“Mom, guess what?” she says as she clambers into the front seat. It still kills me that she’s old enough to sit in the front.
“What?” I say as I absently turn the key to start the engine.
“I had my first kiss!”
Well, OK, so she’s almost 13. I was the same age when I had my first kiss. It happened in my basement. Loverboy blasted from the yellow boom box while we roller skated across the cool, gray concrete, racing back and forth between my dad’s workbench and the tattered gold carpet rolled up against the back wall. Out of breath, I plopped down on the rug, laughing. When he sat down next to me, his knee touched mine and stayed there. My heart beat wildly as he leaned in and planted his mouth on mine. The next few seconds were a sloppy mess that left me giddy and, to be truthful, a little nauseated.
I did not tell my mom. I didn’t even tell my best friend for, like, a week. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to like being kissed like that or embarrassed about it. Was I now like those other seventh grade girls, with the long feathered hair and red Dr. Scholl’s, who kissed on the regular? Did I need to trade in my Lip Smackers for Kissing Potion? I had a lot to sort through. In the meantime, I kept the delicious secret of that lip lock in my heart, and probably a few other body parts, where I could bask in its thrill in private.
This is not how my daughter operates. Before I can respond, she’s furiously typing on her phone. It’s no doubt a group missive of some kind because why share with just one “friend” when you can inundate the virtual masses with your seconds-old news right now? I want to interrupt her, tell her to savor this experience for just a little bit longer, but I’m as much a real-time junkie as she is. Our social media outlets might not cross over much, but our reason for engaging is the same: a desire to connect.
This craving, especially with peers, especially when you’re a teenager, is nothing new. But not everything has to be shared—not with hundreds of virtual friends, not with one close friend, not even with your mom. I want my daughter to know that keeping some of our stories close and delighting in the way we alone respond to and recall them, even as they fade into memories we only every now and then stumble upon in the maze of the brain and not on a screen, is a precious gift. I want her to feel all the emotions around her first kiss—the sweetness, the surprise, the inkling of desire, and if she’s anything like me, the mild gross out—without the distraction of what her friends think or the commentary of the online collective. I want her to own her experiences before sharing them with the world, both virtual and real. You can share a story anytime, but you can’t take it back.
I look over at my daughter with her long, caramel hair tossed over one shoulder, her face dimly lit by her screen.
“Wow, your first kiss,” I say. “That’s kind of a big deal.”
“Mmm, hmm,” she says, looking up, a small smile on her face.
I desperately want to ask her the details: French or peck? A boy she likes or just an acquaintance? Spin the Bottle or a stolen moment? I want to grab her hands and say, “Tell me everything!”
Instead I put the car in reverse. “You know I’m here whenever you want to talk about anything,” I say. “Or not.”
“Yeah, I know you are, Mom,” she says. She glances down at her screen one more time before clicking it off, then turns to stare out the window at the dark night sky.
We drive home in a cozy silence, both of us lost in the secret stories of ourselves.