I was almost fifteen, and my parents decided to take my sister and I on a cruise. Now, at fourteen-and-a-half I still had braces, I still didn’t have contacts, and I’m not totally positive that my mom was letting me shave my legs or armpits yet. None of this seemed to faze me, as I quickly became the enthusiastic, spazzy leader of my dysfunctional little team of Youth Activity Kids.
One of our exciting events was a cross-ship scavenger hunt where we had to find things on the ship and bring them back to the clubhouse, boys versus girls of course. The most terrifying thing on my team’s list: A Hot Guy… under eighteen years old. I didn’t create the game, I just played it.
So we got everything else and the only thing left was A Hot Guy. No one wanted to be the one to talk to The Hot Guy. As the leader of my group, when the threat of loss by lack of balls on our part started to become a real threat, I stood up and said that I would find and convince the next hot guy I saw to come with us, and we would win! At that moment we walked by the computer lab, and there, working on the computer, was the most beautiful sixteen-year-old man I had ever seen. Tall, lean but with sturdy shoulders, a smoldering blue-eyed stare and dirty, dirty, dirty blond locks of shaggy hair. Before my hormones could process this I blurted out - verbatim,
“Hi, you’re really hot, I need you to come with me.”
“Oh, right. Well we’re on this scavenger hunt and you’re the hot guy.”
“Sorry, I still don’t follow.”
“If you come with me, you’ll help us win. Are you almost done?”
“Um, sure, give me a minute.”
It wasn’t until after we won that I finally introduced myself. His name was Tom. We ditched the youth programming for the rest of the week on the ship together. We had ketchup fights at what felt like three am but was probably really more like eleven pm and I told him, while covered in ketchup, that I had never been kissed.
He told me that he had a girlfriend named Juliet, which for a young, hormone ridden, hopeless romantic girl, was both amazing and terrible. Amazing because how romantic! And terrible because they’re probably meant to be, forever and ever, because her name is Juliet. And she probably has long manageable dark hair, a thin build and grace, whatever that was. That’s who he was emailing with when I found him.
But no matter, we had a blast together. On the last day we convinced our families to take the same van trip to the same beach so that we could spend our last day together. He chased me down the beach as our families sat at a nearby restaurant and talked about what it was like to be wealthy Jews under the Clinton administration, probably.
On the van ride home Tom reached in his backpack and I saw that he had a crumpled up paper bag in there. I asked him what it was and he said that he got anxiety sometimes, and that he needed to breath into a paper bag so that he didn’t barf.
SO adorable, right? This was a boy SO in touch with his emotions that it made him barf sometimes. Cute: Check. Jewish: Check. In Touch With His Emotions: Barf bag check! I was in love.
We realized that we were on the same flight out the next day so we would just see each other at the gate, no need to say goodbye yet! But we were wrong. The next morning at the airport my flight started boarding and I didn’t see Tom. My face got hot, my eyes darted around in a panic. I raced around the airport looking for him, my parents yelling at me to stay at the gate. Me yelling at my parents to stop trying to destroy our love. My father yelling about teenage girls and airline prices. I keep running. I check the screens… Newark… Newark… Newark, there’s another flight at the same time halfway across the airport!
I take huge breath and I race towards the gate, I didn’t even get his email address or phone number yet. I’m in tears and all the sudden I see his little brother sprint past me towards the gate. Then his mom, then his dad, then Tom! I scream his name like it’s the last breath in my body, and we run towards each other, dropping our bags and hugging. I’m shaking,
“I thought I wasn’t going to ever see you again!”
“Me too! Here’s my email address!”
And then he was gone.
We emailed just about every day for months, and then I get a call one night. My mom yells down from upstairs,
“Sarah! Phone! It’s Tom!”
What? Oh my god. Oh my god. He’s calling me. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. “I got it hang up!”
“Hey! How are you it’s Tom!”
“I know! I’m great! How are you?”
“Juliet just dumped me.”
We talked for hours. The only, single thing, that I remember from that conversation, was when he said, “I want to be your first kiss.”
I convinced my parents to let me use up all $350 in my savings account to buy a plane ticket to Newark, New Jersey, two months after I got contacts, one month after I got my braces off, and exactly one day after my 15th birthday. I was to stay with my friend Ellice for the first night, and at Tom’s house (after a surprisingly limited number of conversations between our parents) the second and third nights.
The day that Tom was going to come pick me up (because he’s 17 and totally can drive and totally has a car and totally has a driver’s license) we went shopping for a brand new “first kiss” outfit. It was a red sweatshirt and skintight black stretch pants.
So Tom is about twenty minutes late, I’m freaking out, and I turn bright red in anticipation, which the red sweatshirt is not helping hide. Ellice has me lay on her bed and puts cold packs all over my face.
The doorbell rings.
I let Ellice’s mom answer the door, she yells up that a boy is here for me “and he’s cute!”
I grab my bag and strut down the stairs. Sans glasses. Sans braces. And definitely more boobs.
He’s a vision standing in the doorway. He takes my bag and we get in the car.
“I can’t believe I’m here.”
“I can’t either, sorry I was late.”
“Why we’re you late?”
“I had to pull over a couple times.”
This boy barfed for me. For ME! I couldn’t wait for that first kiss.
We have dinner with his family, we hang out… but his parents said I had to sleep upstairs and he had to sleep downstairs.
The next night he took me to a park, and we just sat in the car. “This is it. Oh my god.”
He leaned in… but before we started I reminded him that I had never made out with anyone before, so he should tell me if I’m doing it right.
I remember being worried that my mouth was too small. I think my sister told me that, and maybe the dentist would make jokes about it… but I was worried about my tongue reaching as far into his mouth as it should.
I read this book once about this boy who kissed a girl and tasted the hard candy she had just eaten because it was stuck in her molars. So my aim, was molars. He let that go on for a good second or two before stopping, telling me that I was doing a great job, but that I didn’t have to use so much tongue.
After that, it was great. Here I was, making out with this gorgeous guy, across the country, in his car, at night, alone.
Not only that, but I was wearing a REALLY hot outfit. It was this crème colored peasant shirt with sparkles on the front, dark mustard pants that were skin tight, and big, four-inch brown clogs.
He pulled me onto his lap. It was at this point I remember that his last girlfriend was probably graceful. I on the other hand, was not, immediately slipped on my big clogs, and fell into the small space where the pedals are, totally folded in half, and got stuck.
He had to open the driver’s side door to get me out.
We kept in touch for a while after that, sending each other packages for our birthdays and things. Eventually he went to Harvard where he met this graceful foreign chick whose father disapproved of their love, just like Juliet. They’re still together.
It’s okay though, because he got a little squishy and has non-ironic pictures on Facebook wearing plaid golf shorts, yellow polo shirts and knee socks.
While in a canoe.
I’ll be fine.