My first kiss: A tale of teenage rebellion, instant messenger and awkward lapdancing.
(This is actually the story of my second first kiss – my first came about a decade earlier at the hands of Lesley Hewson, who threatened to beat me up if I didn’t kiss her best friend, Terri Lewis, at playtime. But that’s not for here.)
I was 16, full of vim, vigour and a need to rebel in some exciting, unique way and, sadly, stuck in a small mining village in Yorkshire.
There were a few of us, from villages all around, who would gather once a week for what was referred to as a book discussion group, at least to our parents. There were books in the room – one of our number used to run a small bookshop and this was where we would meet – but mostly it was just a place to hang out with fairly intelligent people and occasionally drink wine. Such was our burgeoning teenage rebellion; no cider on a park bench for us.
Alongside some very-slowly-downloading pictures of pornography, I would chat with the book club people, and others, via the screechingly fast 56k modem, and the instant messenger of the day, ICQ. (At this time, so many years ago, the internet was confined to the phone line, and only when mum wasn’t expecting a call; wireless broadband and even mobile phones were still a few years away.)
One night I was chatting away to one of the book group, Big Tall Phil. We would pass hours putting the world to rights as only self-assured teenagers can: Everything from religion (Judeo-Christian religions were obviously just a bastardisation of far nobler paganistic rituals), politics (the ruling classes were completely out-of-touch with today’s culture and it could only be a couple of years tops before the revolution came and with it the blessed relief of a neo-marxist utopia) and, of course, sex. We were teenagers, after all. I think most of my time on ICQ involved one-handed typing, whether the other person knew it or not… Anyway.
I remember one time him telling me he was bisexual, and as I recall, my response was something along the lines of ‘Well, of course – I think everyone is, deep down. The only reason most people only ever try it with girls is because of the huge hetero-normative pressure placed on them by today’s society…’. I really must have been tedious to be around back then.
Anyway, after a few minutes of tedious jabber about how everyone should embrace their inner, natural bisexuality, I realised this wasn’t the most interesting way to talk about sex on the internet, and made some off-hand remark about covering him in squirty cream and licking it off, that being the sauciest thing I could think of at the time (I was young, there was no real porn to speak of) we laughed and the conversation moved on.
A few months later, I was bored, had the house to myself and was on ICQ, chatting away as usual and Big Tall Phil logged on, complaining he too was bored and had nothing to do. He lived a couple of villages away from me, so I invited him round to watch The Lost Boys on VHS (ask your parents). I remember hanging up his coat and hearing a weird clanking noise coming from his coat pocket. When I asked about it, he said, incredibly off-handedly and casually, ‘Oh, that’s probably just the squirty cream…’
I remember the feeling of shock and mild dread: ‘Oh pre-Judeo-Christian-god, he’d meant it. He thought I meant it too!’. Trying to do the ‘Hahaha! Yes, we’re all adults who’ve seen it all and are confident about this sort of thing! haha! act, I laughed and we settled down to watch TV.
He sat across the room from me and I remember having to think up more and more casual ways of edging closer and changing seats while seeming incredibly nonchalant and very, very cool: I would make cups of tea and sit a little closer; go and fetch biscuits, and move across the sofa; let the dog out and back in again, and sit on the floor nearer him… (I wasn’t really allowed on the sofa with drinks - mum had bought a new three piece suite about six months earlier, she’d gone for a lovely cream-coloured one, despite having a clumsy teenage son who liked red wine, and she’d only taken the plastic wrapping off of a few days earlier, so I was terrified on spilling anything on it. Anyway.)
Eventually, we were both laid on the floor, parallel with each other, about a foot apart. It was now or never. I froze. I had no idea what to do next. Afraid if I didn’t do something I might very well explode, I awkwardly reached over and grabbed his thigh. We laid there for a minute, nothing else happened. Then, internally shrugging and reasoning that I’d already come this far and I might as well go for it, I lunged quickly and smushed my face into his.
Bristles. Stubble. That’s the main memory I have of that first kiss. That and the shock that came with realising how much I was enoying it, and that it felt good, right and really quite exciting. This was rebellion!
It went on for a while. Lost Boys ended. Things got a little heated. We found a use for the squirty cream. And then, horror of horror, I heard the front door open and my father come in.
Panicking, I threw Phil’s clothes at him and hissed at him to get dressed as I struggled into my jeans and looked for my t shirt. Phil responded, but nowhere near quickly enough. I was fully dressed, but he was half in his t-shirt and his jeans were still around his knees. In some sort of slow motion, I could see the door open as my father began to enter the room. I looked around frantically for a cushion or something to throw in Phil’s lap, to cover the fact that he still hadn’t done his jeans up. Nothing presented itself.
I could see the door opening further, my dad was less than a second away from finding me alone in a room with a boy with half of his clothes off. Suddenly an idea struck me: I pushed Phil onto the sofa and sat down sharply on his lap just as my dad rounded the door.
I remember keeping my face deadly serious as I met dad’s gaze, perched on a strange boy’s lap in the living room, and said ‘Yes?’. ‘Er? Hello. You lads alright?’ asked my father, looking understandably confused at the tableau before him. ‘Yes,’ I said, as if giving a stranger an impromptu lap dance on mum’s new 3-piece-suite was a perfectly normal activity, ‘You?’. ‘Er. Right… Well! I’m going to bed. G’night.’ – and with that he shut the door, climbed the stairs and presumably tried to scrub the entire exchange out of his memory with a bottle of Dettol and a loo brush.
Phil and I relaxed, I reluctantly returned to a more orthodox seating position and we went back to watching the TV. It was the end of Red Nose Day and they were celebrating beating the previous record. Then they showed Carry On Up The Khyber, the irony of which was lost on us. We stayed up far too late.
The reason I’m telling you this is because I found out recently that the beautiful, lovely, incredibly clever man I shared this kiss with tried to kill himself recently.
He isn’t the only one. Queer people are much more likely to suffer from depression and deteriorating states of mental health than straight men and women.
Whoever you kiss, if you’re suffering with depression or any other mental illness then please, talk to a friend. Or if you’d prefer, to a stranger - you can Google mental health charities in your area, or call the Samaritans for free, any time from any phone on 116 123.