By Kelly Seal
When I was in eighth grade, I was awkward and shy (like most 13-year-olds). I stayed close to my friends, like they were some kind of protective shield from all the other teenagers. When puberty first hit me I wanted to crawl under my desk and hibernate – waiting to be older, cooler and wiser before anyone noticed me or my pimples.
But then something else happened. While I was busy being self-conscious and awkward, I developed a crush on a trumpet player in my high school band named David. (Yes, I was a nerd, but I promise there are no band camp stories here…) I was afraid to talk to him. In fact, I would go out of my way to ignore him, fearing that if I even smiled at him I’d betray my secret crush. There was nothing worse in junior high than other kids finding out who you had a crush on. This much I knew, so I guarded my secret until I was sure he felt the same.
So there we were, David and I, standing around awkwardly one day after band. Most of the other kids had been picked up, but we both were waiting on our rides. It was pretty clear right away that he was nervous around girls (or at least around me). This gave me a little courage, so I smiled at him and made some snarky teenager-like comment about rehearsal that day. He laughed and then took off, apparently feeling more shy than I was.
David was my first taste of attraction, and of course I thought I was in love. I had to be – I was so nervous around him I could barely speak. My knees got weak and my throat closed up. My face turned an indescribable shade of red. At thirteen, this was definitely what love felt like.
David asked me to the eighth grade dance via a note he passed me one day in class. I was beside myself with happiness – and nervousness. My mother even took me shopping for a new dress. Unfortunately, Laura Ashley wasn’t exactly sophisticated and I felt more like Strawberry Shortcake than Madonna.
He brought me a corsage (that my father ended up placing on me because he didn’t know where to put it), and his parents drove us to the dance. Our junior high auditorium was decked out in lights and glittery streamers, which seemed weird to me because it was still school.
He went off and talked with his friends while I went off and talked to mine. In fact, he hardly spoke to me and barely looked at me. I had my first taste of jealousy when another girl started talking to him. My friends assured me he sucked, but I was not easily consoled. I felt so hurt and rejected in my frilly blue dress that I sat by myself in the corner and willed the floor to swallow me up so nobody could see me and my red-brimmed eyes.
And then David walked up to me and asked me to dance. His friends were smirking, but I ignored them because I felt giddy. He’d chosen me, not the other girl.
I felt a tingle down my spine as he placed his hands on my waist and we started swaying back and forth. Then he leaned over and whispered that he couldn’t dance, and had been afraid all night that I would ask him to dance with me. The relief I felt was overwhelming – it wasn’t me, it was the stupid dancing! I looked up at him and smiled, saying I didn’t really like to dance much either (which wasn’t true). He smiled back and told me that I was funny. And pretty. Then he leaned down to kiss me. A soft, gentle kiss from a boy who had never done that before. I didn’t tell him that he was also standing on my toe. I was too deliriously happy. For the first time since puberty hit, I actually did feel pretty.
It seemed in my thirteen-year-old mind that it lasted several minutes, but it couldn’t have been more than a couple of seconds. My face grew hot with the awareness that the other kids were looking at us. He realized it too, and we pulled apart quickly, our awkwardness kicking back in. But I was different after that. My feet barely touched the ground as the song ended and I walked back to my friends and he walked back to his. Time had stood still in that instant – I was connected to a boy in a way I hadn’t been before.
We didn’t see each other much after that. He moved on to a high school girl, who I’m certain taught him about more than just dancing and kissing. But we were each other’s first kiss. And despite our embarrassment and awkwardness, there’s still something magical about that.