Fictional Work Written by Kitri Sundaram ’21, Art by Sophie Otero ’21

One Christmas or Thanksgiving or something when I was a kid, my alcoholic great aunt went on a rant to me and a couple of my girl cousins about how the word childhood is so stupid, because there’s boyhood and there’s girlhood, and the “traumas,” as she called them, that girls experience growing up are so different from those of boys that there shouldn’t even be a word to lump them in the same category. I thought that was kind of dumb, and I now realize it’s also very gender normative – and everyone at my progressive liberal arts college would call it problematic, probably with good reason – but as I progressed through childhood, or girlhood, or whatever you want to call it, my appreciation for what she said grew. There are still shared experiences of childhood, sure, but for so many of us, aren’t the formative ones not really about childhood per se, but about girlhood or boyhood? Take, for instance, my first time making out with a guy (as long as the peck I shared with my mom’s college friend’s son at my 5th birthday party doesn’t count).

My first time making out with a guy, I was told I was a prude. I was 12 and at my favorite place in the world, my all-girls summer camp in the woods of New Hampshire. We had a few “socials” with boys camps every summer, meant to curb our raging hormones I suppose, or as I saw them, prime opportunities to acquire an exciting first kiss story to share upon my return to the real world, and middle school in September.

His name was Henry, and I did not really think he was attractive, but he was a boy and he was willing to kiss me, and I had decided I was ready to abandon my dream of a romantic first kiss under fireworks and accept that like most of my camp friends, I would awkwardly embrace a boy who probably hadn’t showered in a week, and we’d slow dance to a Flo Rida or Katy Perry song from which any vaguely sexual innuendos had been bleeped out, then he’d ask if I wanted to “go get some fresh air” or something, and we’d step onto the porch of the camp building that housed the makeshift dance floor, and he’d tell me he thought I was kinda cute. I’d flash my brace-face smile, and we’d let our lips meet for a second, then go back inside to tell all our friends we “hooked up,” and avoid eye contact with each other for the rest of the night.

For the most part, that’s what happened with Henry, except that when I tried to do the peck-and-pass-it-off-as-making-out thing, he told me “that’s not making out,” and said we had to do at least three seconds, or five, or fifteen or something, I don’t remember. He told me to use some tongue, but I thought that would be super gross. It dawned on me that I was probably not his first kiss, if he was so sure of how long the lip lock had to last, and that intimidated me. I told him I didn’t really want to, I just wanted to kiss a little, and he said, “don’t be such a prude.” I figured he was probably right, and I didn’t want to disappoint him, because then maybe he’d tell his friends I was lame and would regret not going for someone else, so I took a deep breath, prayed the gum we hoarded in our bunk was doing its job, and let him slobber all over me for however many seconds until finally I couldn’t stand how far his tongue was going, and I pulled away. He moved his hands near my butt while we made out, and I figured that’s how it was done (I knew to put my arms around his neck, a friend had told me that’s what you always do), but found it risqué nonetheless that he “squeezed my butt,” as I relayed to my friends minutes later.

The whole ordeal was kind of gross, and not as easy as I thought it would be, but overall I was pleased with myself for obtaining a first kiss. I had gotten it over with, and no longer ran the risk of entering eighth grade, let alone high school, never having been kissed (ignoring the fact that plenty of my friends had never kissed anyone, and basing  my standards off Degrassi and other shows I was just on the cusp of understanding, from which I had extracted that it would be very embarrassing and definitely a big deal!).

I was left with a sort of uncomfortable feeling about the whole thing, but the beauty of all-girls summer camp was that I would rub off the dash of mascara I had donned for the event, put on a big pajama shirt and pimple cream, and rehash with my friends before another day of running around the bunk half-naked and stuffing our faces with illicit candy that our home friends had carefully hidden in care packages, relishing whatever time was left of the summer before we had to return to the real world of boys and bras and puberty. Before we had to return to the distinct discomfort and insecurity that is girlhood, as my great aunt repeated about six times right before she passed out on the couch with a lit cigarette still dangling from her mouth. Oh and it was definitely Christmas not Thanksgiving, because the whole thing started with her bit about how Santa can get away with being fat, how people find him endearing, and leave him cookies and milk, but if he were a woman, well, then that’d be a whole different story and people would probably make subtle comments about how he’d look so great if only he lost a couple pounds, and that he’d probably prefer carrots or something to cookies, because he was probably trying to lose weight… Or she, she’d probably be trying to lose weight, I guess.