I had to make an executive decision today. Eat lunch or write. Being that I am ridiculously in love with food, you may assume I chose to eat; however, I did not choose that particular option. My hunger ran much deeper than that. My fingers had the itch to tap out what my brain has been feverishly pondering. Also I had some whole grain bread, organic peanut butter and celery waiting for me in the fridge where I work, which wasn’t exactly hard to pass up. I can’t promise you that if I had a bacon cheeseburger and waffle fries waiting for me I would have made the same decision to forgo food for more time spent on creative genius.
My inner monologue had started spewing out interesting thoughts and wonderments somewhere around the time that I happened upon an article in Glamour while dutifully keeping one eye open on the drive-up lane at work. There weren’t any customers at the time, so relax I don’t get paid to read magazines. Well, not most of the time anyway.
So there I was perusing one of those Jake Articles, you know, “the real guy dating in New York City” segment. It was all about women being weird about their bodies when naked and how guys don’t care that our thighs have varicose veins or how our feet make us self-conscious—yeah, my feet while admittedly pretty cute do sort of make me self-conscious because, well they’re feet, but I did once let the ex in a moment of raw passion put my toes in his mouth, much to my shock and surprise and I honestly never quite recovered from how delicious it made all my insides feel. There are some nerve endings or something down there, because I almost went into hormonal shock I started panting so hard.
But according to Jake men claim they don’t care about such nonsense as these insecurities. Apparently the woman who literally lets it all hang out is quite admired in men’s circles. Hmm, fancy that. This isn’t news to me, or something that isn’t told to me all the time by other magazine articles or my girl/guy friends, but it still got me thinking about confidence—that tricky little thing that I try to understand and break ground on every day of my existence.
I was wondering if I ever had the sort of confidence that enabled me to do bold stark things with no apology. No wondering if I could, should, or would get rejected in any capacity. Yes, upon further reflection there once was a time in my life when I was so confident that nothing could stand in my way. I may have even been pudgy at this point in my life, childhood pudgy or otherwise I really cannot recall, but I did do something bold during this period nonetheless.
I had my first kiss, which were it not for my unabashed confidence with a particular boy, would never have taken place.
Shall we see how that went? Yes, let’s.
The year was … around, wait let me do some mental math. Okay, I used a calculator. The year was 1994. I was stationed along with the rest of the Sturos brood, not being such a big brood at that time, but no matter, at the quaint old palace on Railroad Street. Er. Duplex if you must know. We had the bottom half, and our neighbors with a whole slew of boys lived above us. Naturally from the moment they had moved in—as families were always moving in and moving out, while we stayed put below—I had had my eye on a certain fella in the family. Let’s call him Jude as his older brother never stopped singing off-key, I might add, we all live in a yellow submarine, producing a hatred of the Beatles for me and most of my childhood.
But, Jude, he was everything I wanted in a boy. He was tall (taller than me at least) dark and handsome—as far as fourth grade boys go. He was akin to someone I would have dreamed up while sitting in the trees lining my driveway concocting imaginary boyfriends and what qualities I most admired. Okay, if truth be told I sometimes also pretended the trees were my boyfriends, but I think that’s a mere testament to how darn imaginative I was and not at all a creepy thing that would require my parents investing in a shrink. Alright moving on.
The day Jude moved in I remember pulling up the driveway with my dad and getting out of the car to hear that we had new neighbors! My eyes shot straight to the second story window that I knew to be a bedroom from playing upstairs with previous neighbors and there he was, looking back at me. I smiled and waved. He grinned and then disappeared from the window. Sure enough he came outside to introduce himself. It was enough, I knew before I had even seen him in person that he would be my first love. I just knew, like girls know.
We became instant friends, but I was aware even at a young age that boys weren’t meant for mere friendship, holding your jump rope and gabbing about Barbies. No, no they were meant for much more: holding hands, kissing and one day marrying, and this girl was not going to slack on snagging a man. I’d had many a conversation with my girl friends and I knew the rules of the game.
Speaking of other girl friends, one girl, we’ll call her Libby (my supposed best friend) knew I was playing basketball with Jude that day and basically going to be following him around every second like a magnet. She had the audacity to tell me she was going to ask him to be her boyfriend! Some nerve! She even said it with a powerful glint in her eye; as if the fact that she had long blonde hair and an evil streak meant she could get any guy she wanted (I would later learn this does indeed get you guys).
