This reminiscence comes to us from Tommy M:
On a warm spring night in 1994, I found myself within reach of what I, at age 13, saw as one of the milestones on the road to manhood—the first kiss. I had started going out with Sally (all names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent) a few weeks before. Now we were at a party at one her friends’ houses. In attendance were about fifteen boys and girls who would never have invited me to this party. But now that I was with Sally, the curtain had been pulled back and I was allowed in.
It was not a comfortable place. As an adult, I don’t much like walking into a party full of people I don’t know, but at least adults in those parties have typically learned that it is impolite to simply ignore another guest who very clearly needs someone to talk to. Unfortunately for 1994-me, all of the kids in Sally’s friend’s basement would not learn that lesson until much later. As a result, I was left to stand awkwardly beside and slightly behind Sally while she giggled and gossiped with her girlfriends. The guys across the room were content to continue, uninterrupted, their cycle of adolescent male behavior, punching shoulders, cussing, and occasionally watching the alpha male take a pull (by which I mean a tiny sip) off a Jack Daniels miniature he’d swiped from his folks’ liquor cabinet.
After enduring what seemed like hours of this awkwardness, I thought a respite was coming when we moved from the larger basement room into a side room with a sectional sofa and several recliners facing a TV, and someone turned on a movie. Ok, I thought, this will work. We can all just sit here in the semidarkness and watch the movie until it’s time for my parents to pick me up. No need to continue to feel all the eyes at this party on me, evaluating whether or not I really belong. About five minutes into the movie, I was surprised to see eleven of the fifteen kids simultaneously rise and begin to leave the room, furtive smiles on all their faces. Left behind were Sally, me, alpha male Joe and his girlfriend Meghan. Between drills on the football practice field in August, we’d all listened in wonder as Joe regaled us with tales of his and Meghan’s semi-sexual exploits, like the time Meghan’s parents almost caught them making out in their underwear on a summer afternoon after sixth grade.
Suddenly I realized what was happening. The rest of the crew had left the couples alone, and not so we could chat. I watched with horror as Joe grabbed a blanket from a nearby chair and threw it over Meghan and him. They transformed before my eyes into a writhing blob of blanket five feet from Sally and me; we, by contrast, sat stiff is boards at the other end of the couch. I looked at Sally and found her looking at me. I had never kissed a girl and hadn’t the slightest clue how to make it happen. How fast to move in, which way to tilt my head, all these and other questions flooded my head as I leaned toward her. And then, we were kissing. And I mean kissing. Judging by the tongue in my mouth, Sally apparently had been around this block a time or two before. I still had no idea what I was doing, but for the next twenty minutes, I enjoyed learning. I don’t remember how our session ended, or how the party ended. The next thing I remember was the following weekend, when I invited Sally over to my house. The stated purpose of this meeting was to watch a movie, but what I was really hoping for was a repeat of our make out session from a week earlier.
After briefly meeting my parents, Sally followed me upstairs to our TV room, where we turned on the Lion King (because Disney movies really set the mood, right?). We sat nervously next to each other while I strained to come up with some clever remark to send us back into Sally’s friend’s basement and the adolescent ecstasy we had enjoyed there. I couldn’t think of anything, so for two full hours we sat rigid, motionless, speechless, just staring at the screen. Finally, with the credits rolling, I gave up on being smooth and just turned and planted one on her. She approved and then we did our best to fit two hours of making out into the five minutes we had before my mother called up the stairs to inform us it was time for my father to take Sally home.
We climbed into the back of my father’s car in the darkness and rode silently back to Sally’s house. When we arrived, at 10:15pm, Sally asked me if I would like to come in briefly and meet her dog. I wasn’t particularly interested in meeting her dog (and it never occurred to me that this was an invitation to do anything except that), but out of obligation I agreed and told my father I would be right back. We entered her house and found her father lying on the couch watching SportsCenter. Sally didn’t even introduce me but simply yelled back as we passed into the kitchen, “Hey Dad, I’m home! This is Tommy and I’m showing him the dog.” In the kitchen was a dog curled up in a bed in the corner. Before I could even see what kind of dog it was, Sally had opened a door off the kitchen and ushered me down a flight of stairs into her basement, where, for the next fifteen minutes, with my father waiting in the driveway with the car running, we made out hardcore.
At some point I guess I realized that we’d been at it awhile and pulled myself away, straightened my ruffled hair, and we headed back upstairs. I managed to get out the door without having to actually meet Sally’s father, who was now nodding off in front of the TV. The front door closed and I turned and squinted into the headlights of my father’s car, which was still running in the driveway. By now it was 10:45pm. I’d left my father, who prefers to be in bed by 9:30pm, sitting in his car in an age before smartphones, the internet, or on demand radio. He was left with nothing to do but drum his fingers on the wheel, thinking, quite correctly, about how disrespectful his son was acting, leaving him languishing out in the darkness, burning the fuel he’d worked hard to put in the tank.
I climbed in the back and shut the door. He pulled the shifter into drive and pulled away without saying a word. After a minute or so, he broke the silence by asking me, in a completely calm voice, “So, what was the dog’s name?” I was so flustered by his question that I couldn’t come up with a name—I just sputtered something about how I couldn’t recall its name but it was a cute dog. We rode the rest of the way home in silence. But the silence was filled with something else. My father could have simply kept silent on the way home, leaving me to wonder if Sally had fooled him with the “do you want to meet my dog” bit, if we’d gotten away with something. He could have flown off the handle and given me a well-deserved earful about my total lack of respect for his time and trouble. Instead, he asked a question that was really a statement, one that said, “I know you and I know what you’ve just done, but I love you and will suffer your foolishness and sin rather than mete out the judgment you deserve.”
I still have no earthly idea what that damn dog’s name was, but I like to think her name was Grace.