My first first kiss was in 6th grade. Frank Perry, on a summer Tuesday, after piano lessons at the elementary school playground. My last first kiss was almost 18 years ago, on the steps of my apartment building in San Francisco on the first date with my now-husband. Lets just say the 16 years between the two events provided lots of material for the job I have now.
There was the 6 foot 4 senior that I went out with when I was a freshman, until my mom met him, declared that he was a man, not a boy, and forbid me to see him ever again. There was my first real boyfriend (sorry Frank, our ten minutes on the swings didn't really count), an Australian guy who I followed halfway around the world before we both figured out that it wasn't going to work. There was more than one boy-in-a-band who I went to shows with as the eternal plus-one, only realizing later that I wasn't the only girl he was playing his guitar for. I dated more than a few guys in my teens and twenties and although every one of them was completely wrong for me, at the time, I was convinced that each of them was Mr. Right. That when we were together, our love was the only thing that mattered. The rest of the world could fall away and all we needed was food, shelter and each other. When we broke up (and we always broke up) my world was shattered. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I could barely function because my entire future had just been erased.
As adrenalin-filled and subsequently painful as these memories are, I'm grateful to have them, because these are the emotions that I tap into whenever I'm writing about love relationships in my books. When you're young, it's all or nothing - there's never a shade of grey. My family can always tell when I'm deep into a book because I'm moody and have the emotional stability of a sixteen year old girl. I carry pieces of each of these relationships into every story I write and drop bits of them here and there like tiny breadcrumbs leading out of the forest. I always change the names to protect the (not-so) innocent, and I doubt that any of my former boyfriends would recognize themselves. But I know they're there.
Me and the real Mr. Right on one of our first dates.