I was having none of that. I marched home not without stopping and wishing on a dried up dandelion first that Jude would see I was the only girl for him. Lucky for me all the seeds blew off the stem and floated into the air, making their way to God or the vast universe to be granted or denied. I pounded on Jude’s door not seconds later with purpose. He opened it with a wry smile most likely sensing my urgency and the seeds of fate working their way into his mind as I began to speak.
I got straight to the point.
So you’re my friend right?
Yep, he nodded casually still smiling.
And you’re a boy, I stated.
Yes, he was starting to look at me funny now. Wasn’t that much obvious?
So … technically that makes you my boyfriend …?
His eyes got large like he had just been duped. But as he pondered it, I could see that he too saw my logic and it made sense.
Yeah, sure, he shrugged. This wouldn’t satisfy me today, but it satisfied me then.
Locked in, Libby! Whose boyfriend is he now?
Great! See you later!
I bolted for Libby’s to break the news. I mean she had to know he was off the market right?
A few days later Jude and I sat on the railing of our shared back porch talking and playing Dare. I brazenly stated that no dare was out of my league. You couldn’t scare me off. He nodded and pondered. And as he mused I stared at his sweet smiling face and wished for him to kiss me.
I dare you to kiss me he blurted out with sudden inspiration. My jaw dropped. If I had known wishes were this easy I would’ve been wishing for a horse a lot sooner!
Before I leapt into his arms I considered a lesson from my life coach, my aunt Lacey. I remembered her telling me to play hard to get. No man wants an Easy Edith. I couldn’t just act excited about kissing him, it’d make him take me for granted or run into Libby’s arms for heaven’s sake!
So I pretended to mull it over like it was a matter of the state. I hemmed. I hawwed. I tapped my fingers to my lips like it was just so delicate a thing. And then I calmly said, yes I suppose I could kiss you. But not here where people can see. Let’s go behind the shed.
We scurried to the far reaches of the yard and stopped once behind the safety of the rusted white metal. I told him he had to close his eyes and he agreed because that’s just how kisses were done right and proper. I leaned in and placed my small pink lips against his. I didn’t do much of anything other than lean in, press, and then pull back while promptly getting a rosey flush. When he opened his eyes, he let out a sigh and said, that was great!
My heart did funny things like an Irish jig and a two-step and then maybe a rousing tango for good measure.
So, I said nonchalantly. Since you dared me to kiss you it’s only fair that well, you have to kiss me now.
He agreed with no hesitation. I think he was onto my little game. As soon as my eyelids fluttered down, awaiting his kiss, I desperately thought that life couldn’t be any sweeter than my dear Jude approaching with his lips about to touch mine. And when they did, for just an instant, like my kiss to him, just lips touching lips, I felt pink. And giddy. Just as light and buoyant as a lost balloon drifting up, up and away. My eyes opened and he was smiling at me.
Later after swooning in my bed, he would knock on my window and ask me to go to the carnival with him and feeling cocky, I retorted, oh you just want to kiss me again, to which he smiled and ran off to get in the car with his waiting parents.
That was confidence all right. I can’t tell you how many years I have wasted as an adult tiptoe-ing around telling a guy I liked him or just waiting and hoping for years that he would say he liked me instead of just getting right to the point and asking him why he could kiss me and buy me flowers but not make me his?
What an alluring and golden thing confidence is. Back in the fourth grade, nothing could’ve steered me away from getting Jude. It had never even entered my mind to be afraid of the consequences or if he would laugh in my face and tell me I wasn’t as cute as little blonde Libby. I just thought, hey we’ve got chemistry and I am pretty cool; why wouldn’t he want to be my boyfriend? And now, the slightest breeze knocks me off kilter and has me questioning all my dreams, wishes and wants. I doubt that I’ve got it and when I make wishes now, I wonder achingly if they’ll ever come true.
Something about youth and thinking dandelion seeds will come through for you is really the cusp of it all. If back then I could have faith in seeds flying in the wind to make boys turn into boyfriends, then what’s stopping me when I have all the resources for making it on my own, right here at my fingertips? What’s stopping me is somewhere along the line I lost that sureness in myself and have been struggling to find it ever since.
But all it took was the memory of my first kiss and how I was really the one who made it happen, to make me wonder if there’s something to what I’ve got after all. I know I had confidence once, so whether I was born with it or attained it, it was there leading the way and making dishy little Spanish boys kiss me.
I can get it back. And as much fun as wishing on dandelion seeds still is, I don’t want to put it all into the hands of fate. I have some very capable hands of my own to grab life by the horns and say I want a piece of this confidence pie, goll darnit! And a big piece at that!