What the Movies Don't Teach You: All About First Kisses and Growing Up
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What the Movies Don't Teach You: All About First Kisses and Growing Up

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Think Pieces | March 12, 2013 | Comments ()


"I am still my teenage self. If you think that we all step through a door marked Adult, or that we sign a Grown-Up Document, you're quite wrong. We remain as we always were, and that, alas, is one of life's many nasty tricks." Morrissey, Rookie Mag

Ad astra means, "to the stars."

I fell in love with the sky sometime in my fourteenth year, getting books about astronomy and spending time with a dinky home telescope. We were blessed to live in places with very little city light and thus enjoyed full skies stocked elegantly with glittering stars, so many it seemed impossible to name or even to see them all. As a young person through the years, I strung obsessions together like strangely colored glass beads on a string, moving from horses to the X-Files to astronomy to sailing and flying planes, with a thousand forgotten obsessions in between. The two that have stuck have always been movies and boys, naturally. I loved movies fervently and I've always been just as thoroughly obsessed with boys.

I recently saw Upside Down, a science fiction romance wherein two people with separate gravities attempt to find one another and navigate a life together. Jim Sturgess plays a man from "down below," even as Kirsten Dunst is a woman from "up there." The director said that he had a dream, of twin worlds close together, and a man bound to the lower world, a woman walking above. An entirely succinct summation of the difficulties of love, and an astounding image that stuck with me, these twin planets sailing through the galaxies, stars and heavens, these two people bound up in co-existence, never quite being able to reach one another.

I graduated high school at 16 and went on to attend a junior college until it was time to go to regular college. The junior college experience was tremendously important to me as it introduced me to the glories of design classes, the difficulty of failing (I failed college algebra twice before giving up), and most importantly -- introduced me to a film class that decided irrevocably that I would major in film production, with the intention of making movies for a living.

I wish there were more photos of me at this age so I could show you, since I remember it all wrong, I'm sure. This I do know: dark hair, green eyes, probably glasses, good teeth, a strange personality not yet tempered by disappointment and time, a huge love of concerts and far too much interest in books, movies and music as arbiters of taste in others. I was not "cute," being a bigger girl (a normal size 12 that I would kill to be at these days) and boys did not like me, try as I might to catch their interest.

Movies taught me a lot about the interactions between men and women, what women were supposed to be like, how to be flirtatious or interesting, what the rules were for dating. I'd never kissed anyone, never really been on any proper dates, and all I had were books and movies to outline what went on. I knew most of it wasn't real, but there were a few on-screen relationships I valued (Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in Notting Hill made me cry! Gone With the Wind expanded my horizons and wildly confused me!) and in my secret heart I had so much wondering about love.

I had seen him before, but we sat near each other in Astronomy class when I was 17. He was the only one who understood how to do the complicated math required to complete the class projects, though he was only 18. I thought he was beautiful, dark hair, pierced lip, quiet personality but seemed funny. One time someone brought up Robert Smith, and eager to make a good impression I said "Oh yeah, the lead singer of The Smiths, I love them." and he looked confused and said "I think you mean Morrissey." I died inside of embarrassment, naturally. One February night we began making small talk as class let out at 10pm, and we talked until about 2am, sitting on the cold concrete outside the school, neither of us wanting to leave the small campfire-like glow of excitement in finding another person who you just might like, a lot. He asked me to do something on the 14th, and only later did I realize that was Valentine's Day, adding another layer of stress and intrigue to the entire affair.

I went over there that night, and he had bought me a fake rose which struck me as thoughtful but chintzy and dumb, too. We went to the movie store and I picked out Spirited Away for us to watch, an odd choice for Valentine's Day, I think, but I just wanted him to see it so badly, as he'd never seen any Miyazaki films. I remember walking into his house and his parents simply nodding to us as we walked to his bedroom, something my own parents would not have been cool with, at all. In fact, they didn't know where I was, I had made up a story about visiting a friend. We sat on the bed to watch the movie, my heart racing the entire time, until it was quite late, the house was still and dark, and we lay on the bed. I'd never kissed anyone and he waited for me to make the first move, which I did.

