You could say that I’m a bit of a late bloomer – I got my first period later than most of my friends and my boobs were relatively smaller than most, which when you are 13 is an incredibly big deal.

It was the same for my first kiss. During my first year of high-school most of my friends were starting to go to school socials – dancing with boys (eek!) and yes some of them were even kissing boys. I lived a pretty sheltered life and wasn’t always allowed to go to the ‘wild’ parties that all my friends went to.

I remember a particular Monday morning at school when one of my closest friends Megan whispered to me during English class that she had kissed a boy called Mark at a party that she went to on the weekend. The news shocked me – I remember feeling strange and alone and that all of a sudden I was different. Everyone else was experiencing all these new, exciting and adult things that I wasn’t part of. That Monday all the talk during class was about this ‘fantastic’ party where Megan had had her first kiss. I felt isolated since I had nothing to say and I felt embarrassed since kissing was about as foreign to me as rollerblades to whales. No-one had spoken to me about it and I had no idea that it would make me feel so awkward and uncomfortable being one of the few girls in my peer group to have “Never Been Kissed”.

Slowly the kissing games increased and more and more of my friends had their first kisses, second kisses, third kisses and more… Some of these kisses turned to fleeting relationships or one week-long crushes where all the girls would rally together and make “signs” of the chosen boys name to stick into their diaries for that week. When the girls asked me “What name can we make for a “sign” for you?” I’d always mumble something awkward like “it’s a secret” and try to change the subject.

The kissing hype gradually wore off which temporarily made me feel better since it felt less like all the girls were interrogating and questioning one another just to check that their kissing catcher stories were true. I tried to stay out of the kissing-catcher topics of conversation which was difficult since at an all girls testosterone-deprived high-school, boys are generally the most common topic of conversation.

In my third year of high-school one of my friends Laura and I, were selected to go on an international exchange program to London. In the school vacation before we were to leave for England, we decided to have a farewell party at Laura’s house. It had been a summer of sun, lazy days by the swimming pool and spending a lot of time with our growing gang of friends fondly self-named “the rowdy crowd”. The ‘rowdy crowd’ included all the ‘kids’ from the area – most of which had been to the same small co-ed junior school but had moved onto way bigger single sex high-schools. We all spent the days all jokingly flirting with each-other, walking around the town together, having video evenings, (braais) and generally falling in and out of love-crushes in a incest-friend kind of way. For most girls in our little group I would have to say that Manfred was alpha-male of the clan. Half Italian, broodingly good-looking, funny, charming, intelligent, super-caring and a touch of arrogance, that made the package just right. Bearing in mind that he had kissed nearly all the girls in this little ‘rowdy crowd’ it didn’t stop me from falling girl-giddy head over heels for him. He was the Rowdy Crowd King.

Anyway, a few boys and lots of girls from our school were invited to this farewell to come and say goodbye to us before we left. Laura and I had decided on matching United Kingdom attire which alleviated the stress of trying to find something suitable and “peer-group-approved” to wear. That night there was hushed whisperings between all my friends and I gathered that something was happening. Towards the end of the night Megan told me that she thinks Manfred is going to kiss me. I felt nervous and delighted and simultaneously strangely nauseous. How will I know what to do? What if I’m not ready for this? What if he thinks I’m terrible? Is he going to tell all his friends? What will happen afterwards? Does he really want to kiss me or is this just something my friends have organised because they think it’s about time that I kissed a boy?

In the midst of my brain firing these gut-churning questions and me getting rapidly more paralytic, I hadn’t noticed that Manfred had approached and was already saying that he had a farewell present to give me. I was already sweating with anxiety and I didn’t have time to even think about backing out. Before I realised what was happening he took my hand and led me outside. It was a night full of stars and half-Italian King Manfred was with me in the garden. We sat and talked alone for a while and thinking back now I have realised that King Manfred with all his Italian charm and bravado, in his young 17 years was just as nervous as me. Finally he mustered up the line that he had planned for a few days, “I have a farewell gift to give you, it’s not finished – but I’d like to give you the first part now.” I looked puzzled and asked what it was since I noticed he didn’t have anything in his hands. To which he replied, “This” and then he kissed he.

My mind blacked out and everything went very dark, I wasn’t sure what was happening. It was slobbery and wet and I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right and I felt panicked and giddy and excited and sick simultaneously. It was a magical moment. I loved him. It wasn’t only a girlhood crazy summer holiday butterfly-fested crush, it was a real and deep love. We are friends to this day and I know I will always have a deep and lasting love for him as one of my closest friends and also as the boy who rescued me from being the odd one out.

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