From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

Sweet-and-Sour Sixteen

If you can learn from hard knocks, you can also learn from soft touches.

Carolyn Kenmore

I was fifteen, soon to turn sixteen, and I felt pressured. I had never been kissed. I was certain I had to be one of the most backward, late-blooming teenagers there was, carrying around this terrible secret that might reveal itself at any moment—if I ever got a date.

My only consolation was that my best friend, Carol, was in the same predicament. She, too, feared the label “sweet sixteen and never been kissed.”

We spent that summer plotting ways to absolve ourselves by meeting guys and getting dates. We even went so far as to sign ourselves up for corn detasseling. For three hot, sweaty weeks in humid Iowa, we walked up and down cornfields with a busload of teenagers, mostly guys, and picked corn. There were water fights, romps through the fields, heady compliments and serious flirtations—but no dates.

Carol had her sights set on one promising candidate (he was at her side constantly), but when the last day of work came, he still had not asked her out. I think it was sheer frustration that drove her to tell him that she would be sixteen in two months and had never been kissed.

“You haven’t?” he asked. “That’s great! If you can go another two months without a kiss, you’ll be sweet sixteen, not sour sixteen!”

So much for that candidate.

By the end of the summer, we had pretty much given up on our quest. We went out for pizza with a group of girls in another town. We were sitting there laughing and having a good time when two of the girls noticed a group of guys at a nearby table. Before long all the other girls had joined in and it was a full-on flirting party.

Carol and I became annoyed. Sure, the guys were cute. Sure, they were looking at us, but this was our last night of the summer! We weren’t about to waste it on a group of guys who might send all kinds of positive signals then never make it to our table. We stomped outside to the parking lot to talk in peace. The guys followed us and asked if we knew the time.

They were even cuter close up. I tried not to stare at the one with dark, wavy hair and hazel eyes, but my eyes kept wandering back to him. His name was Cody.

The other girls soon joined us, and we talked with the guys as late as our curfews would allow. They arranged to meet us the next night at a park.

Somehow, the next night, we ended up paired off as couples. I found myself with Cody. He and I walked over to a monument in the park and sat down on it. Suddenly, anxiety overcame me. I realized that I was about to receive my first kiss, and I simply wasn’t ready for it. I burst into tears. Cody put his arm around me and asked what was wrong. I blurted out the whole tragic story of being sixteen and having never been kissed. Then, realizing how lame this must have sounded, I went for broke. I blurted out every negative thing that had ever happened in my life. By the time I was done, I was convinced he must have thought I was a total nutcase.

He looked at me for a few moments from under those long, dark eyelashes, then slowly brushed his lips against mine. The kiss was soft, quick and moist. I was just glad when it was over—and that I was away from home. No one needed to know the embarrassment I had just put myself through. I never bothered to tell him how he could reach me again, and he never asked.

The next day, the phone rang and my mom answered. “It’s for you,” she said, a startled look in her eyes. As I walked over she whispered, “It’s a boy!”

My heart went crazy. I managed to mumble a hello, and a male voice started talking. Cody! I felt as if my heart might burst out of my chest. Mom stared at me. I stared back. This was the first time that a boy who I cared about had called me.

I asked how he had gotten my number. He told me my girlfriend had given it to him and asked if I wanted to go out with him that weekend. He told me my girlfriend and his friend would be coming with us. “Would you like to go out with them?” he asked.

I’m not sure how I responded, but I know I accepted. I also said, “I never expected to hear from you again.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Well, after last night . . .”

“After last night, I think you’re the sweetest girl I ever met,” he said. There was a pause, then he added, “Someone has to sour you.”

Ronica Stromberg

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