My first kiss came along at the age of three — that’s not a boast, trust me (the next one didn’t come along for another eleven years, and it was hardly anything to boast about, either). I don’t even remember it, if I’m honest. The only existing proof of its occurrence is a grainy VHS that my preschool teacher somehow managed to procure (it’s unclear what she was doing taping three year olds at play, or if that’s strictly speaking even legal).
So my parents found the video some years ago and decided to show me; it’s only about fifteen seconds long, yet somehow still succeeds in being deeply unnerving. There’s this agonizing moment on camera where you see me…well, agonizing over whether or not I should go through with it.
We’re just sitting there in the classroom, her and I, and there’s no indication that anything unusual is about to happen, save for the look on my face — which is clearly indicative of the distinct, intense anxiety you can notice when looking closely at people in bars.
Now it might just be that my lens of perpetual self-loathing discerned it as such, but I swear you can all but see the little cogs and gears whirring furiously in my as yet undeveloped mind (which mind hasn’t truthfully made a whole lot of progress in the way of development with respect to the female gender, twenty years on).
My eyes keep darting back and forth between her and whatever it is I’m doing. You can tell I’m bouncing my knees nervously under the table, and there is zero doubt in my mind that my hands were sweating profusely at the time (I know this because, under similar circumstances, they still do).
Then eventually something in me snaps or clicks or whatever, and I go for it. Nothing was graceful or suave about it. I just kind of put my little sweater clad arm around her little polka dot clad waist, close my eyes and plant one — nothing fancy (again, there’s little in the way of progress with regard to my approach, despite having two decades to refine it).
And so she just kind of sits there, accepting it with all the poise that I would imagine it’s possible for a toddler to summon, and it’s tender and brief and ever so sweet….then I pull away. We both smile, turn back to our respective activities, and carry on living our lives.
Here’s why this gets under my skin. See, I’ve been known by pretty much everyone who knows me well to be what is commonly referred to as a hopeless romantic. I’m less than crazy about this (the term, not its use to label me), because it seems reductive and simplistic to me. It suggests that the subject has no choice or say in the matter of his or her condition.
The word “hopeless” implies a very literal absence of something which is nothing if not abundant in the heart and mind of a true romantic, vain, masochistic, self-destructive hope. As an effort to rectify this discrepancy, I am proposing a more accurate — if admittedly less discreet — alternative, the romance junkie, a term I find to be more fitting for the following reasons:
- Whereas the hopeless romantic has a mere predisposition for infatuation, the romance junkie is someone whose very identity is singularly and uncompromisingly reliant on it as a standing presence in their lives.
- The junkie is someone who willfully decides to derive pleasure from one thing alone, pursuing it accordingly, consciously, and without regard for detriment imposed on the self or parties involved.
- It illustrates the mental picture of an individual whose only loyalty is to his or her image as a lover, which is what a “hopeless romantic” really is. The need for intimacy and affection is symptomatic of the ego’s relative insatiability, not a desire for genuine connection or friendship.
I’m aware this is not an especially flattering image to self-ascribe, and that you won’t be especially apt to relate or agree with what follows as a result. That’s OK, because the role of a romance junkie (while rarely boring) is also not what you’d call desirable.
Nevertheless, it is very commonly assumed in today’s morally bankrupt world of fast encounters and loose arrangements (it should go without saying this is directly correlated to persisting themes in popular culture over the last, say, half a century, but we won’t delve into that) so I’m not ashamed to identify as one…and if someone reading this happens to, neither should they.
To the point, then. I see this video and myself in it, and it doesn’t take long to discover that the only real difference between the boy on camera and the man watching is a significant disparity in quantity and breadth of cajones lying plainly in favor of the three year old.
I’ll be the first to admit I still get anxious as bloody hell around pretty girls, let alone beautiful women — if you don’t already know, take my word for it, there is a marked difference between the two. And the most frustrating thing about the video (apart from seeing my technique in action, which is a unique form of torture no man should ever have to bear) was seeing for myself just how deeply rooted and far back my addiction to romance goes.
Granted, there was a certain pleasure involved in witnessing the joie de vie of two star-crossed toddlers sharing their first encounter (presumably, at least…I’m not entirely sure how shall we say active either of us was in those days). I will also concede that there was some affect inspiration evoked as a result of the kiss’ ephemeral beauty and simplicity, along with the bizarrely adult composure with which it was promptly succeeded.
At day’s end, though, the most compelling mindfuck of all was realizing that I’m still that kid, somewhere inside.
And there’s a strange comfort in that.