At a recent gathering of high school classmates concluding a series of weekend activities, several friends and I played a tamer version of Madonna's truth or dare. Much, much tamer. The raciest question was, "Who was your first kiss?"
You should have seen the guys - all but one of whom were accompanied by wives who weren't their first kissing partners - waffle on that question. Some cited an innocuous elementary school kiss; others purported not to remember. Do you buy that? Me, neither. The only forthcoming guy is currently single, and I can't decide if he was telling the truth or bragging.
Three female classmates in attendance were sans husbands, one because she is unattached and Martha and I because our guys were sick, her Gary with a toothache and my Ray with a tummyache (which he unfairly blamed on my secret-recipe chili that I'd served the previous night).
Our husbandless condition made it easier for us to tell the truth, although had Ray been present, that question wouldn't have been hard for me to answer because he bestowed my first serious kiss. I even remember where it happened because we were sitting on the steep flight of stairs that led up to my father's second-floor law office in a historic downtown building. The quasi-public setting lent an exciting element of danger to that kiss.
Years later, my friend Carol, the building's current owner, wrote a book in which the building spoke to her about its history. Imagine my relief upon reading it to learn that the building hadn't spilled all its secrets.
"Did you smoke cigarettes?" was a question that raised several hands. "Did you ever try smoking?" raised even more hands. But not mine. My parents smoked and, although they were the coolest parents ever, I never liked the smell of cigarette smoke. Of four Henry daughters, only one is a smoker, and sister Vicki so vehemently dislikes cigarettes that her stock reply to a doctor asking, "Have you ever smoked?" is "never willingly."
I have no moral objection to smoking. I remember a holier-than-thou preacher sitting uninvited in my childhood living room and sanctimoniously saying to Dad, "I wouldn't have a smoker in my congregation."
Dad, who was holding a cigarette, didn't comment on the obvious, that the preacher undoubtedly had several closet smokers in his congregation. Instead, he slowly blew out a smoke ring and said, "Oh, really? I always thought church was for sinners, not saints."
Ray's mother, Christina, belonged to a church that considered smoking morally wrong, and she so instructed her children. Thus, it was perplexing when I found myself in a car with Ray, his sister and her husband, all of whom were smoking. It was perplexing because we were driving to Christina's house and - as the only nonsmoker - I knew she'd smell clothing and hair redolent of smoke and be sure that I was the heathen who had been smoking.
So if Ray had been at our truth-and-dare session, he would have held up his hand as a smoker. Then I would have asked, "Who quit smoking over 25 years ago?" and he would have held up his hand again.
The only thing I didn't like about our mini-reunion was that, as we sat and talked about our shared experiences in high school, it reminded someone of "The Big Chill." Ray and I HATED that movie, which we attended with close friends who absolutely loved it - as, I'm told, did most who saw it. The only person I know who hated it as much as we did is my friend Jean, who rented the movie and watched it for about 10 minutes before deciding it was stinking up her family room.
Although he wasn't at the truth-and-dare party, at an earlier weekend event, one classmate told me he'd had a crush on me in eighth grade. Like I didn't know. And like it wasn't reciprocated. I had, after all, talked my dad into naming one of his hunting dogs Bobby. And when the budding romance ran its brief course, I learned it is hard to change a dog's name once he has become used to it. Still, that didn't stop me from naming a subsequent dog RayGee. Happily, that romance proved enduring, and there was no need to traumatize another dog with a name change.
I once wrote that high school is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. And I still wouldn't. But some of the people I barely knew in high school are worth knowing now ... and perhaps were then. I'll let you know for sure after we have a few more "truth-or-dare" sessions.