It was my seventh grade year and fall had cast its spell on everyone in the booming metropolis of Pope, MS (population 246). At school we were busy planning our annual Halloween carnival. A cakewalk, games, pony rides, and even a marriage booth had all been planned, but the most anticipated attraction every year was the haunted house.
Usually the excitement that surrounded this carnival staple was prompted by the idea of being scared out of our minds, but this year there was a different sort of electricity associated with it. This was the year the “power couples” in eighth grade issued an edict: you must enter the haunted house with your boyfriend/girlfriend, and you must kiss.
This wasn’t a big deal for the couples of eighth grade. Most of them had been locking lips for quite some time. Actually, it didn’t really affect most of the lovebirds in seventh grade either. The majority of them had kissed at least once and had moved on to practice makes perfect. There was only one couple left who had yet to cross that threshold: my boyfriend and me.
The only practice I had ever had at kissing was with the mirror at home; so needless to say, I was petrified. My boyfriend, on the other hand, had kissed a girl in first grade, so he was experienced. Feeling that communication was key in our relationship, I confessed my apprehension about my lack of skills to my dearly beloved. He was quick to console me.
“I got this,” he said with an upward nod.
Young and in love, I trusted him. After all, he was my man.
The day of the carnival the excitement was palpable. Consumed by a tidal wave of dread and teenage angst, my mind raced. What if I don’t do it right? What if he doesn’t like the way I kiss? What if… And then it was too late. The bell rang dismissing us for the carnival.
I got caught in the mad dash like a salmon swimming upstream and before I knew it, I found myself in the gym. There was my boyfriend, standing right in front of the haunted house. I took my place in line next to him behind five other couples, and before I could chew the flavor out of my Wrigley’s spearmint gum, it was our turn.
Holding hands, we stepped into the netherworld of the transformed locker room. Before the doors even shut, he went in for the kill. Right there between dead prom girl and teenage wreck victim, with the love song of the chainsaw playing sweetly in the background, and perfect strobe lighting, he kissed me… and missed. The kiss he had intended to land right in the center of my lips glanced off the corner of my mouth and slid down my face.
Relieved, I followed him through the depths of hell until we emerged once again into the gym. Avoiding eye contact, we stood in silence. Then he spoke,
“Darn strobe light.”
Sparked by the passion with which my man delivered this heartfelt diatribe, I was reminded of something Momma always told me.
“If at first you don’t succeed, dust ya tail off and try it again.”
Without ever looking his direction, I asked, “Wanna try again?”
“Yep,” he replied.
And off we went.
The second time, we got it right.
Why try again? The answer to that question is twofold: one, good Southern girls always listen to their mommas; and two, that’s how Southern girls roll!