First Kisses

February 19, 2023 at 4:11 p.m.
Lois in 1954. This photo and the skirt Lois is wearing are part of a Smithsonian exhibition about teens in the 1950s.
Lois in 1954. This photo and the skirt Lois is wearing are part of a Smithsonian exhibition about teens in the 1950s. Lois Greene Stone

Remember those Valentine’s cards we once drew for our parents, with a huge red heart and an arrow through it? Those simply meant ‘love. When dating, ‘love’ took on a capital ‘L’ and these cards were saved in our special place.

World War II was over. Pepsi Cola’s jingle ‘hits the spot’ with more ounces for our nickel, competed with Coca Cola’s famous hour-glass shaped bottle; the latter was easier to handle and prettier to look at. But Pepsi won out for my young-teen party.

I decorated the paneling in my family’s finished basement with cardboard hearts and arrows and cupids, and invited both boys and girls to a Spin the Bottle party.

It was my mother’s idea. This was certainly going to be less of a mess than the hay party I had for my horseback-riding friends as I brought in real bales of hay she had to clean up. Hay smelled, and there also were bugs left behind.

My mother explained the rules to me. It sounded so ‘wicked’ to my innocent yet partially-in-puberty ears. Boys and girls were to sit in a circle. The Pepsi bottle was spun by a boy and when the narrow neck pointed to a girl, he had to kiss her in front of everyone. Then a girl would spin, and the whole thing repeated.

Suppose he had zits or some pre-shaving coarse hairs on his face? These were going to be first kisses for most of us. My mother said, ‘so what.’ No one should embarrass anybody attending, or make faces, or go yuk, or refuse to kiss. Suppose the girl had awful breath, or dabbed too much of her mother’s perfume on? Same thing. Ground rules were called for. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but she explained.

Most homes didn’t have television, so none of us had seen kissing and hadn’t yet heard of French kissing. Thankfully, no saliva was even entering my thoughts as I hand-wrote invitations.

It was awkward. It was exciting. A kiss all courtesy of a glass bottle; its five-cent contents had to be removed before using it as a spinner.

Then there was Post Office. That seemed too adult to do when my mother explained how to play. I gave everyone a small piece of paper for letter written to one in the room that the writer really-really liked. I just knew who my letter was going to, and I was even nervous writing his name. We each ‘delivered’ our letters. A knotty-pine storage closet became a ‘private room.’ When the name on the letter saw the sender’s name, the couple had to go into the closet and kiss in the dark. Of course, everyone in the room giggled.

It was one thing to get a peck in front of the crowd, but the closet was just too personal. I was actually more nervous than elated when it was my turn. I liked that boy so much. Was I supposed to put my arms around him? I hadn’t asked my mother this. He barely put his hands on my waist, and I then hardly touched his as I tilted my head and puckered my lips. He must have felt just as strange, as his lips just brushed mine, and we opened the door at almost the same time. But the brushing lips felt ‘different’ from the kisses exchanged by the bottle’s point.

Some memories never leave us. Certainly memories of first kisses, or crushes, or even what’s called Puppy Love. My first semi-grown-up Valentine’s Day, held in the safety of my own house with my parents just upstairs in the kitchen, still lingers. Does yours?

This circle skirt Lois made is also on display at the Smithsonian


Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s current ‘Girlhood’ exhibit has a large showcase where Lois’ photo represents all teens from the 1950's; her hand-designed clothing and costume sketches are also displayed.

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