I’ve taken a lot of Harry Potter Sorting Hat quizzes (including the official Pottermore one) and have universally been sorted into Gryffindor. This, of course, always prompts existential self-examination. Why Gryffindor? Why not Ravenclaw, House of the Bookworms, or Hufflepuff, House of the Relationally Oriented?
It’s always about this time that I remember: I am a Gryffindor in matters of the heart.
When I was in sixth grade, I had my first serious crush. He was short like me, devastatingly adorable, and had vaguely spiky hair. (This was circa 2004; spiky hair was in.) Rather than pining away and allowing it to fade with time–like a normal preteen–I got it in my head that the “brave” and therefore “right” thing to do would be to tell him how I felt.
I gave him a Valentine–a rose made out of ribbon. He threw it away.
But that was okay, I told myself. I had delivered it so sneakily, and I didn’t sign it lest my classmates see. Clearly he didn’t understand that I was declaring my feelings for him. If I had given him candy, maybe he would have reacted differently. I would simply have to take a more direct approach.
So, naturally, I told him over AOL Instant Messenger. (I cannot stress enough that this was the early 2000s. This was how such things were done.)
He didn’t return my feelings and let me down in the gentlest way possible: By telling me that he was going to ask out a girl who was a year younger than us and shared my first name.
For a few months, I was crushed. But, little did I know, I would go on to meet my next crush while volunteering at Vacation Bible School that summer, so the tragedy didn’t last forever.
The next crush presented a new tragedy entirely.
I had three serious crushes in high school. I cycled through them repeatedly, each one distracting me from the woes of the others. I enacted numerous grand gestures and even more grand denials. But nothing was nearly as tragic as my first kiss.
I was seventeen. It was New Year’s Eve. I’d liked him on and off since seventh grade. I’d even invited him to go to my junior prom, which he rejected. I had no delusions. I knew he didn’t like me.
And, truthfully, at that moment I didn’t particularly like him. But the boy I really liked had a girlfriend, and my best friend had a boyfriend and–and–
And all of my friends were going to have someone to kiss at midnight. Except me.
My friends encouraged me to go for it, to “give him the option,” that the world wouldn’t end if I initiated my first kiss. (I was super prude, and was convinced that kissing a boy without dating him was tantamount to sex. I was insane.) I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t do it.
Midnight came and went. We ran around the house barefoot, whooping and hollering, to ring in the new year. He ran next to me and gave me his sweatshirt. I didn’t do it.
Later, after regaining feeling to our toes, the others turned on reruns of SNL.
“I’ve never really liked this stuff,” he told me. “Want to watch a movie? I have a bunch on my laptop.”
We watched Boondock Saints. It was profane and wildly inappropriate, gory and hilarious. We shared earbuds, which necessitated sitting close together. He put his arm around me, but it went numb about halfway through the movie. I tried to hold his hand, but he batted me away. When it was over, we made some smalltalk: “Willem Dafoe is a nut,” “Irish accents make everything ten times funnier,” stuff like that. He laid down.
Everyone else in the room was asleep. (Or so I thought: Years later, it would come to light that this was not, in fact, the case. His best friend–who happened to be dating my best friend at the time–was awake, and bore witness to what follows.) Blood pounded in my ears. If I was going to do something colossally stupid, this was my moment.
“Hey, sit up.”
I grabbed his face and–
Well, I don’t remember the sensations of the rest. There was a rushing in my ears as I lunged for his mouth. Everything went black, so I must have closed my eyes. My lips and mouth felt completely dry, as if I hadn’t had drop of water all night. But I barely felt anything else. It wasn’t until I heard the clock striking four (a sound that seemed to be coming to me from underwater) that I even realized what I was doing.
I dropped my hands and pulled back, trembling, mortified. Exhilarated.
He wiped his mouth off.
I said something along the lines of “holycrapIcannotbelieveIjustdidthat” and he chuckled. I sat there, breathing, processing, as he laid down. A moment passed before he propped himself up on one elbow. His demeanor was suddenly sweet, gentle–so very unlike him.
“Look,” he said, “I don’t mind the kiss, but–”
“I know,” I interrupted. If he didn’t finish, I could let my brain fizzle over his voice saying the kiss! If he did, my memory of this night would be subsumed by the second half of that sentence.
I didn’t sleep that night. I wanted to keep it a secret, to let it fade into history. A silly thing that happened at four in the morning at a New Year’s party. My best friend had other ideas–but that’s a story for another day.