I was 17 when I received my first kiss. This wasn’t because I was a weirdo, I swear. I had just always pictured my first kiss being a monumental experience, the epitome of romance. Instead, it occurred in the empty parking lot of Papa Sam’s Snowballs. I wish I could say it happened the way girls dream about after a childhood filled with movies like “The Little Mermaid” and “Cinderella,” but it didn’t. I hadn’t planned on it happening. In fact, I’d planned quite the opposite.
“I think …” I nervously poked my straw into my cup of crunchy, pink ice. I never looked up. I knew if I did, I wouldn’t be able to say the words I needed to, “I think we should take a break.”
I’d never had a real boyfriend before. I usually wimped out; my dad calls it “commitment issues.” I’m not sure why. I’ve never had a major dramatic experience from which such issues would generally evolve. Despite “commitment issues,” I got close to a boy my junior year, an interesting, confident, funny, curly haired boy. We’ll call him “Jimmy.”
“Before you finish that thought,” Jimmy interrupted, “I think it’s only fair that I get a turn to speak.” I definitely wouldn’t have agreed if I’d known his rebuttal would last two hours.
We’d been “talking” for over four months. I hate that word, but it’s really the best description for our situation, since talking was all we did. We never had a date. Not once. The only time he took me out was to get a snowball when his brother wanted one and I was over. Not only did I drive, but I paid. When I decided on a breakup venue, the snowball stand seemed fitting since it was the only place we shared a memory other than his living room.
“Maddy,” he began. Not only were there plenty of people to watch our now public breakup, but Jimmy knew half of them. “Why are you saying this? I thought what we had was good. I thought we had it figured out. We’re the most mature of our friends. I really think you’re making a mistake.” For me, what we had was neither “good” nor “figured out.” We constantly snapchatted, but our conversations were generally superficial.
“Figured out?” I laughed in disbelief. “We had nothing figured out.”
While our “relationship” was simplistic and mediocre, it had worked at first. Neither of us was into commitment or romance; we tended to mock public displays of affection and the cheesy pictures people posted celebrating their incredible three weeks as a couple. However, I still had hopes for our “situation” that went beyond the snapchats, babysitting his little brother, and the uncomfortable side hugs I received at our greetings and farewells. Little surprise gifts of affection? Nope. Good morning texts? Not one. The most romantic thing he ever did was open the car door on prom night. So, I had my doubts.
His friends attempted to assuage my doubts. “He’s just nervous,” they assured me. “What y’all have is good. You’re doing it right.” It didn’t feel like it.
“You know that’s not true,” Jimmy argued, slamming his snowball down. Now it was getting serious. His voice had risen. His smile had faded. A few heads even turned. My cheeks burned. “If you didn’t like how we were, why didn’t you say anything?”
I had. Maybe not directly, but I’d asked if we were doing anything over the weekend. I’d mentioned interesting movies and restaurants I was dying to visit. I flirted so hard I thought the dictionary might have to add a new word for it. I’d even asked his friends to help him out, but the poor guy couldn’t catch a clue if it were a cold.
The turning point had come a week earlier. I had returned from a mission trip to Africa, where I’d learned a lot about myself. I had realized that our relationship was definitely not what I wanted, so I made a deal with myself: If, in one week, Jimmy didn’t do a single thing to show me we were more than just glorified friends, I was ending it.
The day I got home, I texted him. No answer. Strike one. The following day, he called to say he wanted to see me. I mentally erased the strike. Perhaps he was maturing. Perhaps my two weeks away had made him come to the same realization I had. I could only pray. However, my praying was in vain because when he arrived, two friends were with him. I took a deep breath and told myself not to freak out. This was not worthy of another strike. So I invited them in. I showed them pictures and told them incredible stories of my trip. But the fact that Parker, Jimmy’s friend, was more interested than Jimmy nagged at me.
Three hours later, they left, but Jimmy hung back. He smiled, and for a moment, I forgot about my deal. “Hey, Maddy,” he said. “Wanna do something later this week, just us two?” I nodded, eager to try for the sake of this poor, clueless boy. As he turned to leave, I caught his arm and revealed a bag from behind my back. Jimmy’s eyes widened as he unwrapped an African poncho I’d bought him. It had taken three hours to make as I patiently waited and had cost $35. It was the exact type of thing Jimmy would like.
“Oh my gosh,” he said, looking up with a huge smile. For a moment, my heart fluttered. For a moment, I could see myself with Jimmy.
Then he high-fived me and walked out the door. Strike two.
Strike three came two days later. I was out to dinner with my family when Jimmy texted and asked to hang out. My parents said I could go to his house after dinner, so I boxed up my leftovers, bought a piece of his favorite cake, and headed over.
When I arrived, his mom answered the door in a bathrobe and curlers.
“Oh,” I said, surprised. “I-I’m so sorry. Jimmy told me to come over and-”
“It’s fine, Maddy.” She laughed and gave me a hug. “Jimmy went to the movies with Connor and Parker,” she said awkwardly.
My heart dropped.
“He left about five minutes ago. We can call him,” she insisted. It was the last thing I wanted: lonely, pitiful girlfriend invited in so boyfriend’s mom can reprimand him as though he’d missed a play date. However, I had no other option.
“Jimmy? There’s a cute blue-eyed girl here with cake for you.” I heard curse words on the other end. I seethed with anger as his mother scolded him. On my way home minutes later, I only had one thought: Strike three, you’re out.
We argued for over two hours at the snowball stand. Jimmy insisted that now, after he had taken responsibility for his actions – or lack of actions – everything should be fine. We should be cool. We were the “cool” couple. I was the “cool” girlfriend, the one content with never doing anything special. But I was set on ending it.
“I’ve made up my mind. It’s too late. I’m really sorry.” We were now in his car. The snowball stand had closed an hour ago. I couldn’t have been more blunt without slapping him.
“I can change, I promise,” he insisted.
I laughed softly. “This whole week I waited, and you did nothing. I just wanted you to make a move.”
“I didn’t know that!” he shouted. It was the first time I’d seen him angry. “I didn’t want to freak you out if you weren’t ready! I didn’t know how you felt.”
I was almost crazy with irritation. “I gave up my Friday and Saturday nights to babysit with you every weekend! I haven’t texted or talked to any other guys because it made you mad! It’s been four months, Jimmy!” I shouted. I was done. I wanted out of his car. I wanted out of this “relationship.” “You had your chance.”
Jimmy’s jaw pulsed slightly. “So you’re telling me that if I had just taken charge, it’d be different?”
“Yes,” I sighed. “If you had surprised me, if you had taken a chance, if you had just done something-”
I was cut off as Jimmy, for the first time, took a chance. He kissed me. My very first kiss occurred in a car in the Papa Sam’s parking lot while I was shouting. This was not how the Little Mermaid had told me it would happen. It lasted four seconds, though it felt interminable. I won’t go into detail, but fireworks didn’t explode. Doves didn’t fly. All I could think was Is this really how humans, such intelligent creatures, express love? I’d rather have a foot massage.
I drew away first and managed to stifle a laugh at the incredulity of it all. I felt like I was on a cheesy soap opera. Jimmy looked at me with wide eyes as if asking, Well? Did that change your mind? I shook my head and opened the door. “I’m sorry,” I said. He just nodded, started the car, and left.
My first kiss was nothing like I had hoped. Nobody warned me how weird it’d be. When I got into my car and drove off, I felt as if I was leaving a part of me in that parking lot, a part I could never get back. But I had gained possibly the best advice ever: love is special, and you shouldn’t waste it on the wrong person. While I can never get that first kiss or those four months back, I can make sure the rest of my experiences with love are truly special.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.