By the time I got to high school, the world as I knew it was divided into two distinct groups: Those Who Have Hooked Up and Those Who Have Not (FYI, “hooking up” was North Jersey for French kissing — rarely more.) Luckily for me, my best girlfriends were all the founding mothers of the “Those Who Have Hooked Up” umbrella organization. I, however, found myself firmly planted in the Those Who Have Not group.
Perhaps it was because my father was a stable presence in my life, or maybe it was because I was a flat-chested girl with a raging case of scoliosis. Either way, being slutty was not an option that was available to me. And this fact KILLED me. I wanted so desperately to make out with every boy I saw, but I had absolutely no idea how to make that happen.
The whole process was a complete mystery to me. As far as I could tell, the steps that led to Officially Making Out were as follows:
1. Girl likes guy
2. Guy likes girl
3. Via their network of friends/AIM conversations, they determine that their feelings for one another are not one-sided.
4. They put themselves in a situation in which no parents are around (a gathering at a friend’s house, a dark corner of a Bar Mitzvah, in an alleyway next to Arturo’s Pizzeria, etc.)
5. Something completely mysterious happens
6. They hook up
It was that tricky Step Number 5 that really threw me for a loop. How the hell do you cross the line from hanging out to hooking up? Who initiates? How did everyone know what to do but me? Unfortunately, all the boys I knew were too busy making out with my girlfriends who had an unrelenting mastery of their own sexual prowess to ever take pity on me and show me. So I was left on my own to wonder and wait.
Sometime around January of freshman year, my friend Nora invited me and our friend Molly to come spend the weekend at her Dad’s apartment in a nearby town. This weekend was my shot – I was going to spend the night hanging out at a different Starbucks with a different group of boys who hadn’t already made a blood pact to remain platonic with me. Never mind the fact that Molly had the kind of body that forced her to repeatedly turn down hungry modeling agents/grown men and Nora is the only person I’ve ever met whose eyes were literally golden. And she had a giant rack.
But no matter! I was feeling uncharacteristically bold and flirted with one boy, Max, really laying on my A game. When he ordered a Frappuccino I called him a pussy and punched him in the arm, laughing my most gorgeous laugh. We bantered. It felt good. The night ended and we hugged the boys goodbye and headed back to Nora’s dad’s dadless apartment, and immediately signed onto AIM where we could continued to chat with the very boys we had just said goodbye to.
Then, out of nowhere, Nora casually suggested that maybe one of the boys could sneak over and hook up with one of us. Just like that. This was how the other half lived. Before I even had time to start sweating profusely, Nora was typing, “Do you want to come over? ” into the text box of an IM with Max and hitting send. Max immediately responded, “I guess…if I could hook up?”
“You could hook up with one of us ;) But not me becuz I have a boyfriend,” she deftly replied. I held my breath, in awe of her skills. This woman was a pimp.
“Ok,” he replied and extended his first offer: “How about Molly?”
Molly shook her head, no. Molly had options.
That left only me.
“What about Laura?” Nora countered. An eternity passed. ‘Max is typing’ appeared in the textbox. ‘Max has entered text.’ OK, so he was thinking on it. Maybe checking to see if his parents were truly asleep. Don’t panic.
“Ok, be over soon”
‘Max has signed off.’
And just like that, I was waiting for my man to be delivered to me.
Preparations were made; my hair was smoothed back with lotion, shimmery brown lipgloss was applied. I was like a North Jersey geisha on the night of her unveiling.
Finally there was a quiet knock at the door and Max was let in. Nora immediately led us both into her mysteriously absent older brother’s room and left without saying a word. Max sat down on the bed expectantly while I avoided eye contact and assessed the situation. I was in a bedroom with two marijuana posters on the wall and half a drumset in the corner. We were alone. I looked at Max and hoped very much we could skip whatever was about to happen and get immediately to the making out. But how the hell do we do that?
“Come lie down on the bed,” he said, patting the spot next to him.
He lay back on the coverless pillow, put his arm out so my head could nestle up against his chest, and wrapped his arm around me. I had never been held by a man before. My skin lit up everywhere his arm touched me. So far, so good.
Max struck up conversation, which I was very thankful for. We chatted about how the downtowns of Ridgewood and Montclair, New Jersey were similar. Both had a Dunkin Donuts, for example.
“I go in there all the time because there’s this really fat girl that works there who is in love with me so she always gives me free donuts,” Max laughed. “Her name’s Shayme.”
“Oh!,” I commented politely. “I’ve never met her.”
“Yeah, me neither,” he replied.
Huh? We sat in deafening silence, suffocating in the sheer awkwardness of the nonsense he had just spouted. Just when I thought my lungs might collapse from the intensity of the social discomfort I was experiencing, he rolled over and kissed me.
And then we were kissing. Just like that! Doin it. I could feel myself shedding my future as a spinster as he thrust his tongue deep into my mouth, repeatedly, like a lizard. “Huh!” I thought. “No one ever tells you that kissing is totally disgusting!” I reveled in the messy and intrusive way his tongue hit my teeth. How our mouths would fall into an endless routine of open, close, open, close. His hand groped at my heavily padded boob; it was better than I had ever allowed myself to dream.
But perhaps most satisfyingly, I had finally uncovered the mystery of Step Number 5. The good news: a decade later, “a horrifyingly awkward conversation” is no longer the only option.