I was a pretty awkward teenager. I grew up in a suburb outside of L.A. called La Crescenta, where all the girls were skinny and tan and played soccer. I was chubby, wore braces, and had no talent at playing sports (well, I did play softball for a few years, but quickly realized I hated organized sports, so I quit just before ninth grade). I had this friend: Sara Stone. She was like the epitome of perfect in the eyes of every guy in La Crescenta. Tall, thin, blonde; played soccer, softball, and water polo. She lived in a big house with a pool and a hot tub, and had those kinds of parents that let her do whatever she wanted, including having coed birthday parties.
I was the last of my friends to ever kiss a boy. I was so embarrassed about this that I would make up stories that I had kissed a guy at Christian summer camp—I made sure to lie that he lived in Palmdale, which was far enough away that no one would ever find out he didn’t exist. I continued to make up story after story of all the boys I kissed. I don’t think any of my friends believed me, seeing as how every kissing partner was always some mysterious boy I met at church or at an airport or somewhere totally unbelievable.
Sara had this birthday party in the summer after seventh grade at her parents’ perfect house in the mountains. It was coed, and everyone was swimming and eating hot dogs and drinking soda and having so much fun. My friend Jessica and I sat awkwardly by the side of the pool watching, but not joining in, the fun. Jessica, who is still to this day my best friend, had kissed a boy—but she wasn’t like Sara and didn’t have every guy pining over her. We were sarcastic and cool for seventh graders—much cooler, we believed, than everyone else we knew. We sat there and watched and wondered when something cool was actually going to happen.
Suddenly Sara suggested we all get into the hot tub together and play a game. I had no idea what she was talking about. About 10 of us piled into this tub and started to play truth or dare. Since truth or dare with a bunch of hormonal teenagers pretty much always becomes dare or dare, there was a lot of kissing going on in this hot tub. I was so nervous that someone was going to tell me I had to kiss someone, and I was scared they’d be able to tell it was my first time, but I kept telling myself, It’s now or never.
Finally it was my turn, and I was dared to kiss Michael Humami. A really short boy who was mildly popular and always wore this gaudy gold watch. I was so mortified that my first kiss was about to take place in front of a group of my friends in a lukewarm hot tub, but I went for it. I had always imagined my first kiss would be something truly special. I closed my eyes and moved toward Michael, and we kissed, and before I knew it, it was over. I was glad to have finally gotten it done, but still sort of let down that it wasn’t as magical as I’d expected.
A few turns later, someone dared me to kiss Justin. I can’t remember his last name, but I remember he had red hair and freckles. I kissed Justin and then felt like a pro. Two boys in one day, I was on a roll! I think we eventually got caught playing truth or dare in the hot tub and Sara’s parents got upset and made all the boys leave and then the girls had a slumber party. We all talked about the kissing we’d done in the hot tub, and everyone was asking me, “What was it like to kiss Michael? He’s so cute.” I’m pretty sure my response was, “It was pretty whatever. I’ve kissed tons of guys, and he wasn’t the best.”