As an introduction to On 'n On 'n On, I invite you inside my head. It’s not as gross as it sounds. It’s simply a bit of insight into the mindset of a writer, professor, mother, wife, and traveler. Though what I really am is just a girl trapped inside in a woman’s body, leading this life I’ve created and looking around at my world, wondering how it all happened.
I’m constantly observing things that affect my days, from the mundane to the poignant. I’d like to focus on the latter, to start with, as I recount an incident that happened just last week.
I was sitting at my computer, asking the monitor to reveal to me some words of wisdom or whimsy, when I got this response: “I do not want to kiss a boy!”
My eight-year-old daughter shouted this declaration from her bedroom while playing with her best friend. Then I heard screeching, or maybe I should call it squealing, the way happy pigs would sound when about to receive their swill after a day of near starvation.
What were they talking about?
I dared not take a stab at this one. I remember myself at that age, too curious for my own good.
When I was in Kindergarten, I spent most of my recess time chasing the boys and trying to kiss them. (Hint: five-year-old boys love this!)
(Here I am, ready to kiss the boys.) That behavior waned by the first grade and didn’t show its head again until (hold your breath) second grade when I decided that Vincent was going to be my boyfriend. My precocious nature rubbed off on him, and he finally showed me his privates one day while playing at my house. Seeming to already understand that give and take was necessary in any good relationship, I reciprocated, much to my mother’s chagrin.
Love did not bother me again until the first day of fourth grade when J.D. stood in front of his seat and introduced himself to the class. I think I actually swooned. Of course, I had no idea I was about to become a victim of unrequited love, the most painful illness to afflict human beings and one that has no prevention or cure.
I spent the fourth grade pining for J.D.’s attention alongside almost every other girl in my class. Apparently, when it came to my taste in men, I was not yet a trailblazer.
In the fifth grade, I was lucky once again to be in J.D.’s class. Lucky enough, that is, to be close to him every day and suffer the heartbreak that came from knowing I was invisible, even when laughing at his jokes and trying to prove my own special talents by flaring my nostrils like a dragon in heat.
Since the object of my affection lived only blocks from my house, we had many friends in common outside of the classroom. I felt slighted one Monday morning while walking to school, when I found out that I had not been invited to play Spin the Bottle with J.D. and the kids on the block.
“Who did he kiss?” I asked my friend Andrea.
“I don’t remember,” she said, turning her eyes away from me in a gesture I now recognize as shame.
“Spin the Bottle’s a stupid game,” I declared.
Andrea said nothing.
Had she kissed him? The idea of my friend kissing the boy I loved was sickening. Even at ten years old, I understood that friends didn’t do that.
In sixth grade, J.D. and I were in different classes. So I spent my last year of elementary school loving him from a distance, which I now realize was God’s way of preparing me for what would happen when that school year ended, when J.D. would move away.
The point of all this is that by the time I had reached the ripe old age of nine, I had already kissed a boy, shown off my privates, and fallen in love. Nowadays, I hear horror stories of children having sex by that age. I tremble to imagine how old little girls are when they first kiss a boy, let alone show him the goods.
And as my daughter and her friend squealed in disgust at the notion of kissing a boy, I was grateful, if not curious. Let them be grossed out all they want. I wish the Ick factor had stuck with me a bit longer. Because when all is said and done, love is a many splendored thing that can also rip up your insides, run them through a shredder, and then stomp on them, just for good measure. My daughter has plenty of time to learn that, and I need time to get myself ready for the Big Fall again. I know that her pain will become my pain. That’s what happens when you love someone that much.
And though I dread to imagine my daughter suffering the insanity that accompanies unrequited love, I pray that some day she will be brave enough to say to love, "Bring it on!" Then she will walk – no, run through that tunnel of love with arms wide open.