A kiss is just a kiss, un­less it’s the very first one

‘He was the great­est first ev­ery­thing I could have had and I still pos­sess ev­ery pic­ture, card, love let­ter’

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - LEANNE ITALIE

NEW YORK — A kiss is just a kiss, but as time goes by the first one can be ev­er­last­ing.

“I can tell you the ex­act date,” de­clared stylist and fash­ion de­signer Nicole Grays Owens of At­lanta. “It was Aug. 16, 1985, three days af­ter my sweet 16th. He was my first true love and I his.”

We all have a first-kiss story, from the play­ground, park or base­ment, most likely. But do we all know what hap­pened to the peo­ple with whom we shared that del­i­cate snip of time? Do we care?

Writer Rachel Vail of Man­hat­tan may not have been in cap­i­tal L-love with the first boy she kissed, but they WERE a thing, el­e­men­tary school style.

She was a fifth-grade Kim to his six­th­grade Hugo in their sub­ur­ban New York school’s pro­duc­tion of “Bye Bye Birdie.” There was sup­posed to be a kiss be­tween the two in the play. This be­ing el­e­men­tary school, there was not.

Then came the cur­tain call on open­ing night.

“We met at cen­tre stage. He had a bou­quet of flow­ers and he leaned for­ward and kissed me in front of a packed au­di­to­rium, in front of our par­ents and teach­ers and ev­ery­body else,” Vail re­called. “It was a sweet, chaste kiss, but I wiped it right off my mouth. My dad filmed the whole thing.”

Vail, 50, has worked a few mem­o­rable kisses into some of the more than 30 books she has writ­ten for young peo­ple. In real life, there was a big twist to her first.

Though it left her a “lit­tle shaken,” she took her spot at the end of the stage as planned dur­ing bows. And that put her next to the boy who played her fa­ther. And it was he, years later, who be­came her hus­band. They’ve been mar­ried 24 years come spring.

“More than sex, that idea of kiss­ing, con­nect­ing with some­body, it can be very in­no­cent and it can be so very pow­er­ful,” Vail said. “It’s that first thought of your­self as a ro­man­tic and even­tu­ally a sex­ual be­ing. First kisses can knock you down and make you feel so dif­fer­ent about your­self and about the world.”

Owens, 47, feels the same. She and her first beau, back in Los An­ge­les where she grew up, courted over scoops of mint chip at the ice cream shop where he worked.

“It was awk­ward, ten­ta­tive at first, then it mor­phed into ev­ery­thing I’d seen in a movie or on tele­vi­sion,” she said. “It was pas­sion­ate, ro­man­tic and seemed to go on for­ever. Maybe pas­sion­ate is too heady a word for two vir­ginal teenagers, but it felt like pas­sion to me.”

The two drifted af­ter high school, but she doesn’t have to won­der what be­came of him. Through so­cial me­dia she has learned that he’s the mar­ried fa­ther of four, a po­lice of­fi­cer in a small Cal­i­for­nia town. She keeps her dis­tance out of re­spect.

“He was the great­est first ev­ery­thing I could have had and I still pos­sess ev­ery pic­ture, card, love let­ter,” Owens said.

For David Rivera, a 62-year-old doc­tor in Chicago, the first is now bit­ter­sweet.

The date: “May 27, 1968, be­hind the hedges in front of the house where she was babysit­ting! Life was never the same af­ter that. Her name was Ch­eryl and we used to leave notes for each other tucked into the post for a stop sign near her house,” he said.

They ex­changed Christ­mas cards oc­ca­sion­ally over the years.

“I saw her in 2004 for the first time in 32 years. We met for lunch. That would be the last time,” Rivera said. “She died in De­cem­ber 2012. I didn’t know un­til I had din­ner with three other friends from high school a cou­ple of years later.”

Dana Mar­lowe, 40, also re­con­nected with her first kisser, 25 years af­ter the act.

She’s a fed­eral agency IT con­sul­tant, and new soft­ware to ac­cess a pay­ment por­tal in­cluded the se­cu­rity ques­tion: “What is the name of your first kiss?” Mar­lowe treated her as­sis­tant to the story since she’s the one who had to in­put the name.

The scene: a sum­mer camp in Penn­syl­va­nia one hot July night in 1989, near the tree line. Mar­lowe was 12. Adam was 13.

Mar­lowe was so tick­led by the crush re­minder that she tracked him down on Face­book, where they had a cou­ple of old camp friends in com­mon, and pri­vately mes­saged him his new se­cu­rity role in her life.

“He wrote back within sec­onds and we wound up chat­ting,” she said. “He said, ‘If you think that’s funny, I’ve got a story for YOU, Dana.’”

Adam is Adam Gold­berg, a Hol­ly­wood writer and pro­ducer. At the time they re­con­nected, he was pitch­ing a TV se­ries based on his 1980s child­hood, “The Gold­bergs,” which was picked up by ABC and in­cludes a note­wor­thy young kiss and the pur­suit of same in a story line in­volv­ing a char­ac­ter he left as Dana.

Gold­berg uses real-life home movies and other mem­o­ra­bilia to end each episode and it was Mar­lowe’s turn that time around, in a short snip­pet of young them.

“So, that’s what hap­pens when you look up your first kiss, cour­tesy of need­ing to get paid by the gov­ern­ment,” Mar­lowe said.


Sean Gi­ambrone, left, as Adam and Natalie Alyn Lind as Dana in a scene from “The Gold­bergs.” The ABC com­edy se­ries is based on creator Adam Gold­berg’s 1980s child­hood.

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