Growing Up Juju (part 16 in a series)

Powdered sugar was on my lips as he leaned in and planted a big one! His name was Greg, it was May of 1974 and we were standing in the parking lot of his father’s sign shop. It was my first kiss…I kissed a boy.

You remember your first kiss, don’t you? I think we all do…but this one was special and the memory is steadfast for me because it was the first and LAST time I kissed a boy. My experimental phase, if you will…I was a sixth grader with a secret and Greg wanted to go “steady.” Going steady back in the 70s meant if you were the girl you wore a silver bracelet on your left wrist. Chain-linked with a name plate…your “man’s” name inscribed in print or cursive. I walked the perimeter of Harrison Lane Elementary every morning with my betrothed.

The second thing you did if you were going steady at my school was walk around in circles in a pedestrian “cruise” to show off your coupling…a veritable parade of Chuck Taylors and Earth Shoes. My left wrist permanently stained green by the cheap bracelet…I did not mind, it actually matched the glow of my Mood ring.

I think Greg liked me because I wore T-shirts most days with my favorite fictional characters silk-screened on the front. The T-shirt shop was ubiquitous around that time, a fashion statement that said you didn’t really need fashion, but you watched TV. Faded jeans, a T-shirt, and a good pair of sneakers was about all I needed. The boys tended to favor the Dukes of Hazard or Fat Albert…I remember The Fonz being of particular interest to the girls. Wonder Woman debuted that year…yes, I had the shirt, along with Starsky & Hutch. I actually had a shirt in my rotation that just had a picture of Starsky’s red and white car on it, remember the hot Ford with the white stripe? I wanted the car, not him.

We all know what my secret was, no need to elaborate here. Just one comment for you guys with kids. Listen to them closely, they will tell you early on that they are queer…not only listen, but truly hear them. It might save years of secrets and torment, it might make a happier teenager.

I was sitting in the last period of the day, Mrs. Threadgill’s math class. Boy, that was brutal to make math the last class of the day! Greg passed me a note and asked if he might walk me home? Good grief, things are progressing…I thought that didn’t happen until junior high? I circled “yes” and sent it back across the room, it was a date.

The bell rang and we set off on the half mile trek to my house. Harrison Lane fed into Pipeline Road, which was our main street in Hurst, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. This was a date, we were stopping at Dunkin Donuts, Greg was buying us a treat!

I chose the chocolate cream filled, covered in powdered sugar. (still a personal favorite and a foreshadowing of my law enforcement career) He got a chocolate covered glaze, splurging for a tab of fifty-seven cents. We continued on across Pipeline Road, towards Acme Signs, a company owned by Greg’s father. We stopped in the parking lot as Greg was showing me something, I took a big ole bite out of my donut, sugar was plastered all over my face and had dropped down on my shirt…it was snowing on Mayberry RFD!

I turned to look back at Greg and he made his move! Our lips pressed in an exchange of donut toppings. I gasped and inhaled some powder, sending me back a step coughing and struggling for a clear breath! Not quite the romantic flashback most folks might have, no clouds parted, no symphony played. Just me and Greg swapping sugar…with books in our left hand and confections in our right.

Greg decided he wanted to go help his father and I that I could make it the rest of the way on my own. We walked concentrically for about 2 more weeks before I had to give the bracelet back. That summer at the softball field I saw Jennie Miller wearing it, her wrist clashed with her bright orange uniform.

I was not upset by any part of the experience. It got me street-cred, so to speak, at school…my cover was probably good for another year or so. In reality, Greg wasn’t in my top 20 of people who I wanted to kiss. Number one on the list was still my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Dennard. She was 38 years old, I know because I asked her one day playing four-square. She knew I was crushing on her…all teachers know when a kid loves them. That made it all the better, she knew my secret and was very tender in her dealings with me. I sent her a letter when I graduated college, thanking her for being an outstanding teacher and for protecting the heart of a queer little girl.

I remember arriving home that day. My mother greeted me and asked how my day went? I told her I ate a donut and kissed a boy. “You know that I really don’t approve of you doing that Julie!” was all she said. I promise mother, I won’t kiss him again until I am older. No, that’s okay…that is part of life, just lay off the donuts, will ya?” She already knew abstaining from the donuts was the harder challenge for me.


12 responses to “Growing Up Juju (part 16 in a series)

  1. Love the story, reminds me of my own flashbacks to the 70’s.

  2. You really know how to write a good story. That was adorable !

  3. I wonder how many of the women I crushed on as a kid were aware of my feelings… ?

    Thank goodness for supportive teachers!

  4. I found your blog from the link on the 1,000,000 Million/Support page on Facebook and this was such a great way to start my day. I hope that if my daughter is gay, she will feel as supported as you did by your teacher and your mother. I hope she will always feel free to be her true self.
    Keep writing and I will definitely keep reading.

  5. hey.. I think I left you a message earlier, so I do not want this to be a repeat. But, I had a hard time growing up. Not because I was different… but because I was the same. I had blond hair, blue eyes. My friends were all wanting something else.. but not me. I loved my friends for everything that they are and were and wished that I could be as strong as they were/are. but all through high school, all I wanted was for some one to love me for being the one girl who loved a boy……

  6. ps… I loved your blog

  7. I found a link to your story on the facebook page “Let’s get 10 million people to support same sex marriage”. I thought your story was very well written and was a lovely trip down memory lane.(Even though my memories didn’t start till the 80’s ) I am really glad that you had a understanding teacher that protected your feelings, it sounds as if your mother might have know your secret but was unable to admit it to herself yet.

  8. That was a really open story, very well told aswell. I think a lot of people can relate to those not-really-clear feelings in that time.
    I loved it, thanks.

  9. Great story! Confident, witty and well told. I loved it.

  10. Same kind of story, I married that 1974 date and I’m trying to find one of those bracelets, any idea where to buy those???

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