My first crush was Michelle Daniels*. We were in Year 1 together with Mrs Szychulski, the teacher who got me to write my first short story (it had dinosaurs AND spaceships in it). Michelle had red hair and freckles and was confident and smart and a little bit naughty and I don’t remember ever talking to her.
Technically my first girlfriend was Maree Brown. She was exactly seven days older than me. Our mums had been in hospital together and became friends. We used to play together all the time when we were growing up. When we were about seven I asked her if she’d show me her ‘girl bits’ if I showed her mine. Yes, she said so I dropped my pants. Maree ran to our mums and told on me.
When I was 11, and James Daley was talking about girls all the time, I one day said to Maree that if she went out with me I would do a backflip. She said yes straight away but I couldn’t actually do a backflip so I walked out of the room. We didn’t ever go out, maybe we never talked again.
The first girl I ever wrote to was Melissa Andrews. She was older than me, the daughter of one of my dad’s friends. Her parents were divorced and most of the time she lived around the corner from where I did with her mum, who wasn’t my dad’s friend. At the time I was reading The Hobbit a lot and had worked out the Dwarven rune system so I wrote to her all in runes. She wrote back a couple of sentences in runes but the rest of it was in regular English, which was a bit disappointing.
The first guy I fooled around with was Stewart McEvoy. His dad had a cool truck, like Optimus Prime from Transformers. Stewart was a couple of years older than me and often wanted me to fiddle with his bits in the dark. I didn’t really understand why it need to be such a big secret until one day I stuck my finger up Matthew Farrugia’s butt when we were wrestling and got in BIG trouble. Then I got it.
My first teenage crush was on Bree McDuff. I met her at Business Camp at Macquarie University when I was in Year 10. She had red hair and freckles and was smart and confident and funny. I was too nervous to tell her how I felt so I wrote her a poem and stuck it under her the door of her dorm room. Weeks later I visited her at home in Merrylands. We sat on her wooden porch with its green-painted crossbeams and didn’t really talk about much at all.
My first kiss was Caroline Davidson when I was 17. She was 19 and a brunette and had a car and smoked cigarettes. I met her in a Catholic Youth Group. She was on the group’s periphery of the group, like Dean Foster – who was my first gay friend.
I wanted to kiss Caroline a lot but didn’t know how to say it so I wrote and drew a four-page comic book about it. Caroline read the comic book in her car and then she called me over. She leaned out the window and said is this what you want? Yes, I said so she reached out and drew me to her and we kissed for a few minutes. It was pretty good. The main thing I noticed was that she had a hairy lip. Later I made out with her young red-headed cousin, Emma, at a party. Emma lived in the country and wrote me a letter where she expressed feelings for me. I didn’t reply at all, which I know wasn’t a nice thing to do.
My first girlfriend was Dianna Buhagiar. I’d had a crush on her for ages, but didn’t have the guts to say anything until she started dating a friend of mine, Geoff Shatner. Dianna broke up with Geoff to go out with me, then I broke up with Dianna about five weeks later. Years later Geoff committed suicide and I felt even shittier about what I’d done.
The first guy I kissed was Lewis Windsor. He was my best friend all the way through uni. We kissed at an after-party for the first student theatre production we worked on together. The director had a bit of a thing for Lewis and was always trying to convince him he was gay. We were both drunk and stoned and on amyl and the director started a kissing circle in the theatre foyer. The main thing I remember was that Lewis was a bit of a sloppy kisser.
My first love was Jennifer Muir. We met at an audition for a theatre show when I was 20. The moment I first noticed her it was like someone had sliced a layer of grease paper off the world. We were in the show together and quickly became close. She had a boyfriend though so I didn’t do anything besides enjoy her company.
Halfway through the performance run she and her boyfriend broke up. I took my chance at the end-of-show party where, as we sat together in the dark on a garden swing at someone’s parent’s place, I asked do you want to go out on a date with me sometime? I thought that might lead to kissing but she said that she was still getting over her ex and could we just be friends. After the show we stayed quite close and hung out a lot and used to go on dates that weren’t technically dates.
Nothing happened until my 21st birthday party. I had it at my friends’ share house in Dulwich Hill, because I was still living with my mum. By that point I had given up on the possibility that Jennifer and I would ever be together. And she came to that party with a male friend of hers that I kinda knew but no one else did and I assumed that they were together. Whatever: I was enjoying my party.
When Jennifer was leaving she came and found me. I was out the back under the house having a joint with Lewis and Josh and Mike. She called me over and I went into the yard and we hugged and then we were kissing. The world spun, like we were at the centre of the universe. It was pretty damn cool.
Three days later Jennifer and I met up at uni. She was unsure about what had happened. She didn’t want to take things any further. She didn’t want to ruin our friendship. I was sure though and began a speech that flowed from me like nothing had before and few things have since – it began with a metaphor about a door, which we’d opened together, and finished when I ran out of steam and came up for air she said Mark, I think you should kiss me now.
A few months later we made love for the first time, my First Time, in the pool of a caravan park in Coffs Harbour. She asked me if I was sure. She could see through my thick veneer and wanted to know if I was ready. I was. I loved her deeply.
Now this isn’t one of those stories where at the end the writer next says and we’ve been married for nearly twenty years. Jennifer and I didn’t stay together forever. We didn’t last a year. I was foolish and selfish and had no idea how to negotiate conflict in a relationship.
You met each other too young someone said to me once, which might be true but probably isn’t. We met when we did, we loved each other, and nearly twenty years later we’re still friends. I still feel I can tell her anything.
* Names changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.