(Photo from Marlie Kanoi)
It was winter in Minnesota. Christmas was in the air, that late December, and Molly Barnhart was throwing the middle school event of the season; a boy-girl Christmas Party. Everyone was invited, although save for a few bold outcasts, the "in-crowd" were the only ones likely to attend. It was the epitome of the Middle School experience.
Boys, girls, awkward and forced socializing, nervousness, braces, and the pressures of fitting in. The party began quietly enough, a gentle murmur of kids talking and laughing, the quiet stereo playing some incredibly bass-heavy techno, and the crinkle of chip bags and popping of soda cans.
Matt, Calob and I huddled together, refusing to socialize, avoiding any potential for embarrassment. The first hour or so the party remained fairly dull, as kids sat around waiting for something to happen. After what felt like an eternity of forced mingling, Jenna, the Some-Day-Prom-Queen-To-Be, finally arrived at the party.
"The fun has arrived!" Jenna declared, as a crowd of shrieking girls amassed around her. "Ugh. What took you so long?" Molly said, embracing her friend. "Now we can have some real fun." Matt, Calob and I looked on and watched as the events unfolded, and the girls decided that "Truth or Dare" was tonight's main attraction.
I dreaded the thought of the game, and clung to the wall. It was only when every other middle schooler had gathered into a circle that we knew we had to join, for the embarrassment of refusing to play was far greater than anything we could be dared, or truthed, into doing.
The game progressed slowly and harmless enough, kids being dared to put snow down there shirt, lick unsanitary things, and kiss people they would normally refuse to. We watched as others each took their turn, and laughed and jeered and had finally begun to truly enjoy ourselves.
And that's when I heard it. "Alright Josh! You're up!" came Molly's sing-song voice. My heart dropped. It was my turn. I nodded, and agreed. "Dare." I muttered, not wanting to seem cowardly. "Kiss..." She trilled, "Jenna."
The crowd held their breath. "Done." I said. I walked coolly to Jenna, in the center of the crowd. I closed my eyes, puckered, and moved in for the kiss. My lips made contact, and I heard roaring laughter. I opened my eyes, and immediately realized I'd missed, and kissed Jenna Wilkerson's nose.
My first kiss . . . ! Missed . . . Public ;) and with the most popular girl in my grade.
I laughed, mostly to avoid crying, and took my seat back with the guys. To this day they won't let me forget my very first kiss.