The First Kiss isn’t Always the Sweetest

Phil Dimitriadis
Northern suburbs, Melbourne, July 1985

On the 13th of July 1985 I found out just how naïve and malleable a person I was becoming. My friend Gina’s 16th birthday party was fancy dress. Most of the girls dressed as Madonna, while the guys didn’t bother at all: just the usual mid-thin leather ties, puffy shirts and pleated pants, complemented by wog tapper shoes or karate slippers. Throw in highly sculpted mullets aided by hairspray and cheap gel and you get some idea of why climate change became such a big issue as soon as this decade finished.

I made my usual half-hearted contribution: bright red lipstick, a fake golden earring and dark eye-shadow. I was fascinated by the way Phil Oakey from Human League and Robert Smith from The Cure dressed in a manly way, yet got away with wearing an inordinate amount of make-up.

Gina went to Newlands High and I was a Northcote High boy. Northcote was a boys’ school then and had the unfortunate nickname of ‘poofters paradise’. And here I was in cheap lipstick, eye-shadow and fake earrings. There was a huge bowl of ‘fruit’ punch just before you entered the main dancing area upstairs. I grabbed my polystyrene cup and put the soup spoon into the bowl. Out came a slice of peach and half a strawberry reeking of tequila and vodka.

I settled onto a bench and slowly sipped the concoction. With awkwardness dissipating, I looked up to see a pair of dark and mildly amorous eyes. “Do you wanna dance or are you gonna sit here by yourself all night?”

A girl called Anna had wrapped her arms around my neck and was looking into my bewildered eyes as we danced to Kool and the Gang’s Cherish and Bryan Adams’ Heaven. My first real kiss was a cheap tequila breath away.

As Adams sang ‘And baby you’re all that I want’ Anna’s tongue is suddenly scraping dregs of peach and strawberry from the back of my throat. I had seen tongue kisses while watching pornos at Uncle Stan’s place, but I only thought they did that sort of stuff in pornos.

Finally, my tongue got out of its slumber and joined the dance. Fruity saliva with a tequila finish, swaying with a girl who reminded me of the girl in Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing video. Anna had straight dark hair, deep brown eyes and developing curves.

I liked the way she looked at me after the kiss, but it was too much for a 15 year old virgin. My life experience was going to school, the footy and occasionally looking at porn. I didn’t know how to relate to girls.

My mum, a friend of Gina’s mother, was also at the party. She kept coming upstairs and I kept telling her to back off and go downstairs. She wouldn’t budge though. She was not happy: “Who is this little poutana you lick yourself with? She Greek?!”

Anna was half Greek, half Turkish. A volatile combination even in these fledgling multicultural and semi-globalised times. Just before midnight Anna said: “Why don’t you just go and sit with your mother?!”

Freud had got this all wrong. I wanted to Fuck Anna, but I really wanted to KILL my mother.

Finally, mum went home. I went to the bathroom to check my make-up. It was smudged and so was any reputation that I may have forged that night. My hair was out of place, the Gossamer had lost its hold and the mullet looked cheap and nasty. I wore Pino aftershave that night, thinking that it was a cool manly aroma to juxtapose the gender-bending motif.

“I might call you next week,” said Anna after I gave her my number. I walked home just after midnight with a mixture of relief, anger and more than a hint of romantic delusion. And Heaven playing in my head on constant rotation.

But by the time I got home I felt deflated. I flicked on the TV and the first thing I saw was Ozzie Osborne and Black Sabbath belting out Paranoid at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium. This was the stuff I’d grown up listening to blasting out of my brother’s hi-fi. I turned up the volume and sang along.

I’d built up Anna in my mind as some kind of elusive suburban goddess. She would be the one who would show me the delights of Coburg, make sweet love to me, and shape my hair with her magic sprays and gels. She would show me that Turks and Greeks cannot only coexist, they can come together and make exotic families as examples to generations of fearful villagers who dared not even transcend their own borders for fear that their identity and heritage may be eliminated.

But, one week on, she hadn’t called. Two weeks.

August came and as the last chills of winter began to give way to the first buds of spring my hope intensified. Three weeks.

No word from the only girl who willingly exchanged fruity saliva with me.

Black Sabbath and The Smiths dominated my cassette player for a while. “Finished with my woman cause she couldn’t help me with my life” and “A smile, lights up her beacon face and well it would, I lost my faith in womanhood, I lost my faith!”

