At twenty-two, I had never kissed anyone outside of a nightclub.
It played on my mind. A lot. Maybe it was just never meant to happen for me. I would be one of those people that never had a partner, was single at 35. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, all my twenty-two-year-old brain saw in that was a lonely person whose wishing and wanting went unanswered. My trajectory was loneliness.
And I didn’t like it.
Then finally, it happened.
Well, it didn’t just happen. You have to go out and find these things. Which was something I don’t think I quite understood. You have to take a step outside the warmth and safety net of longing and wanting and into the space of ‘doing’.
And so, it happened. The first time I kissed a girl. After a few seconds, I told her as much.
I pulled back, “I’ve actually never done this before”. It seemed an embarrassing admission, to have never kissed a girl.
We’d met on hinge a few weeks before. We’d chatted most days, followed each other on Instagram, you know, the usual. I’d flicked backwards and forwards though each of her social media platforms, trying to piece together who she was. She was twenty-one, eighteen months younger than me, and that made me nervous. Was I too old to be doing this? To be going on my first date with a girl? Was this some kind of cry for help?
She caught the train in, and I walked to meet her at Richmond station. I shook with nerves as I approached her. As soon as I saw her, though, I was at ease.
Her eyeliner was impeccable. I was intimidated by it. She knew what she was doing. I’d been trying since I was fifteen to make mine look like that.
She was excitable, sweet, welcoming. She gave me a huge hug. She even said she liked my outfit, which, if you’re gay, you know is a very hot thing to say (I’m not even joking, it’s a thing, I promise).
We found a place to sit on the grass, laid out the snacks we’d both brought, poured some wine into plastic cups, and got to chatting.
Turns out she was just like me. ‘Newly’ bi. Figuring things out. What a relief.
She got a call from her dad a couple of hours in. One of her family’s German shepherds was at the vet and very unwell. It forced a moment of sober emotion, a moment of connection, I think.
We poured more wine, and the bottle was soon empty. I was feeling the alcohol, but in a nice, safe, giddy way.
One of us needed desperately to pee, I can’t remember who. Probably me. We walked along Swan St towards the servo, and she suggested we grab some more wine at the bottle-o on our way. It was the best idea I’d ever heard.
I remember being slightly intimidated when she asked the store attendant if they had a specific label. This girl knows wine labels? My usual strategy was to walk in, choose which of the under $10 bottles I wanted, and then loiter a little to make it look like I’m actually invested in my decision. Maybe force a pensive look or two, like I’m weighing up the pros and cons. To be honest I think I’d only ever talked to the attendant when I needed vodka from the spirits cabinet. And here was this girl, chatting with the guy behind the counter about which wine labels they stocked and in which stores. I stood there in awe.
We drunkenly stood waiting for each other outside Swan St BP while the other used the bathroom. I think we both probably had that moment where we looked at ourselves in the dirty servo bathroom mirror, quite drunk, and asked ourselves silently if we knew what we were doing. I can’t speak for her, but I sure didn’t.
We found another park nearby, and opened our new bottle.
“So how did you figure out you were gay?” I asked. I was feeling courageous at this point, mostly because of the five or six glasses of wine I’d consumed.
“TikTok” she half laughed. “SAAAME” I replied.
This was a comforting moment. Someone else who wholeheartedly believed they were straight before they were locked inside their house for a year and forced to contemplate their own sexuality against their will? A miracle if I’d ever heard one. Another moment of connection.
Mario kart is brought up in conversation. I can’t remember how. A cliché, I know. Her friend has a Nintendo Switch, and Mario kart, she says. We must play. Now.
We somehow end up at her friend’s house in Oakleigh. I have vague memories of haphazardly topping up my myki and catching the train. We sat in seats opposite each other, leaning in, whispering and chatting for the whole journey.
Was this actually happening? Was I going home with someone after a date? I couldn’t be. All of the dates I had ever been on had ended with me feeling confused and deflated. Why didn’t I like him? Why did it never work for me? Why didn’t I feel anything at all? But here I was, actually excited to be in someone’s company. Something had clicked into place.
I had made big promises about my being a Mario kart prodigy before we arrived, and thankfully I managed to pull out a spectacular win. Finally, the thousands of hours I’d spent racing Yoshi on my pink Nintendo DS Lite when I was 11 had finally paid off. To be honest though, at this point I was too drunk to care.
Her friend went to bed, and we settled in together on the couch to watch Bridgerton. Well, watched is a loose word. My head was tucked in the crook of her neck, my weight resting on the side of her chest. We stayed like that, a little tensely, for five minutes or so. We both knew what was coming, but each of us was too scared to make the first move.
Eventually, I shakily turned my head to face her, and she kissed me.
It was the first time I’d ever kissed someone and wanted it to keep going. Like I was supposed to be there. It was a relief. A weight taken off my shoulders. A burning question answered.
Thinking about it later, I got a little angry. This was an experience that most people have when they’re sixteen. Why did I have to wait so long? Why was I confused for so many years? How much time had I lost?
I wasn’t angry at myself, no. I was angry at the circumstances. The world had convinced me I liked boys, that I was supposed to like boys. I would get a boyfriend. I would get my heart broken by a boy. I would marry a man. What’s taking me so long?
But I can’t stay mad about that. Here I was. I kissed a girl.
All was well.
*This article was submitted to A Modern Gay’s Guide by independent author, Julia Kittelty*