Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Spring 1967: What's Funny About Kissing a Cute Boy?
When I was little, I was always being forced to hug and kiss ladies against my will, just because my parents knew them. For an adult, that would be sexual harassment, but for a kid, it was "cute."
"Come kiss your Auntie June! Come on, don't be shy -- give her a kiss!"
Ok, I've never seen her before in my life, she stinks of perfume and powder, she's wearing gross lipstick, and she's a girl! Disgusting!
At least it was only on the cheek. In the Midwest, we reserve kissing on the mouth for romantic partners.
But still, "Come kiss your Auntie Sadie!" "Come kiss your Auntie Opal!" "Come kiss your Grandma Davis!" "Come kiss your Cousin Beth!"
It was like a kissing booth at a carnival.
I quickly noticed that they demanded that I kiss only women. Men only got a handshake.
Why didn't I ever get to kiss my parents' male friends?
In Racine, Wisconsin, where I spent kindergarten, first, and second grade, we lived only a block from Lake Michigan, so Mom took me and my baby brother to the beach nearly every day (even though Nazarenes weren't allowed).
Rory had shoulder-length curly hair, rather pale skin, and a firm, compact physique with prominent abs. He was wearing sunglasses, which I thought were the coolest thing ever.
Ruth was wearing a bikini.
While Mom and Ruth chatted, Rory took me by the hand and led me into the surf. We went so far in that water was lapping against the bottom of my swimsuit.
He let me put on his sunglasses. The world turned a pale green.
I felt proud to be walking along the beach with a cute boy, like a grownup on a date.
When we returned, Ruth said "Look at the two big, strong men!"
Yeah! Two big strong men on the beach together!
A few days later, just at dinnertime, there was a knock on the door. It was Rory and Ruth!
Ruth was wearing a tan dress, and had on red lipstick and nail polish. She was carrying a pie.
Mom took the pie from her, and Dad ushered them into the living room. They sat on the couch.
I stared. Rory had his arm around the back of Ruth's shoulders! They never touched each other at the beach.
Were they like boyfriend and girlfriend?
"Boomer, where's your manners?" Dad said. "Say hi to your Uncle Rory and Aunt Ruth."
"Hi," I said politely.
"Hi, Squirt!" Rory said, holding out his hand to be shaken.
"Now you know what to do," Dad continued. "Shake hands with Uncle Rory, and give your Aunt Ruth a kiss."
Ruth pressed a finger to her cheek to point out the spot where the kiss should be deposited.
Suddenly I had an idea. I climbed onto Rory's lap, grabbed Ruth's small, many-ringed hand, and kissed Rory on the cheek!
Their eyes bulged in surprise. Rory laughed.
"Boomer!" Dad exclaimed, angry. "Do it right!"
Mom had returned from the kitchen with some glasses of soda on a tray. "Sorry about Boomer. He likes to be funny."
"Kid's going to be a regular Jerry Lewis when he grows up," Dad told them.
I refused to budge from Rory's lap. He took his arm from Ruth and wrapped it around me. "Looks like somebody needs a hug."
"You'll be a great father someday," Ruth said softly.
Yeah, right, father. or boyfriend.
I remember Rory and Ruth coming to the house a few times after that, to watch tv or play Yahtzee with my parents. I always shook hands with Ruth and kissed Rory. They always laughed.
What was so funny about kissing a cute boy?
See also: I Marry the Boy Next Door.