My 1st Kiss

My 1st Kiss

My cheeks were burning up, maybe because I was about to get my first kiss? And not just a kiss from any boy…a kiss from Andy Kent, the 11th grader I’d had a mad crush on for all of ninth grade! But then again maybe my cheeks were just burning up from all the stage lights?

For all of the rehearsals up until that point, when we got to that part of the play, instead of kissing me, Andy would just say “And now…” and he would make a kissing sound by sucking in his puckered lips. But that night was the dress rehearsal, and Mrs. Imhoff instructed us before we started, “And now, Andy and Jenny, it’s time for you to really kiss.”

So, when the time came, I sat still and Andy leaned over and kissed me in front of Mrs. Imhoff and the stage crew and half a dozen student actors who were waiting around for their turn to perform. With his lips against mine, the first thought that flashed into my mind was: bologna. It felt and tasted like bologna.

Afterwards, my best friend, Jenny, asked me what it had been like. I don’t remember what I told her.

But I remember what she told me: “From the audience it looked like what you would think it would look like…”

“Yeah, like what?”

“Well, like, inexperienced.”

Ms. Hyman and Mr. Garman had decided to set up a discussion group for a handful of ninth graders to talk about their lives. That group was hands-down one of the highlights of the nine years I spent at Friends School.

The topics were heavy. We talked about our classmate and my friend Aliza Cohen* who had attempted suicide the year before (and who would be found dead under mysterious circumstances following a drug deal a few months later).

Aliza’s suicide attempt sparked a particularly stormy conversation about whether a person should have the right to choose to commit suicide. (The other kids said “Yes.” I said “No.”)

And, or course, we talked about boyfriends and girlfriends. This one talked about her boyfriend and that one talked about his girlfriend.

And looking around one afternoon I realized I was the only one in the entire group who wasn’t dating somebody.

And I remember confessing to the group, “I feel so much pressure to have a boyfriend. And it makes me wonder…Because when I was twelve I also felt under so much pressure to have a boyfriend. And now I look back and think Wow, I was only TWELVE! Why did I feel so much pressure to already have a boyfriend? It just makes me wonder if one day I’ll also think it was crazy that I felt so much pressure to have a boyfriend at the age of fourteen?”

My classmates and Ms. Hyman and Mr. Garman looked at me blankly and sad nothing.

In eleventh-grade English class some girls were performing a short humorous play they had written up.

One girl confessed, “You know, I’m still a virgin…”

Her friend, Leslie, comforted her, “Oh no, don’t feel bad! There’s nothing wrong with that!”

The girl whimpered (as Leslie giggled behind the script that she held over her face red with laughter), “But what’s wrong with me…A 16-year-old virgin!”

I looked around at my classmates, wondering if I was the only virgin left in the entire room. I wasn’t sure, but nonetheless I felt a paranoid suspicion that Leslie behind her shaking script was actually laughing at me.

At the age of 21 I met a nice boy who became my first serious boyfriend. And then 18 years ago that same boy became my husband b”H.

Which, in retrospect, makes me wonder…what was the point exactly of all the heartbreaking boyfriends and backseat encounters followed by the inevitable breakups that all my highschool classmates rollercoastered through?

In the end, it turned out, all those years spent as the loooooooser ultimately made me the winner.
Last week I told my 16-year-old daughter that I received my first kiss on a stage. Her reaction matched my own: disbelief.

There are so many reasons I feel grateful to be living a religious life. I feel grateful for Shabbos and the holidays and the light of Torah and the ability to touch the Divine through a silent prayer and a single mitzvah.

But I also feel so grateful to be raising my children in a society that is so different than the one I grew up in:

A society of happy, confident 14-year-old girls who don’t have a crush on anybody.
A society of happy, confident 15-year-old girls who have never had a boyfriend and don’t plan to have one any time soon.
A society of happy, confident 16-year-old girls who are still virgins, and wouldn’t dream that it could be any other way.

To be raising my children, for a change, in a society that is sexually sane, b”H.


  1. B”H! Thank you SO much for this wonderful article! I will be sharing it with my 11 year old daughter! <3

  2. I so agree with you. Of course, the problem in society is ever so much worse now than when you or I were teens. Even in religious circles there was some shock at how popular Gila Manolson’s book, The Magic Touch, was. Probably not in Nachlaot, but many other places teens still wanted (needed) to read a book supporting them in not getting physical. My publishing company has just issued a version of that book, with new material as well, for a broader audience, especially those who wouldn’t read a “Jewish” book. It’s called, Hands Off! This May Be Love, and we are getting a great reaction to it.

  3. Chana Jenny, I was frankly shocked at your courage in publishing this article. I could relate to it in so many ways. One of your best, most honest and inspiring pieces! Thank you for this!

  4. I’m curious to know how the subject of your first kiss came up with your daughter ?

    As it is written somewhere: better to be a fool our entire life than have even one second of shame in shamayim……

    How I wish I’d been friends with someone like you when I was 16 ….. and 17, and 18, and 19 ……

    • it came up since my daughter’s 10th grade class performed a play about a couple (played by two girls) that was dating and about to marry. And her high school decided it was too “romantic” to perform for the local junior high, as they do most years. So I told hadas what I did in MY highschool play, and said a huge “ashrenu mah tov chelkenu”

      • That is just the most amazing hashgacha. By raising your daughter in Torah her life took a different path at the same juncture. You have done a very great tikkun!! Ashreych!!

  5. Why did you act differently than the rest of your classmates? Was it your home? Or did you feel inside you that it was wrong?

    • I really don’t know. But maybe it has something to do with my family and the incredible marriage my parents have, B”H. All three of us kids were high school looooooosers (on the romantic front), and now all of us are happily married– again b”H.

  6. Debbie Shapiro

    What a beautiful peice. I, too, always felt like a looser, but that’s why today, baruch Hashem, I’m a winner. Very courageous of you to write this.

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