Day three of the 30-Day Writing Challenge is a fun one—First Love & First Kiss. (I did ask my husband if it would bother him at all before I agreed to write this. His answer: “I don’t care about your first love, as long as I’m your last love.”) When I muse about my first love, it kind of boggles my mind that I was two years younger than my oldest son. Yet, I felt so grown up having a boyfriend. I was sixteen, going into tenth grade and my boyfriend, Seth, was seventeen, going into eleventh grade.
We started dating right before school ended in June. I’m pretty sure that the sweetest first love is summer love. Summer nights are made for hand in hand romantic walks and kissing in the warm rain, not a care about getting wet. Languorous days on the beach, with the ocean lapping at our toes—what could be better for two teenagers? Only—I couldn’t do any of those things (except maybe the kissing in the rain). I spent the summer (and into the fall) with a toes to thigh cast on my leg, having broken my ankle in six places, dislocated and dislodged it and tore all the ligaments and tendons my third day at sleep away camp.
In a way, it brought me and Seth much closer than we would have been, because I came home three and a half weeks early from camp, after a short hospital stay. Seth would visit me every day, bearing a fresh bouquet of beautiful red roses. Every single day. My room looked like a florist—so wonderful to wake up to each morning, when I was in pain and depressed about not being able to do much, except sit on the recliner with my leg propped on pillows. Kindness and compassion are two of the best attributes a person can have and not all teenage boys possess both or even one (though, I’m thankful my teenage boys do). Seth’s abundance of both taught me at a young age that it’s important to be treated well by your boyfriend and I’m grateful for that.
After that summer, we dated for over three more years. The summers that followed were filled with all the stuff I missed that first summer—days at the beach and nights spent hanging out with friends. As late summer afternoons slid into dusk we’d gather in a parking lot to decide what to do that night—in the days before cell phones that’s how plans were made, in person. A group text can’t match that. We went to concerts, including Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run tour—still one of my favorite concerts ever. One night we gathered with Seth’s friends at the beach. We got lost on the way there and by the time we arrived, we were so tired, we fell asleep right away to the sound of the ocean waves crashing on the sand—only to be woken up at 5:30 am by an arriving fisherman. All of our friends had left and I found out later that my mom called the Jones Beach state police, asking them to look for us. I was livid then, but now that I’m a mom I completely understand. I hate that my kids are so attached to their phones, but I have to admit; it was harder for our parents without a way to reach us when we were late.
As hard as it must have been for our parents before cell phones, I think first love was way better for those of us who came of age in the 1980s. We didn’t get to know each other through SnapChat messages or Instagram posts. We had to talk. Hours on the phone, letters on actual paper when we were apart. There were few things more exciting than opening the mailbox to find a love letter. I often feel bad for teenagers today, even though they have no idea what they’re missing and would no doubt find a hand-penned note archaic at best and completely ridiculous at worst. There’s a reason John Hughes’ 1980s teen movies are beloved classics. It was an innocent time and I think the perfect time to be a teenager (especially a teenager in love), though I’m sure my kids would disagree.
I realize I haven’t covered the second part of this challenge—first kiss. It was with the same guy, but my memory is a bit gauzy on this, basically because I can’t remember much of anything lately. I think it may have been in the rain. I believe it was either after the movies or after we got ice cream and it was outside on the pavement. I really do have a hard time recalling specifics of way back when, but everyone can remember the feeling of first love, or at least most people can. This is why I wrote a short story about a woman desperately searching for her first love five years after she escaped an abusive relationship, You & Me. I knew it would strike a chord with people. And it’s also why the essay I wrote about it that I mentioned in my last post garnered the most responses in my writing class freshman year of college. Almost everyone has a first love (for the lucky few, it’s a first and last love). But, I consider myself lucky too—my first love is still a very good friend, almost twenty-nine years after we broke up right before my sophomore year of college. Because while kindness and compassion make for a great first boyfriend, they make for an even better lifelong friend.