Growing up in the 70’s meant being completely lost when it came to social norms regarding the opposite sex. We had no YouTube to direct us. No Facebook to share embarrassing moments with the world. Everything that happened to us was all cause + effect = learning experience. My mother didn’t teach me much past what the “f” word meant and where my vagina could be located. All great information for when I became sexually active, but not helpful to an eight-year-old already thinking that boys were kissable.
Elvis Presley died in 1977. I remember that day the same way the Baby Boomers recall President Kennedy being shot and killed. I was young, but knew Elvis’s songs, his movies, his famous gyrations. After the television news disclosed Elvis’s untimely passing, I heard the howls of my teenaged neighbors downstairs. They bawled, “Why? Why?” and sank into despair. Curious, I held my ear against the wall, a trick my dad taught me sans the carefully placed glass he usually had pressed in-between, and tried to understand how a man they never met could bring unparalleled sorrow.
The next summer, my neighbors’ cousin came into town. A teen boy that imitated Elvis right down to the hip-flip. Whispers abounded. He would put on a show in their apartment. Everyone come watch! He sounded just like Elvis. And he was nearly as dreamy. Housewives, mothers, friends, family…come watch this Elvis impersonator put on a show no one should miss!
I don’t remember if Mom dragged me there or if I wanted to go. I do remember hiding outside the apartment days prior, peering through the neighbor’s drapes to watch the boy rehearse. He was beautiful. Dark hair, narrow hips, brooding eyes. Watching him was mesmerizing. So, perhaps I begged Mom to take me with her to watch the show. At any rate, I was part of a circle of females. It seemed the room was packed with people, me being the youngest. Someone turned on a record player, and the performance began.
He had a microphone. And sang along with the crooning voice of Elvis, melding their melodies so that you couldn’t tell which one was Elvis, which one was the cute, teen boy. He had on a blue and white jumpsuit, studded with rhinestones that glittered like stars in a dark night sky. As he sang, he grasped women’s hands, stared into their eyes. The women swooned. Melted. It didn’t matter that many of them were old enough to be his mother…and one of them probably was…they had all turned into a steamy, hot pool of desire. I, despite not having developed any usable hormones at the time, fell under his enchanting spell as well. I watched him mimic Elvis’s moves, both alluring and mysterious to me all at once.
When the last song ended, someone turned off the record player and applause echoed off every corner of the room. But…he wasn’t quite finished. Nope. He went around the circle, kissing the women on the cheeks or on the lips, dependent on their relationship to him. I watched him kiss the younger women on the lips, and both envy and awe stirred in my groin. I wondered if he would kiss me, or skip me because of my youth.
When he reached me, he took my hand, just as he did the other women, and titters came from the amused guests. He smiled. It was all the encouragement I needed. I leapt like a starved tiger let out of a cage and mashed my lips against his, making sure that kiss was good and planted. He startled. Fell back. Laughter erupted from the women. My face grew hot. Was I not supposed to have done that? Mortified, I pretended I hadn’t just accosted this teenager in a provocative, tight jumpsuit. I lowered my face, stared at my lap.
He probably finished his kisses around the circle, but I didn’t look up to see. There’s nothing worse than going for the gold only to realize everyone thought I was more precious than the rare metal.
Somehow, I made it out of there without revealing the humiliation that decorated my face like poison ivy. I slipped upstairs to my apartment and into the solace of my bedroom. I grabbed a Barbie and a Ken doll. They went on a platonic date in Barbie’s yellow motorhome. I pretended I never kissed a teenage Elvis impersonator in front of all my neighbors, their friends, and my mother. And when Mom returned home, she pretended along with me. She never once mentioned the kiss. Or how “adorable and smitten” I’d been.
And even though we didn’t have phones that recorded every embarrassing move, thank goodness, it still plays out in my head. My first kiss. The shocked recipient. And the pleased feeling that I’d gotten closer to making out with Elvis than anyone my age ever would. YouTube and Facebook be damned.