When I was a teenager I was fascinated by the federal mandate that if two people found themselves under the mistletoe at the same time, they were legally required to kiss or suffer the consequences of the appropriate fines and possible jail time.
I secretly pined for the opportunity to somehow be at a Christmas party where romance was in the air and suddenly I and someone with whom I had been exchanging quasi-flirtatious advances for months serendipitously found ourselves under some strategically placed mistletoe, and it was just the nudge we both needed to move past our awkward teenage inhibitions and take our relationship to the next level: sharing our first kiss in front of a crowd of ruthless, unpredictable adolescents.
Of course I was juvenile in expecting such a thing to actually take place, and I blame Hollywood. For two reasons: One, there isn’t a single movie scene with mistletoe in it that does not involve people passionately, passively, or even reluctantly kissing under it. Whatever the back-story, they end up kissing because of that mistletoe. And two, I just think it’s been a while since we’ve blamed Hollywood for something.
The only plant-provoked kissing I’ve ever participated in was in 1979. I was 8 years old and not savvy to the rules surrounding mistletoe; however, I had heard rumors surrounding the effects of red roses on the women folk. And I happen to have one I fancied: My neighbor and sometimes babysitter, Christy Stovall. Christy was what is sometimes scientifically referred to as babe-o-licious.
Undeterred by the fact that she was 10 years older than me, I remember playing in my backyard that fateful afternoon and noticing my mom’s rose-garden. Beautiful red roses for the taking. And I remember the thoughts coming together as if I were solving a great mystery, putting together a delightful emotional puzzle.
I looked over at my younger brother, Justin. “I bet if I give a rose to Christy Stovall, she’ll kiss me.”
“Why would you want her to do THAT?” he asked.
I asked my mom if I could cut one of her roses to give to somebody.
“Okay,” she agreed. “Who do you want to give it to? Your teacher?”
Was she kidding? Mrs. Colunga? Clearly my mom had not spent enough time volunteering in my third-grade class and standing next to Mrs. Colunga, who looked as happy as Droopy the Dog and barely had the restraint to not smoke directly in front of the students. I wouldn’t kiss her at gun point, much less under mistletoe; and certainly not by my own initiation with roses.
“Oh, I’ll find somebody.” And that somebody was a tall brunette with Jordache jeans and a voice that put butterflies in my stomach. Somebody who went by the name of Christy.
I took my rose and crossed the street to the Stovall house. My little 8-year old heart was thumping, but I felt pretty confident in my scheme. I knocked. Christy opened the door herself, and I silently handed over my rose to her. She reached out and took it; brought it up to her nose and inhaled it.
“Is this for me?” she asked.
I just nodded my head.
“Oh, you are so sweet!” she gushed, and then bent all the way down and softly kissed me on my left cheek. “Thank you so much; it’s beautiful.”
With a silly grin on my face, I shrugged my shoulders and turned to walk home, kind of shuffling my feet in an awe-shucks manner.
I could not believe I had pulled it off. I could not believe I conceived the idea, put the dominoes in order, knocked over that first one, and then watched everything magically come to fruition. It was genius. I was a quixotic mastermind! I had powers some men dare not dream of!
I like to think that since that day I have used my powers strictly for good. I’d like to think that; but Hollywood has really blurred the lines for me on what is “good” and what is “bad.” That Hollywood. They just go around making a mess of everything.