First Kisses… and more

Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, Cecil Castelucci, and many others are in a new anthology out today about First Kisses, called, appropriately, First Kiss (Then Tell): A Collection of True Lip-Locked Moments edited by Cylin Busby.

In honor of that, Justine is canvassing for first kiss stories on her blog. Head on over and share, if you dare.

I actually dare not, given the fact that not only my first kiss, but several kisses following that were not exactly my idea. In fact, one of them, I only kissed the guy because I was at a cotillion class when it happened and I didn’t have time to work out the proper etiquette of refusing to kiss him, yet keep dancing with him (because we had learned in class that when a lady offers a gentleman a dance, she is honor bound to keep it).

I hated cotillion class.

I was several kisses in before I actually kissed someone because I liked him, not because I was guilted, awkwarded, or coerced into it. That’s a shame. What’s also a shame is that I remember being lectured to, in all seriousness, by two friends in high school who explained to me exactly what I needed to do with a guy in return for him taking me to prom. And believing it.

At first, at least. I wised up a few minutes later.

A few months back, I was hanging out with Robin Brande, and we got to discussing this very issue. She had recently returned from the “Twilight Prom” and blogged:

I was talking about that with a friend of mine who used to teach high school not so long ago. She said the hardest thing for her to hear from a lot of these girls who’d been invited to the school prom was that there was this expectation that if they said yes to the date, they were also saying yes to sex. It was just a given. And I’ve heard enough about that from other kids to know that her school was not unique.

How did it get to be that way? When I went to the prom my one time, all I was desperately hoping for was to be kissed. We weren’t renting out hotel rooms back then for after-prom, and there wasn’t any whispering about how going to the prom meant losing your virginity, as it does for so many girls these days.

Robin goes on to talk about how she feels that some of this pressure comes from the ways girls are taught to be “polite” which struck a real chord with me, remembering my cotillion experience. Fortunately, I had a strong enough sense of self that the ingrained impulse to be “nice” only went so far.

Of course, these sorts of issues are muchly on my mind right right now, seeing as I’m sinus-deep in a story dealing with all the ramifications or female sexuality, and the commodification of virginity, and the various pressures on teens, both benign and otherwise, to abstain or not. What’s been interesting to me, as a writer, to discover is that even though I can recognize something as an artificial cultural construct — and a damaging one at that! — I can still have an emotional reaction to it. There’s a certain amount of cognitive dissonance there that I’m finding conducive to story tension.

I guess I’m way past the original topic of this post. Though, to combine the two, I like writing first kiss scenes (though I’ve never written any where it was a first first kiss, just a first kiss between the characters involved). And for me, the decision making process that goes into that kiss, the build-up to it, is as important as the kiss itself. I have characters who kiss for the wrong reasons, and for the right reasons, stolen kisses, awkward kisses, perfunctory kisses, desperate kisses, and perfect kisses, even triumphant kisses. They all have such a different flavor.

I get to write all the first kisses I didn’t get to have. I know what my favorite one is, but I can’t tell you. (Spoilers, you know.) I remember in high school, being at a slumber party and watching Pretty in Pink. The scene where Andie and Blane kiss in front of the car? Siiiiiiigh. That one killed me. I think it was because those two characters wanted to kiss so badly, and hadn’t — they’d been so tied up in awkwardness and expectation and class constrictions and in that one moment they just let it go and whoosh.

Of course now my favorite fictional first kiss is the one between Logan and Veronica in “Weapons of Class Destruction” on Veronica Mars. For all the reasons listed above, and also because it was totally unexpected and completely perfect. And because Veronica starts it, timidly, backs off, and then Logan moves in for the kill. It’s perfection.

What about you?

Posted in feminism, other writers, unicorns, veronica mars, writing life

9 Responses to First Kisses… and more

  1. eatrawfish says:

    I did love that kiss between Veronica and Logan.

    But my favorite is Elizabeth and Darcy in the 6 hour Pride & Prejudice. Six hours of misunderstanding, angst, heartache, dark looks across the room, and all that good stuff, and FINALLY they get to kiss.

    I didn’t go to my prom, I stayed at home and watched P&P.

    Is it any wonder I have my first kiss until I was out of my teens? 🙂

  2. Diana Peterfreund says:

    Ooh yeah… that’s a great kiss, ERF. It’s amazing how sexy that mini-series is, given the lack of actual contact.

  3. Aden says:

    I don’t know that recognizing a social construct as such precludes having an emotional reaction to it. I’d argue the people who don’t recognize those same constructs are more likely the ones to not have emotional reactions, as they’ve internalized the construct as “right,” so there’s no stimulus to react against.

    (Putting on my cartoon-nerd hat, which fits over the deconstruction-nerd hat I previously wore.) There is a brilliantly written show called Avatar I’ve been watching, and after 3 seasons the principals have kissed. It was a quick, confident, sudden thing, that happened before these children go to fight in a battle alongside parents and friends. Presented so matter-of-factly, it was just the perfect thing a twelve-year-old boy would do in the face of a situation he may not wholly comprehend. Impulsive.

  4. Diana Peterfreund says:

    Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but I can say that virginity and the commodification thereof is an imaginary and artificial construct that, throughout history, has caused massive amounts of pain and suffering to women, and also think about the idea of “losing one’s virginity” with a degree of nostalgia and emotion that is not necessarily reserved for every other time a person has sex.

  5. Diana Peterfreund says:

    oops. pressed send too soon.

    I find that interesting. But I also think that if someone DOES honestly believe in the value of virginity, then they are also looking at the idea of losing virginity with a vast deal of emotion. I just find it interesting that in my head I can say that something is valueless, but I still feel things about it.

    I’ve heard such great things about Avatar! Isn’t it true there are unicorns in it? Must Netflix. that kiss sounds great.

  6. Aden says:

    You’re right per commodification of virginity and the institutionalized depreciation of women, of course, and I could probably have spent more than seven seconds wording my argument to make sure I didn’t trivialize those extremely legitimate concerns. I think what I was trying to communicate was that recognizing a construct does not necessarily indicate one has achieved the same emotional distance as they have intellectual perspective, and maybe that’s the way it should be–that is, once you realize a construct is artificial, you can then mobilize your emotional response to fight against that construct?

    As per Avatar, I don’t remember there being any unicorns so far. What is pretty sweet is that their animals are combinations of our animals, so you wind up with turtleducks and platypus-bears and such.

    There’s a great exchange between the kids, wherein they’re invited to the birthday party of an emperor’s bear, and they all start chiming in:

    “Surely he means skunk-bear?”
    “No, it just says… bear.”
    long pause
    “This place is weird.”

  7. JulieLeto says:

    No unicorns in Avatar. We’ve been watching since the beginning. Great show.

  8. Robin Brande says:

    Diana, I love this post so much I would kiss it.

    Seriously, I love all your thoughts on kissing and love and romance. Totally swoon-worthy post.

    And you wrote it while you were sick! Combat pay!

  9. Phyllis Towzey says:

    Favorite cinematic first kiss is Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back. For TV series, anyone remember Moonlighting? (Cybil Shepard and Bruce Willis). After many seasons. Sigh.

    I’d have to think a bit about literature — too many choices.

    Welcome back from your travels, Diana.