by Abby Margolis Newman
I have to confess: I was a witness to my teenage son's first kiss, and it was bizarre, to say the very least. There he was, pulling the girl close to him with one hand, tenderly caressing her jawline with the other... and then, the kiss. It was fairly brief, but then as soon as he pulled away, she threw her arms around his neck and pulled him in for a much bigger smooch. My first thought was: wow, that's a beautiful girl; my son could have done a whole lot worse. Then I thought: Oh my god! That's my son, kissing a girl!
No, I wasn't hiding under the bleachers at the high school, spying on him. My 14-year-old son, Aaron, was on stage, under bright lights and in front of an audience when this kiss occurred: he was playing Captain von Trapp in a production of "The Sound of Music," and the beautiful girl was the actress playing Maria. As Aaron drew this girl toward him for that first kiss, my palms broke out in sympathy sweat. I worried about his braces getting in the way. But he seemed cool as a cucumber and I thought: when did my little boy turn into a total stud? By the time the wedding scene rolled around and with it, of course, more kissing, it was only slightly less shocking.
Most parents, to be sure, don't actually witness their children's first kisses -- but most first kisses don't happen quite so publicly (nor do most teenagers get to rehearse their kisses ahead of time). There was something almost surreal about watching Aaron in this play; he was so weirdly man-like, his broad shoulders filling out the costume jackets perfectly (and yes, he would die of embarrassment if he ever read this). He played Von Trapp, a very stern captain in the Austrian Navy who has seven children and a deceased wife, and whose steely exterior is slowly melted by the charms of the fair Maria. So I watched, fascinated, as Aaron expertly twirled Maria around the stage, one hand behind his back. Another shocking moment: Dancing? I thought. Who is this boy?
I know this is going to sound incredibly corny but: when did this child, who was just playing with Legos when I last checked, turn into a man-like creature who kisses girls? And who is, went the backstage gossip, the object of several crushes on the part of tween girls in the cast? One mom pulled me aside, laughing, to tell me her middle-school daughter is "in love with Aaron," and that she actually clipped his photo out of the program -- the better to moon over, apparently, or slip under her pillow.
The other night, my husband casually asked Aaron, "So, was Maria a good kisser?" I never expected him to answer -- so when he, just as casually, said "Yes," I almost fell off the couch.
I'm pretty sure -- no, make that 100% sure -- Aaron has not actually kissed a girl when not in character. And I wonder: will his kissing "practice" make it easier for him when the real thing rolls around? For his sake, I hope so... but I also know it'll be a whole new ballgame when he kisses a girl because he likes her and because he wants to, and not because it's written into a script (Act II, Scene 1: "Captain and Maria kiss"). My cool-as-a-cucumber man-child will inevitably feel the teenage awkwardness, the insecurity, the sweaty palms. But maybe some voice inside him will say: no problem, dude, you've been here before. You've rehearsed this. You're prepared. And maybe by then, his braces will be off.
And most importantly, his mom won't be watching.