Like many Irish children, my first kiss took place at a disco at Irish college. I was twelve, and I was absolutely terrified.
The boy in question was called Conor, he was just about the same height as me and applied an inordinate amount of gel in his hair on a daily basis, which he used to twist into spikes all over his head. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, was our Conor.
There had been some young, innocent attempts at flirting in the days leading up to the “main event”, as our friend groups got to know each other in between the Irish classes and kayaking excursions. By the end of week one, after much deliberation and whispering, a date had been set: the next night, at the disco. It was all arranged and I immediately felt sick.
This reluctance wasn’t because I didn’t want to kiss Conor, I definitely “fancied” him (although god knows how, considering his lack of conversational wherewithal and heinous application of hair gel) but I was just so incredibly unsure of what I had to do; what methods, tactics and techniques I should employ. Where was the handbook that I so badly needed on the subject?
Flash forward to the night in question, to where my girl gang and I were dancing awkwardly in a circle at the disco. My friend Maeve kept nudging me to update me on Conor’s whereabouts; “Ok, he’s standing by the sound system.”
“Now he’s talking to a teacher in the toilets.”
“AHH!!! He just ate A MINT!!!! It’s now or never, Geraldine. He just ate a mint, that’s a sign he’s ready to GO!”
I was too nervous to look over but I knew I couldn’t put it off for much longer; there were only so many mints in that packet, and I had already seen him pop about four. If he didn’t get cold feet, then he was going to get the runs, and both scenarios were no good to me.
Maeve must have read my mind because she took my hand and led me to the bathrooms for some “words of wisdom”. She was from Carlow and had kissed at least a twenty boys in the last two years, so I was more than happy to take whatever advice she had to give. And that’s how myself, Maeve and three of four other girls squished into the cubicle, frantically imparting advice as to the dos and don’ts of “good kissing”.
“Whatever you do, don’t be a washing machine” was followed by someone squawking “What are ye talking about? That’s the only way to do it! She hardly wants to be a wet dead fish!” There were far too many terms being thrown around so loosely for me to comprehend any one of them, and the on-lookers who had started climbing onto the neighbouring cubicles to see what all the commotion was about weren’t helping either. The contradictory advice was came in from every corner and height in that bathroom.
I just needed to get this over with. The only thing worse than doing something wrong would be to not do anything at all; as far as I was concerned if I didn’t do it now I’d probably never be kissed for the rest of my life. “Ok, get out my way”, a declared, pushing past the cheering girls. From there I bee-lined for Conor, marching right up to him (thankfully just in time before he went to pop another mint) and lobbed the gob.
One thing that the girls in the bathroom cubicle jury could agree on was that I had to tilt my head to the left, “he’ll definitely tilt his head to the left, so if you tilt yours to the right then you’ll just bump heads”. But a clause existed in their verdict, because Conor and his stupid greasy-head went right, which resulted in a mortifying head-bump for what should’ve been the most memorable, romantic and perfect moment in my life. Or so I thought.
His hands perched on my backside, my hands perched on his shoulders. It was a weird sensation alright, but I would have let that moment go on for at least a couple more minutes if it wasn’t for my extreme fear of lock-jaw, which – due to my having braces – I was apparently far more at risk of suffering from.
For the next couple of days I could not hide my elation at having rid myself of that awful “frigid” title. I was now a fully fledged smoocher, and could smooch my way around the country from town to town, if I so chose. Watch out boys, because this brace-face babe is comin’ for ya.
It’s worth noting, however, that the post-smooch relief did not replace the terror that continued to take hold of me before every arranged embrace that took place for the proceeding two-to-three years. It seemed that the fear of being both a “washing machine” and a “wet dead fish” really gripped me for a good few years thereafter. Stupid Maeve and her stupid advice.