In contrast, the first kiss boy was a lovely chap, actually, and I have absolutely nothing bad to say about him whatsoever. The panicky "this is not a horse, get me out of here" feeling took over soon enough, but before it did, he was actually an excellent school boyfriend who was able to form sentences, did not have atrocious skin, and had a sense of humour. I was reminiscing about him only today before I even read the article, because Prog Rock has sent me a copy of my old school magazine, which features a photo of his sister's wedding and the bombshell that in 2010 he was crowned "Bird Brain of Britain". Obviously he kept up the natural history more assiduously than me, though if the subject were capybara mating I would still totally walk it.
After that there was my French exchange trip to Casablanca, organised via the Catholic Herald (which, events would prove, is NO guarantee of moral rectitude in the matter of language exchanges). My exchange partner was a beautiful, icily French model who had a boyfriend, ballet, and a modelling career to keep her busy, and precisely no interest in me (rightly so, I should think). She abandoned me entirely, which was the best thing that could possibly have happened, and I spent an entirely unsupervised fortnight being shown around (ahem) by the older brother of one of my exchange partner's friends. My three weeks in Casablanca was a strange, beguiling whirl of galloping arab stallions on sand dunes, staying in a riad in the medina in Marrakesh, driving along the coast to Essaouira, seeing the snow-covered tips of the Atlas mountains from desert roads, going to weird nightclubs, eating cornes de gazelle and riding around "Casa" with the lovely Karim listening to Prefab Sprout, and sex. It was amazing, truly transformative. There was a first kiss in his car, somewhere along the stormy seafront at night. Sigh. I came back hopelessly in love with everything French and North African (the Prefab Sprout thing passed more quickly) and probably horribly spoiled for most subsequent romantic encounters.
In return, poor Aurélie's fortnight with me involved a lot of trudging around the shops of York, and a couple of trips to the Clifton Moor multiplex cinema with me and a couple of my spotty, monosyllabic mates, who I remember stared at her like an escaped okapi wandering along Coney Street. We might have gone to someone's house and watched a video once. The trip culminated, triumphantly, in a rainy, muddy week in the wilds of the Lake District in a run-down farmhouse filled with academics. Those kind of holidays are an endurance test even when you are used to them, so I can barely imagine what they're like when you're used to driving your own jeep around Casablanca. All those terrible rural holidays blur into one another, but I think that was the holiday when my infant sister got a tic the size of a 50p piece, we found a dead mole one day and we played an awful lot of Racing Demon. Aurélie, I know, did a lot of gloomy solo rowing around the lake "pour la poitrine". I would imagine she has never set foot in England again. Ha.
Look, look at the two of us:
Finding this photo in my archives, I realise I wrote almost EXACTLY the same thing about Morocco on this post, almost EXACTLY two years ago to the day. Obviously January is "reminisce about Morocco" time, which has a kind of logic, I suppose, since being 17 in Morocco in the spring is definitely a more attractive prospect than being 36 in suburban Brussels in January.
Anyway. I came back to York after Karim and became almost immediately entangled with a student teacher who worked at Quaker school, which was thrilling and transgressive and eventually completely heartbreaking, in a seventeen year old way. I remember that first kiss terribly clearly, I'm not sure anything has ever topped it. I had been waitressing, and he left me a note in my study (pre-mobile phone! So romantic) asking me to meet him in the Black Swan pub (important York detail, for Yorkshire readers, the Black Swan is actually a quality, historical public house, unlike, for instance "The Stabber", which we also frequented. We had to go to pubs which weren't full of people from school. When he dumped me, I used to walk distraught around town from pub to pub, trying to find him). There had been a lot of flirting in the school darkroom, but nothing more, and I thought he was going to say that Nothing Must Happen. I don't remember anything much about what we said, but I remember walking home, still not quite sure what was going home, and him suddenly pushing me up against a lampost on Peaseholme Green and kissing me, and it being amazing. It was early summer, with that soft northern evening light and oh, the thrill. Man, it was brilliant, that summer. I can't say it was worth the year of moping and sorrow and bulimia that followed, but it was still brilliant. I was in droopy, besotted, seventeen year old lurve. Our relationship had to be secret of course (because DUH, it was completely inappropriate and he could have been sacked), so he used to leave me typed up slips of paper with snippets of Yeats poems in in my study and sneak me into his room in Quaker school at night. Basically, he finished off what Karim had started, by raising my expectations of romantic encounters in a ruinous and utterly unrealistic fashion. Now, of course, looking back, it all just looks WRONG. Ewww, what was he thinking? Fule. It was a great kiss though.
Hmm. Anyway. I agree with University of Texas researcher Sheril Kirshenbaum, I think, in her cunning piece of media friendly pseudo-science. A first kiss is a bit particular. Not important, or meaningful, or a sacrament, but .. something. Or maybe I was just lucky.
Go on, tell me yours.