My apologies, William Goldman, but that is pure bunkum. Either a lot of kisses deserve the assessment, or I’m the most fortunate person in the world to have seized the title of holding all five.
I remember the 18th of August, 1976 vividly. It was a Wednesday. I was 19, which is a damn fine age to be. I was spending my summer saving up money for college, doing stoop labor at a nursery, spending my days weeding and hauling plant pots and clambering about on greenhouse frames nailing down sheets of plastic. My neck and ears were red — I wore a hat, but even the Pacific Northwest sun will scorch you on those days when you aren’t slogging about in the rain. I wasn’t making much money — minimum wage — but in those days, college was a bit more affordable, so I’d get by.
That doesn’t sound like a glorious summer, I know, but at the same time I’d started dating a girl. Really, when you’re 19, having a girlfriend puts a glowing rosy patina on everything (hmmm…it even helps when you’re 57.) We’d both done some traveling fresh out of high school, and I’d called her up back in June when we’d both come back to our home town, and asked her out on a date, and then we started going out every week, and then more often than once a week. It was a Wednesday, you know. I got off work, cleaned up, and borrowed my father’s station wagon to go out to the pizza parlor.
That’s what we’d do. We’d get together, we’d talk. We’d go places, and talk. She was smart and funny and interesting, and we had good times together. To explain this next bit, though, you have to understand that I have no illusions that this was a simpler, more genteel time, with ladies acting like ladies and gentlemen like gentlemen — it was the 70s. It was a loud, raucous, garish decade, and casual sex was common. But I was a shy nerd with absolutely no self-confidence at all, and she was a serious young woman working towards an academic career.
So on that warm August Wednesday, I was working up my courage to ask for a goodnight kiss.
No, really, stop. We were both comfortable with a friendly relationship, you know, and I liked her.
So we’d only been dating for 2½ months, and I didn’t want to be too pushy and risk ruining a good thing for a kiss.
You’re laughing again.
So there we were, at about 11 at night, and I’d walked her to the door of her parents’ apartment, and as she was going inside, I nervously delivered my corny and clumsy line: “I was hoping to say goodnight more properly.”
She laughed…and she started to raise her arm, as if she was going to give me a goodnight handshake, which would have been hilarious and soul-crushing. Then she seemed to think better of it, smiled mischievously, and stepped forward and planted a good one right on my lips. And then she whirled about and went inside.
It was glorious. Thirty eight years ago and I still remember it, and I know I’ll remember it on my deathbed someday.
What made it especially wonderful was the unmistakeable consent — she wanted to kiss me. And afterwards, she looked…happy. I felt like maybe I wasn’t so awful after all, and that maybe someone in the world could actually like me. Every human being needs that, and it’s in our power to give it to others, so I don’t think it’s rare. Maybe it’s more uncommon than it should be, but I would hope everyone can feel it sometime in their life.
It also gives you magic powers. I somehow floated home, and the old station wagon drove itself back to the garage, I think.