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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

The New Year's Kiss

A kiss on the hand might be quite continental
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend
Marilyn Monroe

When I was a teenager, a kiss was the only sexual act you dared to discuss with your mother. The popular girls doled out their kisses as if they were diamonds and the boys compared stories on how difficult it was to coax the nubile maidens of the day to offer their lips for osculation. If you were too eager and anxious to offer your affection (that is how we termed the naked lust our raging hormones poured into us) you were labeled fast, a killing term that seemed to spread faster than small pox through our mother’s telephone lines and over afternoon coffee. My mother impressed me with the terrible dangers of a kiss when I was twelve years old. “Never EVER kiss a stranger,” she told me. “Especially the handsome ones and those are the hardest to resist.. Kissing can give you disgusting diseases. Do you remember Mrs. Goodman’s daughter?”

“You mean the fat one with all the pimples?” I asked.

My mother nodded. “That’s the one,” she said. “She got that terrible skin because she let every boy in her class make love to her.”

“Did that make her fat too?” I asked.

My mother pursed her lips. “You could say that,” she said. “It was why she had to spend last winter with her Aunt Bertha in Ypsilanti.”

I paled. It wasn’t a week before this that Buddy Glazer had pinned me against the closet door and nuzzled his face against mine. I had pulled away from him because his breath was dense and thick as rotten crab shells. Only now did I realize how narrowly I had escaped the total destruction of my figure, and my complexion not to mention a six-month exile to some hick town where they didn’t have a movie theater.

Buddy Glaser was very good looking and every time I saw him my heart fluttered in a very disturbing way. I would have liked to do a lot more than kiss him but I wasn’t sure what procedures people did with handsome boys because my mother never got beyond the Kissing Threat. She must have thought that if I didn’t get kissed, I wouldn’t get caught. She made it very clear that there were no exceptions to her NO SMOOCHING rule. “When you get a little older, you can let the boys kiss your cheek IF they treat you to dinner and a movie, but never let any of them get near your lips, Lynn Ruth. That’s how you get those infections I was telling you about. I remember when I was young, Wanda Gruber let the boys kiss her so much she lost all her teeth.”

That convinced me. I had spent the last four years enduring braces on my teeth so I wouldn't have buck-teeth and I wasn’t going to lose them now because of one moment’s indiscretion. For the next three years, I allowed no member of the male species including the dog, to touch any part of me not protected by several layers of clothing. When I discussed my terror of the act with my friend Normie Odesky, she said, “Your mother is crazy, Lynn Ruth. If a guy is really cute looking and turns you on, you would be an idiot not to let him kiss you all he wants. Don’t you ever want to have babies?”

I paled. “You mean kissing does *that*, too?” I said. “I thought it just gave you pimples and destroyed your teeth. ”

Normie laughed. “You are talking about CHOCOLATE ,” she said.

“Oh no I’m not,” I said.

When I was fifteen years old, my mother permitted me to go out on chaperoned dates. I never forgot the disastrous consequences of my lips touching those of the male gender, of course. When my escorts brought me home from a movie or a dance, I shook their hands, bid them good night and galloped to the nearest sink to wash my hands with disinfectant soap. After all what if their hands had touched their lips?

That November I had begun going to parties with a boy named Larry Bershon. I wasn’t worried about the kissing problem with him because he was so homely, he couldn’t have turned on a snail. He was shaped like a large schmoo with a sagging tummy, a bald head and eyes that popped out of his head. His backside curve looked like a continuation of his stomach’s and his nickname was “Buckets” for reasons all to obvious if he was ever viewed from the rear. That was why I accepted his offer to take me out New Year’s Eve. My mother had said it was handsome boys who presented the real danger to my health. Boys that looked like cartoon characters were no problem. It was easy to say no to them.

My mother must have agreed with me because she was delighted that Larry was taking me out that night. “Your father and I have a dinner party to go to, Lynn Ruth,” she said. “And Marsha is sleeping at Katrina’s house. I am so relieved that you’ll be with someone safe like Larry Bershon. His father is president of Lucas County Bank so be nice to him. Daddy would love to get that account.”

Larry appeared at our door at nine o’clock dressed like a penguin. I had on my silver taffeta strapless dress with the permanent pleated bodice so no one would know what was me and what was wadded cotton. He looked me over with a decidedly salacious leer and said, “You look good enough to eat, Lynn Ruth.”

I sensed danger ahead. “I had been counting on our both eating steaks and baked potatoes.”

“We can do that first,” said Larry. ”You can be my dessert and I’ll be yours.”

There were four couples waiting for us at the Secor when we arrived and we ate, danced and ordered ginger ale that we spiked with bourbon from the paper bagged bottle Larry had tucked in his coat pocket. The hours melted away until the band played Auld Lang Syne and Larry wrapped his arms around me to welcome 1950.

This was it! I was about to receive my very first safe kiss. I wrapped my arms around his neck sure that any loving I got from this funny looking person would do me absolutely no harm. The bells rang, the drums rolled and everyone yelled, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

Larry looked back at the table and unwrapped my arms from around his neck. “Hurry Lynn Ruth!” he said. “The waiter just brought our dessert! If we get there before the others come back, we can eat their portions too! My mother says this is the best chocolate cake on the planet.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. After the half dozen bourbons and ginger ales I had downed, Larry Bershon looked very handsome to me and I knew what that meant. I looked at the cake and frowned “There’s no ice cream on mine,” I said. “I asked for a la mode.”

“Just eat what they served you, “ said Larry. “You wont be disappointed. “

The two of us managed to finish off four helpings before everyone returned to the table and then Larry pulled me to him and gave me my very first kiss. It was warm and sweet and very comforting. “You taste delicious!” I said and he smiled.

“That, Lynn Ruth,” is your a la mode.”

I hugged him and kissed him back. “And that’s yours,” I said. “Happy New Year.”

Kissing don’t last; cookery do
George Meredith


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