I was seduced by the feeling that love could exist and that it would be the elixir to the gravity and tediousness of school and family life. Meeting and kissing Anna opened a door in my soul that I never thought existed.

© Phil Dimitriadis. Phil teaches Literary Studies at Victoria University in Melbourne and occasionally likes to dabble in writing. He is a regular contributor to our partner site Stereo Stories. With thanks to Vin Maskell at http://www.stereostories.com/

About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.

Comments

  1. One of my favourite pieces of writing anywhere, ever, Phil. Thanks for baring the soul you never thought existed.

  2. Well done for publishing this here! Very cathartic!

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Uncle Stan sounds like a good bloke! Loved this story Phil. I never had great experiences with ‘punch’. Been happy to stick with just beer and wine for a long time now.
    Have you ever heard from Anna again?

  4. Excellent stuff, Phil.
    And raw.
    Really enjoyed reading this.

  5. I wish I had been able to fit in that well, I was too young to be a hippy and too fat to be a punk.
    1977 was an outstanding year, in O week hair was long, trousers flared, shoes were chunky and some idiot had invented the body shirt.
    Then late in semester one I heard the unforgettable riff of “Pretty Vacant’, blasting from a College room on the third floor.
    It was an awakening, I had never heard anything like it.

    Within a month most of us had short hair cuts and were wearing stove pipe levis.
    The campus radio station went punk and nothing was ever the same.
    “London Calling” still takes me back to that place.

    As for Anna …God bless her and every other girl kind enough to kiss a bloke who needed to be kissed.

  6. Owning up to a moment where you aped Phil Oakey … oh, Phil, you are so brave. Marvelous, touching piece.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    With a bit of upstairs/downstairs juxtaposition Phil, this could have been your rejoinder to ‘Girl Afraid’.

    Do the “poutana / is she Greek?” conversations still occur these days?

    Glad to see you got some ‘Love Action’ that night, thanks Phil.

  8. Phil – I bet The Smiths song “Please, Please, Please” was belting through your head as Anna had a hold of you. I also bet you didn’t walk home after the party – I bet you pole vaulted home.

    In Paul Kelly’s song “Deep Water” he writes:
    “Now a man meets a woman unlike all the rest,
    He doesn’t know it yet but he’s out of his depth.”

    When it comes to girls a young boy is always wayyyyy out of his depth.

  9. Great story Mr Lord Bogan. However un-sweet that kiss was it was sweet enough to remember! Getting that level of action at 15, kudos. Are you sure you barrack for the Pies? It was never going to end well, what with Bryan Adam’s Heaven on the stereo. Talk about fools gold. Debarge’s Rhythm of the Night would have been a better backing track. Or Do Re Mi’s Man Overboard. Even Eurogliders, We Will Together has more metaphoric punch than Mr Adam’s idea of heaven. Then there’s Would I Lie To You by the Eurythmics and Katrina and the Waves, Walking on Sunshine. They were all in the Countdown Top 10 in July 1985! Cheers

  10. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks for the responses gents. Me and mum prefigured George and Estelle Costanza. It’s that type of relationship I’m afraid.

    Gigs, appreciate the support. It took me 30 years to see the humour in the experience and I hope that comes through for readers.

    Zac, unfortunately it was quickly back to Motley Crue and ‘Smokin; in the Boys Room’ a couple of weeks later when I knew she wasn’t interested.

    Luke, this stuff tasted like rocket fuel by the end of the night. Uncle Stan’s place was the personification of Madness’ ‘House of Fun’. He had a brown leather bag full of pictorial literary goodies and an 8 millimetre projector to boot. Heady stuff for a 13-15 year old! Not surprisingly, I have not seen or heard from Anna since.

    Smokie, I reckon your piece about Christina, Paul Kelly and Dead or Alive was a beauty. Highly recommended: http://www.stereostories.com/before-too-long-by-paul-kelly-and-the-coloured-girls/

    Mul, I know what it’s like to be in between eras. I was 7 when Pretty Vacant came out. Sex Pistols actually scared the shit out of me when I first saw them on TV. I’ll take the wog tappers, guy shadow, pleats and thin ties over the body shirt any day!
    T-Bone, putting down Phil Oakey for me is akin to someone bagging Cliff Richard to Rik from the Young Ones. My barely adequate psychic defences begin to crumble!