In the intervening years, I've very nearly forgotten so many kisses from different men. But I remember the thrill of that first kiss and the ones that immediately followed, the absolute palpable magic of kissing someone you really liked, and that insane voodoo as they kiss you back. I remember the darkness, the strangeness of the entire matter, how alive I felt, how crackling with energy it all seemed. I was too shy about sex, it obviously never went beyond making out, and for some reason, after we were done kissing some hours later, I made him sleep on the floor as if to prove I was a good girl, a request which just feels silly now in the harsh light of adulthood. But I was changed, there was life before and there was life after that.

In the following few days, someone who knew him asked me about him at work one day, and, as I'd been trying to impress this other co-worker Shane for months, I downplayed how much I liked this other boy. The leveraging that would never leave my mind began then, the slowest beginnings of a cheater's heart being molded, always angling for something better. The inevitable happened, and he found out from a mutual friend that I had said I didn't like him very much, that I had acted too good for him, and dealt with it poorly -- simply stopped talking to me. We made out one more time a few weeks later before never really speaking much again. He was drunk and I asked him why things didn't work out. He told me that most things never do work out, that's why it's so strange and wonderful when they do.

Movies don't always tell you the truth about how to be, what it is to be a good woman, or how to live your principles when faced with difficult decisions. They get the highs of romantic love occasionally right, the fleeting sense of immortality and sovereignty that comes from love, the shiny penny newness of a new lover, but they don't always tell the whole story of the enormity of what exists between two people striving to step in sync, struggling to understand vast, new, as of yet unexplored worlds.

Ex astris, scientia means, "From the stars, knowledge."

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • katy

    I've kissed my husband thousands of times since, but I'll never forget those first few when we were only 17. Call me lucky, or whatever, but part of what keeps us together is that certain smell of his I still get when I kiss him now (they say the sense of smell is one of the senses most linked to memory), that reminds me of those first few times. Twenty years of being together is certainly not always unicorns and rainbows, but the little things. Sometimes things do work out.

  • Ben

    My first kiss with when I was 17, with a girl I'd known since we were in year 5.
    I asked if I could see her boobs, she said yes, then we made out. It was awesome.

    8 years later we're still together and engaged.

  • misslucyjane

    My first kiss happened when we both 10. It was a few days after Christmas (in northern California, so the weather was mild) and we were lying in the backyard, inside a big cardboard box that his family's new fridge had come in, just talking, when he said, "Would you mind if I kissed you?"

    I said no, I wouldn't, and so he did.

    The main thing I remember is how serene I felt afterward. It wasn't scary or weird. It was nice. Calm. Sweet.

    It didn't last, of course, because hi, we were 10, but I think the main thing I've wanted to find in everyone I've kissed since then (not that there have been many) is that serenity. That feeling of "Yes. That was good."

  • pcloadletter

    My first kiss was at a school dance. I remember thinking "There's a lot more space in here than I thought there would be."

  • Buck Forty

    I had my first kiss when I was six years old. This random girl just ran up to me in the playground and kissed me. She just grabbed me and kissed me and it went on forever. She was wearing pink. Being 6 (she was also 6, it's not that kind of story) I was horrified. It was awful! I felt violated (without knowing then what it meant) - how could she do that to me? That feeling stayed with me a long time.
    That girl stole something from me that day...

  • Belphebe

    beautiful. Now I want to go back in time and find the shy awkward me who oscillated between oversized tshirts and slutty miniskirts and hug her fiercely while whispering in her ear that it will all be ok.

  • littlealbotross

    I don't remember my first kiss. I know I kissed several boys before I had "the" kiss that makes your heart freak out and years, and years (I think I might be getting old) later still makes you smile. THAT kiss is what I like to think of as my first kiss. It was terrible. Too much tongue and far too much drool (his, not mine). I think it may have been his first kiss. Even though it was terrible, and short lived- it was the first kiss that made my heart freak out. Knowing that it was coming, knowing that I had the foresight to brush my teeth, and then...lips meeting and head spinning; it was magic.

