18 August 1976

“Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.”

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.

Stop laughing.

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.


  1. The Mellow Monkey says

    I’m a sentimental mush pot. You can share my Kleenex, Tony!. ::sniffle::

  2. Funny Diva says

    Youse guise gotta simmer down in here, you’re kicking up dust and it’s getting in my eye! *sniff*

    Here, I’ll just leave this box of Klennex, shall I?

    Great story, PZ.

  3. says

    August 20, 1994. Starplex in Dallas. In the rain. Standing in the mud and grass at Lollapalooza.

    August 17, 2014. Standing in the exact same place. No rain, this time.

    Same two dumb kids trying to figure it all out together.

  4. geekysteve says

    To all those assholes out there who can’t understand how atheists can have purpose or meaning to our lives:


  5. gog says

    1/7/2011. We were watching Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in her apartment.

    Exactly one year later to the day, the puppy that we’ve adopted together was born. I love both of them more than I can say.

  6. xavierninnis4191 says

    You’re no more daring than I. Our first kiss never would have happened if the love of my life, not my first girlfriend, hadn’t taken the initiative and planted one on me. I too floated home. In fact I still levitate a bit to think of it.

  7. magistramarla says

    Awww – Great story, PZ.
    Just two years earlier…..
    August, 1974 I was attending college orientation week. Everywhere I went that week, a young man jumped in front of me, saying “Hi, I’m —– ——–“. The following week, when I walked into my first class, there he was in the front row saying, “Hi, I’m —– ——–. This seat isn’t taken.”
    I sat down next to him, and by the end of the semester, we were holding hands in that class, while answering most of the questions that the prof asked. One day in October of that year, he walked me to my car and asked if he could kiss me good-by. We kissed, and I floated home behind the wheel of my ’70 Torino.
    We were married in October, 1976.
    Those were pretty great years, weren’t they?

  8. Doc Bill says

    I can imaging kissing you, whirling around and running into the kitchen for the Clorox.

    But, I’m the romantic type!

  9. says

    Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I read it to my wife tonight. It is our 51st anniversary. She laughed because the story is so sweet and innocent. Just wonderful!

  10. azhael says

    That was a lovely story :)
    However, not having witnessed your magical moment but having watched The Princess Bride “a few” times, i have to say their kiss is pretty awesome, and not just because i used to have a giant crush on Cary Elwes.

    (Fuck it, i’m watching it again tonight, and if i’m in a gay enough mood, i’ll follow it up with Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and Lady Jane).

  11. says

    Keep something in mind though, PZ. William Goldman’s book was an abridged version of the original story which took place in the Renaissance. After that period, there may have been more passionate kisses.

    Also, you made me teary-eyed.

  12. hexidecima says

    lovely story. My first kiss with my husband was after he took me to see a awful Van Damme movie “Cyborg”. We were just friends up to that point. I must have been very forgiving for such a bad movie, but that was all that was on at the theatre in our small town. It is very powerful when you realize “They like me, they really like me!”

  13. chirez says

    A delightful story, generously shared.
    And so utterly alien to my experience of life as to fill me with directionless rage. I have to wonder how many of those in the MRA camp react in a similar manner.

    To clarify, I do not in any sense align myself with those people. I suspect the only difference is that I am inclined to turn that pain inward, where others look for a target to blame.

  14. Colin Fox says

    Beautiful story, thanks for sharing your memories!
    I can only hope to find the love and companionship of another human being as you have found. I can literally only imagine what it must feel like… I… I have something in my eye…

  15. says

    Umm… I kind of *assumed* this (awesome) first kiss story was with the woman PZ ended up marrying, but the story doesn’t actually say so… and that would be OK too.

    I was a positive tart: I think I kissed four people in total before I met my beloved.

  16. marcus says

    PZ Goldman had obviously marked yours as one of the “five”. I don’t know how he knew!

  17. LicoriceAllsort says

    I got misty about the kiss and also about going to the pizza parlor. I miss pizza parlors. East coast pizza is fine, but the setting just isn’t the same.

  18. Larry Clapp says

    Good story!

    Speaking as someone else that asked his wife for permission to kiss her the first time, I say, well done! :)