    Swish, I read this story to my mum last year. She curled her lip, turned up her nose, shook her head and said: “Blurry Poutana”. More like ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’ than ‘Girl Afraid’.
    Dips, totally out of my depth as Paul says. I pole vaulted home with what felt like one testicle.

    Rick, I can’t help the fact that ‘Heaven’ was playing when Anna went the tonsil. All the songs you mention were Countdown staples around mid 1985. Eurogliders’ ‘We Will Together’ was an underrated love song. Still is.
    De Barge and the Soul Glo hairstyles? No wonder the ozone layer is fucked. Cheers

  11. If you were breathing in 1979 the greatest one hit wonder of all time was “baby it’s you” by the Promises…..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pJVdIKHO8o

    which is the song I wish I’d had my first snog by ….

  12. Phil- wonderful story. We’ve all been there. Teenage maleness is hell. The Smiths make it tolerable!

  13. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Viscount,
    I was in Grade 4 in 1979. I liked the song then, but I really loved the clip a couple of years later.

    Cheers Mickey. Few bands in the 80s could convey the voice and sound of teenage angst like The Smiths.
    “The boy with the thorn in his side
    Behind the hatred there lies
    A murderous desire for love.”
    Morrissey expressed the pain/humour in his voice/lyrics and Johnny Marr counterbalanced it with guitar riffs that gave a glimmer of hope. Rare chemistry.

  14. Phil, good to see this story getting such an enthusiastic response. Catch you soon.

  15. G’day Phil,

    It’s good to see your honesty. Sadly it seems that some people cannot go beyond certain point(s).

    I do have issues with particular types of women while I can get along well with other types of women. It is really hard for me to find Miss Right.

    Cheers.

    Yoshi

  16. I think it was Agathon who is reputed to have said “Not even the Gods can change the past”, just as well too. What sort of deals would we do to undo that which is done? I remember Dennis Potter being interviewed when he was in the final stage of his life drinking vials of morphine, he described it as ..recalling his own youth with ‘a tender contempt’. Isn’t that what learning is all about?

  17. Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me,
    No hope, no harm, just another false alarm…

    Very entertaining read Phil.

  18. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Cheers Vin and thanks for giving it a run and the fine editing when first published on Stereo Stories. Number of excellent pieces on this site Knackers: http://www.stereostories.com/

    Yoshi, Does Miss Right really exist? What traits in women do you find appealing and what turns you off? Are Japanese mothers as neurotically protective of their sons like Greek mothers?

    Viscount, It was Aristotle who said: “One thing alone not even God can do,
    To make undone whatever hath been done.” (Nicomachean Ethics)

    Speaking of 1979 and the Sex Pistols, The Filth and the Fury is brilliant doco that traces the socioeconomic and cultural malaise that gave the Pistols a platform to vent. Don’t know if you read this but this was my first real memory of Vic Park in 1979: https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/vic-park-1979-an-initiation-of-filth-and-fury/
    Would be interested in your thoughts.

    Dennis Potter was a beauty. ‘The Singing Detective is still one of my favourite stories of how a man’s demons can be the source of and solution to his problems. Philip E. Marlowe also had significant, let’s say, ‘Mother Issues’.

    I love this song and clip by Richard Hawley titled ‘Serious’ . “A kiss that caught the wind made you delirious” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS9RhBWnHxY
    Enjoy

    jD, almost time for our first kick to kick of 2015. As for the Smiths:
    “There were times when I could have murdered her,
    but I’d hate anything to happen to her.” Hmmm…

  19. And as I climb into an empty bed,
    Oh well, enough said.

    Yep, I know Cookey’s up for it. Just give me a time and place.

  20. Like your story about Vic Park.
    If we ever meet I will tell you about how Eric and I travelled second class from Brisbane to Melbourne on a train to watch the 1980 VFL Grand final. Eric was a born Collingwood supporter. I was a hanger on. Then to add insult to injury we drove down in 1981 to watch Carlton beat the pies. a very melancholy tale.

  21. michael hyde says

    second time ive tried to comment. aah phil – your piece just got girls girls girls flooding my mind. walking across the rosanna golflinks, hanging around houses hoping ‘she’ might emerge – i failed yr 12 thinking of girls and driving licenses. listening to the beatles. i could taste the fruit.

  22. Phil,
    Made me laugh so much!
    There are some things we simply can’t get over, particularly things our parents may have meddled in. Great stuff to have turned that leaf, it is a sign of times, or impending wisdom.

    Great writing, a lot of soul !!

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