    For the first few seconds.

    Then I over thought it. And was panicking for the majority of the time that it wasn't what it should be, and why was it so wet? Turns out, years later that kiss was exactly the way it was meant to be. Drool and everything.

  • PerpetualIntern

    My first kiss was on my "boyfriend's" couch in 8th grade, while watching Pocahontas, in the scene where John Smith gets SHOT. I was afraid he was going to kiss me so I kept eating jelly beans and my mouth was full of them. Then he practically ate my face. It was unfortunate.

  • Bert_McGurt

    This was really beautiful, Amanda. And I've got to say, "He told me that most things never do work out, that’s why it’s so strange and wonderful when they do." is pretty damn insightful for a drunk college freshman.

    I guess I had a couple of first kisses in a way. One, when I was twelve and had a junior high "girlfriend" for about two months. Then after a "drought" of sorts in high school, I had my first full-on steamy adult make-out session when I was 18. Oddly enough, it was at the house of a girl who I had a MASSIVE crush on all through high school (it wasn't her, although I DID end up dating her for a couple months many years later) and I think I remember (there was much booze-a-hol involved) her parents walking in on me and this other girl. In retrospect, this girl probably wanted to do WAY more than just make out, but I was bloody clueless at that point in my life and could NOT read signals for the life of me. We only saw each other a couple more times, I think because I was moving much too slowly for her tastes. Not meaningless, but not particularly impressive either. What it DID do was lend me some confidence so that I was less likely to screw it up the next time.

    Ultimately, it was two ladies I met about a year later that wound up being the momentous occasions. One I was seeing for a couple of weeks before she had to go home to Saskatchewan for the summer. In the interim I met a great girl who I was with for three years, through a lot of turmoil including her cancer diagnosis & treatment. It didn't work out, but we parted on good terms and I learned a ton from being with her. Which came in really handy when I reconnected with that girl from Saskatchewan - turns out we hadn't lost the spark, and we're celebrating six years together next Wednesday. She's truly the most amazing woman I've ever met, despite the fact that she's a Rider fan. But I'm glad my first kiss wasn't with her, because in all likelihood I'd have messed it up and wouldn't have the fantastic better half I do now.

  • Narf

    "I’d never kissed anyone, never really been on any proper dates, and all I had were books and movies to outline what went on."

    I'm 35, and that describes me pretty well (although I'm male). I've had a few dates over the years, but nothing came off it.

    It slowly drives me insane.

  • Amanda Meyncke

    "You don't have to yearn for love, you don't have to be alone.
    Somewhere in this universe is a place you can call home."

  • Narf

    Does that mean I have to wait until someone comes up with a practical solution to human space travel?

  • Cazadora

    I've always liked the line from GWTW: You should be kissed often and by someone who knows how...

    Because I came from a very religious background, I was very shy, socially awkward and never got kissed until I was nearly 18 years old. When it finally happened, on a blinde date, boy oh boy did this guy really know how. As for me, it literally felt as if the world tilted on it's axis for second. I felt dizzy and breathless all at once. I'll never forget it.

  • tmoney

    My first kiss was adorable and kind of perfect for a romantic girl obsessed with "Now and Then". He was my "boyfriend" (although, can you have a boyfriend when you are 13 and not allowed to date?) and he rode up on his bike in front of my friend's house, motioned me over, told me he had to do something before I walked home, and kissed me.

    We "broke up" two weeks later because my parents wouldn't let me go to a carnival with him, but it's a really great memory, and I'm glad it happened in such a sweet way.

  • Mrs. Julien


  • Tinkerville

    My first kiss was a disaster. My older sister took me to a party at her boyfriend's beach house and for my ridiculously unpopular sixteen-year old self, it was a big deal. I got drunk for the first time, didn't know my limits, and made out with a painfully stereotypical guido who went by a name so ridiculous it would've made The Situation cringe.

