Jazz Jennings's First Kiss Was Not Good

Jazz Jennings

“Everyone deserves to be loved.”

In elementary school, it’s normal to get a friend to ask someone out for you. What’s not so normal is when a guy convinces his mother to call the girl’s mom and have her ask her daughter out on a date for him. I’d say that’s a pretty solid warning sign that the relationship is doomed from the start.

I definitely thought it was unusual when Zack’s mom first approached mine, but (a) I was starting to get curious about what dating would be like for me, since I’d never had a boyfriend, and (b) it turned out that Zack was really cute.

Even though none of my friends were interested in boys yet, I knew based on what I’d seen Ari go through that guys were probably going to start becoming a thing in our lives before too long. I don’t think she was ever without a boyfriend, and if someone was offering me the chance to get a head start, I figured I’d better take it.

Mom was at one of Griffen and Sander’s soccer matches when she got a call from Dad’s secretary. A woman had been calling the office all morning begging to be put in touch with her. This person said she needed to discuss her son, which was why my mother agreed to call her back. She assumed this parent needed help with her transgender kid, although it was a little odd that a stranger had managed to track down where Dad worked instead of reaching out through Facebook or the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation site.

It turned out that the only help this woman needed was with micromanaging her child’s dating life. (Kidding, kidding. She was actually very sweet.) Her son Zack had been watching television with his mom one day when they flipped past a daytime talk show I had been on earlier in the year to promote the OWN documentary. Zack’s mother explained to my mom that he had immediately started jumping up and down and telling her, “That’s the girl I’m in love with!” She probably wouldn’t have thought anything more about it except that he started to lose sleep and talk about me constantly. His mom was worried about how strong his reaction was, and so she reached out to us to see if I’d be willing to talk to him.

I normally wouldn’t have agreed to meet with a total stranger who had a crush on me, except it turned out that I vaguely knew who Zack was. He went to my school, but he was a year younger than me. Apparently he’d been watching me in the hallways, too scared to come up and say hello. I even remembered that at one point he’d passed by me and blurted, “I saw you on TV!” before running away. I hadn’t thought anything of it at the time, since by then I was used to random people casually mentioning that they’d seen me on TV, but after I learned that Zack liked me, I started to look at him in a whole new way. He had long wavy blond hair and beautiful blue eyes. Plus his smile was enormous—it lit up his whole face like a sunbeam whenever he grinned.

After clearing it with me, my mom told his mom that he could reach out to me on Facebook. His first message was “Hi, can I be your boyfriend?”

In my mind I was all, Slow down, dude! I wanted to be polite, so I explained that no, he couldn’t be my boyfriend because I didn’t even know him, but we could be friends and talk.

That status didn’t last long, though. We quickly became a Facebook couple, which meant that even though we initially didn’t see a lot of each other outside school since we were in different grades, our messages usually went something like this:

ZACK: UR hot ME: UR hotter!

ZACK: When we get married it’s gonna be the best! ME: I wonder what our grandkids will look like.

I understand now that we were just mimicking what we thought a relationship should look like, and we wrote the things we believed a boyfriend and girlfriend were supposed to say to each other. It was like the preteen version of playing house.

For our first official date, we decided to go to a carnival that had arrived in town. I put a lot of thought into what to wear that night, even though I’d stopped caring so much about fashion after I grew out of my sparkly/rainbow/princess phase when I was around seven. I wanted to look my best without overdressing and decided to go casual cute with a pair of jeans (instead of the usual cutoffs that I made myself) and a green sweater.

Our dads came with us as chaperones, but we were allowed to run off on our own, and we held hands under the flashing colored lights of the midway. We got a rush from the smell of popcorn and cotton candy mixed with grease from the rickety rides. They looked like they were about three seconds away from busting a cable and flinging people off into the night sky, but we rode all of them anyway. Our next date, to a science museum, wasn’t as adventurous, but it was still fun running around, holding hands, and playing with all the interactive exhibits.

By our third date, I was determined to get my first kiss. Zack really wanted to go see The Hunger Games, and even though I’d already seen it I said I hadn’t, just to hurry things along. I didn’t have time to debate which movie to watch—I just wanted that kiss!

Despite planning our future family when we wrote to each other online, in person Zack could still be shy. So I knew it was going to be up to me to make the first move, and I had a genius plan in place.

Since I’d already watched the movie, I knew how heartbreaking Rue’s death scene is. When it happened this time around in the theater with Zack, I pretended to be shocked and sad and in need of comfort. I turned to him, grabbed his face, and kissed him. There was no tongue, but we held our lips together for a pretty long time.

He pulled away first, and I could see him sitting there with a huge grin on his face. I replayed the moment in my mind and decided it had been a good first kiss, but I knew I wanted to try more. I kept sneaking glances over at him to see if there’d be another opportunity, when suddenly he told me he had a really bad stomachache. I watched as he stood up and shuffled out of the row and walked down the aisle to where his mom, our chaperone for the date, was sitting. I was mortified. He wasn’t acting like he felt sick, and I became convinced that I had bad breath. What if his supposed stomachache is just an excuse to get away from me? I thought.

From Being Jazz. Text copyright © 2016 by I AM JAZZ, LLC

Jazz Jennings

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