat.
Boom. Bam. Done. Bazingo. I did it! I'm a man. I just kissed a girl! I'm a man now! *beats chest* *howls at moon* *rips knit polo*
The movie went on for another hour, and I can't remember if Randy Quaid found love or not. We kept holding hands, but that was it.
Still sitting in the darkened theater, I began replaying the episode in my mind.
Hmmmm...that wasn't what I thought it'd be. Kind of weird. Didn't really feel anything. Is that normal? Am I supposed to feel something? I mean, this is THE thing everyone is talking about...kissing. And boys—men—are supposed to love kissing pretty girls. I dunno...just didn't feel it.
We went and got our Jamocha shake and fries. About 10 o'clock, mom pulled up, and I got in the front seat. I never spoke a word of it to mom and just stared out the window the whole ride home, thinking...
I didn't feel anything. Weird... 👊
B.B.P.S. - Enjoying BBP? Feel free to share!
All photos by Sterling Graves. Copyright Blue Babies Pink & Sterling Graves.
B.T. Harman is the creator of Blue Babies Pink, a Southern Coming Out Story in 44 Episodes.
B.T. is a consultant, writer, and speaker living in Atlanta's historic Cabbagetown neighborhood. He was previously a vice president for Booster, an Atlanta fundraising company, where he helped the organization raise $150 million for elementary schools.
B.T. is passionate about storytelling, leadership, good design, Seth Godin, SEC football, Chick-fil-A, Taylor Swift, archaeology, European Travel and CS Lewis.
To learn more about B.T., visit his personal site at btharman.com.