    I regretted it for a long time while now it's something that I laugh about. At the time I felt like I needed to kiss someone because I felt so completely uncool that I at least wanted to be able to say I did that much, but then I realized I would've preferred it to be special. Now I know it just really doesn't matter.

  • Anna von Beav

    ...was his name Guido?

  • My first kiss was after watching the movie Hitch in theatres. It was almost all teeth and incredibly embarrassing.

  • Bert_McGurt

    "And the kiss wasn't all that great either!"


  • Hi-yo!

  • Wouldn't know haven't had mine yet.

  • Amanda Meyncke

    I'd be interested to know if other people felt their first kisses were momentous occasions, or throwaway nothingness, or somewhere in between.

  • MrsAtaxxia

    I have no recollection of my first kiss, but I imagine it was experimental and when I was quite young (raised by hippies and all that) but I do remember the first time I kissed Mr Ataxxia because it was that bone deep recognition that oh sweet jebus do we have chemistry. It was the first time a kiss good and shook me. We got married some years later because it never went away, thankfully.

  • prince_of_montagu

    Both my kisses weren't really momentous but they are fond memories to look back on.

    First kiss with a girl? We were about 7 and on the playground. We were standing face-to-face and for some reason, i was shaking her and she sort of fell on to my lips and stayed there for a few seconds. Once we realized what was happening, we exchanged shocked looks and ran away from each other. She's now a lesbian but i don't think that there's any relationship between the two events. :)

    First with a guy? Well, now that i think about it, it was kind of momentous. It happened in college and we were good friends. It was something we both wanted to do and it was almost rom-com style. He was the one who decided to beat around the bush and ask me if i wanted it to happen. I played coy even though it was all i ever wanted. When it finally happened, it was great. soft lips, heavy breathing (mostly on my part), little awkward movement of teeth bucking and me going "oh!" in my head when there was some tongue action. It got a little hot and heavy and then,

    He ran out on me. Fucking bolted.

    We both sort of freaked out. It made things a bit more complicated for us. We're still friends but it does make me feel all swoony if i close my eyes and travel back to that moment.

    It did kind of suck to be left like that, but i knew i did my job well when he admitted that he had to um..."relieve" himself after that kiss.

  • TheShitWizard

    Mine was aged 11, round the back of the science sheds at break-time with a boy I'd been "going out with" for a day (which meant he sent his friend to ask me to be his girlfriend, and then we ignored each other while our groups of friends sort of stood around together). Due to the groups of friends as audience, I just remember feeling awfully self-conscious and hoping no-one would start pointing out that I was rubbish at it.

    Thankfully I've had much more memorable kisses since, and mostly with people I've at least spoken to.

  • chanohack

    I was 20. I grew up around a lot of super religious people, some who didn't even KISS until they were pronounced "man and wife," which at the time seemed very romantic and favorable to God and the Christianest thing ever, and I actually considered following suit. I at least wanted to "make it" to my 21st birthday. But my boyfriend was really cute, so we ended up accidentally kissing one night while we were holding our faces as close to each other as possible without kissing. I wasn't that worried about it because we'd already decided that we were getting married, and I had fun thinking about being "one of those girls who marries her first boyfriend," and how great it was that I would never have my heart broken. It was momentous.

    Yeah, that boyfriend told me God wanted him to break up with me and ended up marrying my roommate. Like, within a year. Live and learn.

  • prince_of_montagu

    "Yeah, that boyfriend told me God wanted him to break up with me and ended up marrying my roommate"

    With that kind of reasoning, you clearly dodged a bullet. yikes.

  • DeltaJuliet


  • DeltaJuliet

    Mine was momentous. I was 16 and had never kissed anyone before, he was 21 and clearly had. I knew it was coming and I was incredibly stressed about it. I thought it went well, he said I was a great kisser, but now I wonder if he said that just to make me feel better :)
    I have had much better, more intense and momentous kisses though. But I've been married for 13 years so...yeah....it's been a long time since I've had a great kiss :/

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