After the First Kiss

After the First Kiss

Back in my day, mothers pulled their daughters aside at a certain age to talk about the birds and the bees, but I think in retrospect, that the lectures should have emphasized how women have been subservient to men since biblical times. Girls define themselves by painting their faces with artificial blushes, cherry-mocha lip gloss and black mascara, hiding what’s inside them, forgetting who they really are.

That daisy-pickin’ stage of “he loves me, he loves me not” is now nothing more than a lost pleasure. I realized I had vanished, too. I recall looking into the mirror one day and asking myself, who are you? I huffed on the glass, wiped it clean with my sleeve and, took another look at my reflection, remembering the innocence of what had taken place in between then and now. Not too long ago, wasn’t there more? Where did I go? It was frightening how I could only see my skin, face, hair and body. What was once “inside” had slowly faded.

I go back in my mind to seventh grade, a time when I was more aroused by the first edition of Old Yeller, than the popular boy I sat next to in English class – “Tony N. Testosteroni,” better known as T.N.T. Pubescent teenage males on the brink of hormonal explosions belched in science class to the tune of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Snickers scattered among the guys with an outburst of covert armpit farts and spit balls, reconfirming that all guys are gross.

During high school English, the teacher assigned the students to write a poem about love. Love? I was clueless for years. All that time wasted daydreaming in class over true love…then the bell rang, and I saw my true love walking down the hall with his arm around another girl. Overcoming the hurt took a long time, and then I figured out how to get back at the bastard – someday I would marry him.

As time went on and proceeded over that proverbial hill, I noticed my poetry changed; in fact, it ceased. What was once a throbbing heart pierced by Cupid’s arrow in a chiseled chest was now merely palpitations in a flabby, wrinkled physique…not exactly romantic vocabulary from top to bottom, from thinning hair to hammer toes. Even the silhouette on the shade is out of shape. The eyesight has deteriorated, thank God, sparing us a clear focus of our decline. Colors seem a bit murky. Or is that another gray hair? Our forms have become distorted, Picasso-ish, and our body parts shift and go south even before we do.

To think we grew up in the 60s, once so au naturel. It’s difficult to witness what young girls have to contend with these days –The Perfection Paradigm. And we haven’t ‘come a long way, baby,’ as the media continues to shame females to keep up with airbrushed celebs on the cover of magazines who wear uncomfortable clothes that only hang right on hangers, and shoes that cripple us.

Over-grooming has gotten out of hand. The other day I walked into a salon for a little trim, and a petite foreign girl attacked me at the door like the Karate Kid. “Wax on? Wax off? Brow? Lip?” I automatically hid the mustache I didn’t know I had behind the nearest magazine, and noticed the flawless model on the cover. Since I had time in the waiting area, packed with many other one-hair-on-the-chin women, I filled out the cheesy questionnaire in Cosmo. Talk about insulting your intelligence. One of the questions about your love life was: “When was the last time you got risque’ and took a bubble bath with your mate with your high heels on?’ I answered, “When was the last time you found a coupon in the paper for waterproof orthopedic stilettos?”

After the salon, I went to the nearest pharmacy, where I purchased a giant-sized magnifying mirror and a pair of stronger reading glasses. As soon as I got home, I smacked my poor husband (the one I got back at by marrying), the former Woodstock hippie, upside the head. “Why didn’t you tell me I had a mustache?”

He looked closer at me with his unshaven face. “You do?” He wore his usual “huh” expression, as I searched the mirror for the hirsute follicle.

“Ouch!” I cried, plucking at my skin, wearing my thicker eyeglasses. “Where is it? I still can’t find it!”

How shallow the world has become to suffer these various indignities where we can be ostracized in public, tied to a whipping post in the town square, if one body hair should pop up in this PERFECT world. Perfect family, perfect job, perfect everything, but self image.

Women have been liberated to the point of exploitation, especially sexually. Turn to any channel on TV, and it may turn your stomach – UGH! The cheesy, degrading humor toward women is deplorable! I’m from the Protest generation, and I wish the young girls of today would protest the media that wages war against them.

In answer to the question I asked myself about defining love…first, you’ve got to love yourself…before you disappear. That is, unless, you can seal true romance inside a water globe and stash it away in your attic, along with the shadowy memory of your first kiss, now light years away.

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Janet Berg

Janet Lee Berg is a novelist and a blogger, who is known for her freelance writing on the east end of Long Island, NY, including Dan’s Papers. Keep an eye out for the release of her upcoming novel Rembrandt's Shadow, a Holocaust-related story about Sylvie Rosenberg, the privileged daughter of a prominent Dutch art dealer, who never knows her father's love until the day he trades his beloved Rembrandt to the Nazis in exchange for her life.
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