first kiss — and other teenage boys were jerks

My cousins were visiting one holiday — maybe Thanksgiving? — and a couple them — older teens — were outside my house when Stephen and I were playing. My cousins immediately started teasing me about having a boyfriend. At that time, Stephen and I always repeated over and over that we were too young to be boyfriend and girlfriend — but since he was a boy and was my friend, he was my “boy friend” and since I was a girl and was his friend, I was his “girl friend.” We tried to explain that to my cousins, who weren’t interested in doing anything but making fun of us at the time. They then started jeering “If he’s your boyfriend, give him a kiss!” There was much rolling of eyes from Stephen and me, but they wouldn’t stop. Finally, exasperated, I gave Stephen a peck on the cheek.

The cousins, of course, immediately went to my father and told him, loudly in front of all present, that I had been kissing Stephen. Dad was furious (he was fond of showing authority in front of family and friends when otherwise it was my Mom’s job to be the authority figure) and roared “LISA!” I tried to explain to him that it was a peck on the cheek, but was drowned out by everyone making fun of me yet again. As usual, I was safe from humiliation was not with my family, nor at school, but with Stephen.

He stood up for me when others did not. I’ve always been overweight, and Stephen is the only one that didn’t care. Some of the older boys in our neighborhood were Stephen’s friends, but Stephen knew better than to try to get us together as a group; they would have been merciless towards me. One hot summer day we were playing in Stephen’s backyard, and two of the guys came up to his back fence. Stephen had stepped inside for a minute, and the guys offered me what they said was an M&M. I took it from them, suspicious because it was smaller than usual and felt wet; they assured me it was just wet because it was so hot out. Stephen came out as I was walking away with it, and must have asked what was up because I heard them laughing. He turned and ran to stop me from eating it (I’d already tossed it away) because they’d confessed to him it was a vitamin dipped in vinegar. I think he told them to not try such tricks again, because they never did. When he wasn’t around, of course, I faced a constant barrage of “fat pig!” from the boys, but never when Stephen was near.

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