In 1988 I was 9 years old. This was also the year when the single most exciting thing I could ever imagine happened to me, as well as the single most traumatic (note: to a 9 year old). ALL IN THE SAME DAY. Here’s what went down:
Every year in school we’d have a roller-skating trip. This was a huge deal to us. Not only because, obviously, it was a day away from the classroom, but because of (dramatic pause)…
…The Moonlight Skate.
The lights would go off and a disco ball would shine little dots of moving light down onto the roller rink and a romantic song would play and you’d get to HOLD HANDS with the boy you liked and skate around in circles for entire duration of the song. Siiiiigh.
In 1988 I had a huge crush on a boy we will call John. Full disclosure, I had a crush on John throughout the entirety of my elementary school career. John was illusive and shy, and in retrospect, it most likely was a combination of being somewhat of a late-bloomer and having insanely strict parents. He never expressed overt interest in any girl, at least not like some of the other boys did. But I was absolutely smitten with him for reasons I cannot fathom nor remember fully at this point in time.
(Side note: I found out years later that he had a crush on me too, but never said anything about it. Why John?! We could have had an awkward adolescent romance where we barely talked or interacted at all and it would have been beautiful! Alas…)
So we’re there, at Roller Gardens. It’s the annual roller-skating trip and I am simultaneously thrilled and horrified to be experiencing this (as were the standard emotions for the majority of situations you experience when you’re a pre-teen girl). I tell my friends that I want to skate with John for The Moonlight Skate. They tell his friends. There’s a lot of back and forth as we all skate endlessly around in circles to Sweet Child O’ Mine and Heaven Is A Place On Earth. HE CONSENTS. I die.
John and I have as close to a date that is possible at the age of 9 years old, and I am again, of course, thrilled and horrified that this is all happening. It begins. I forget the song, but I hope it was Tiffany. He skates over to me. He’s shy. I am dying of shyness. We take each other’s hands. They are both excessively sweaty, and we are both mediocre roller-skaters. But we skate around and around, our hands linked, in the most romantic atmosphere (remember: disco ball lighting) that our prepubescent brains can probably fathom. IT IS THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME. Up until that point in time, anyway. Again, I am also terrified the entire time.
When the song ends, we skate over to the wall to take a break. John releases my hand, and I already feel a bit sad that it’s all over. All around the rink there are exits which lead into areas with industrial carpet-covered seating. When we stop we’re in the back corner, the darkest, least teacher-patrolled corner of the roller skating rink. We skate over through the exit and stand there awkwardly avoiding eye contact, as gracefully as possible considering there are wheels on our feet. I’m wondering if I should just skate away (since I hadn’t yet developed the smooth social skills I have now and it does not occur to me to actually thank him for the skate), when suddenly, John rolls over to me and in one jerky, robotic like motion he leans over and kisses me, right on the mouth.
RIGHT ON THE MOUTH.
And before I can have any reaction at all, he torpedoes away back onto the rink and leaves me standing there alone in the dark. Needless to say, this was one of the best day’s of my 9 year old life, and even though John and I have literally zero interactions for the rest of the trip, I skate around the rink with my friends like the superstar that I am, and it feels like I am barely touching the ground.
Just kidding. Recall that I mentioned trauma in the first paragraph.
I get home, I’m still as high as a 9 year old can be and totally, fully in love with John, obvs, I’m already reciting my name with his last name in my head on repeat and imagining tiny pink hearts floating out of the beautiful and sacred union. LIFE IS GOOD. That is, of course, until I get home and go to the bathroom.
Now, I’ve been pretty descriptive up until this point, but I’ll spare you the details and just be direct- I GOT MY PERIOD.
Although at the time, I had no idea what was going on. First of all, I was really young and hadn’t even really had the full-on period talk yet. Furthermore, I went to Catholic School, where sex education was… restrained, to put it diplomatically. And on top of all of this, this was pre-internet. It’s not like I could go research these things for myself. I had to rely on actual grown-ups, and let’s be honest to get the real info, various older sisters, to impart the secrets of womanhood. But in that moment when I stared down at my stained underwear, everything I knew about periods went out the window and I was suddenly and unarguably convinced that I was dying.
I ran crying to my mom (I was a 9 year old!), and she calmly explained what was going on. I think she may have cried too (most likely for other reasons), and we both sat there crying about my underwear for awhile, before we had the Real Talk About Periods, and I learned all about what I was going to have to do every single month for manyyyyyyy years to come (I still haven’t fully accepted the unfairness of this).
Anyway, despite the fact that I probably knew better even then, for some reason the kiss and my period were linked in my mind for a long time afterwards. I just KNEW they were somehow related. Did kissing John start my period? It must have. The facts were there- I was one of the few girls who had actually kissed a boy, and one of the few girls who actually had her period. It was all related in some vaguely mysterious way to making babies and having sex eventually when you got older (!!!!) and I didn’t know much about what it all entailed besides the clinical school-appropriate descriptions, but I was smart enough to know there had to be more to it than that. I knew periods were a part of the whole thing too, I knew when you “missed your period” it meant you were pregnant, and I knew you got pregnant from having sex with boys, and I had just kissed a boy and I had gotten my period, THUS clearly there was a correlation here. You can see how this would all work out in my head.
And it wasn’t like I could talk to anyone about it! There was no way I was going to admit to my parents that I had actually kissed a boy. My friends knew as little as I did. So honestly, for years I believed that I had somehow caused my own period to start by kissing John, a reality I eventually accepted as irrefutable truth. I swore I would have no further interactions with boys again, because who knew what else could happen! Periods sucked. I didn’t want to find out if there was something worse out there.
Of course, I grew up and realized it was just pure chance that these two significant life events happened to occur on the exact same day. I also realize how naive this must sound to kids today, who can literally google anything they want and most likely know more about biology and sex at 9 (or younger, frighteningly) than I did at 15. But at the very least, it’s a funny story I can tell and me and my old friends can all laugh about growing up in the 80’s and how kids these days will never really get what it was like. KIDS THESE DAYS AMIRIGHT?
So I wanted to end with a message: John, wherever you are, thank you for The Moonlight Skate, since I couldn’t articulate it at the time, and the kiss, because that was super sweet. But most importantly, I totally don’t blame you anymore for kickstarting my ascent into womanhood. I realize it was just an unfortunate coincidence, and I no longer hold you accountable. All is forgiven.