How much is a first kiss worth? Can a price be put on it?
A Utah mother thought so.
Several years ago, Allison (all names have been changed) offered her son and daughter — 11 and 14 at the time — $1,000 if they waited until they were 16 to have their first kiss, and $10,000 if they waited until they were 18.
She couldn’t afford it at the time, but, as she says now, “I threw it out there hoping they would accept the challenge, but I didn’t really think they would. But over the years the kids would bring it up and I started to think, I’m going to have to pay.”
And so she did. She paid her son Darren 10 grand when he turned 18. He is now serving a mission for the LDS Church. Early this year her daughter Abbie turned 18 — and mom had to pay up again. She is a senior at a Salt Lake-area high school who has been accepted to BYU.
That’s twenty thousand dollars in the kids’ bank accounts — and two sets of VLs (virgin lips).
In a world that treats full-on sex casually, a kiss seems relatively harmless. There will be some who read this and think it’s silly or worse. Allison doesn’t think so, and she was willing to put her money where her kisser is.
One day she was sitting on the backyard trampoline with her son and daughter, talking about the future and their goals, as they often did on Sunday afternoons. When the subject of dating was raised, she found herself placing a wager on The First Kiss. “It’s not that kissing is bad,” says Allison, “but from there forward there is nowhere to go but downhill. If you’re not kissing, other stuff doesn’t happen. So we talked about that.”
Her son immediately accepted the challenge. Abbie had her doubts and by 13 she was telling her mom, “I’m not waiting that long. I’m not going for that $10,000.” Per family rules, she wasn’t allowed to date till 16 or single date till 18. She had plenty of time to think about The First Kiss.
“As I grew older, it was so nice to have that (wager) as an excuse because the boys knew about it,” she says. “It saved me from awkward moments. I didn’t have that pressure.”
The boys knew about it, all right. Why wouldn’t they? Mom and Dad took the direct approach, standing at the front door to greet dates. “You know you’re not going to kiss her on this date because she has a lot of money on the line, don’t you?” Allison would tell them.
“Sometimes I felt awkward, but they never made The Move,” she says. “Even if it had been awkward and they were coming in for a kiss, I would have stopped them.”
Word spread. It became a joke. The boys called her “Forbidden Fruit.”
OK, maybe I know what you’re thinking or wondering. Well, the girl is beautiful, with a wide smile, brown eyes and long dark hair. If she set up a kissing booth at the county fair, the line of boys would reach around the park. It’s not as if she didn’t have opportunity.
Or doubts. The truth is, Abbie wasn’t truly committed to the Kissing Holdout. She made it to 16, but, in her words, “I was not trying to make it to 18. I wasn’t really into it.” Her mother was sympathetic. At one point she told her daughter, “You know you’re not in trouble if you don’t go for 18.” But in the coming months, her heart changed. She began to embrace the wisdom of it. “By then, I didn’t want to waste my first kiss. It became less about the money. I’d rather have the first kiss be someone special. I’d rather have it be meaningful. It really hit me: I don’t want to throw it away.”
A couple of months after Abbie’s 16th birthday, her mother asked her, “Do you really want to wait?”
Abbie’s response: “Yeah, I think I do.”
For a while, there was safety in numbers. She had several friends who took up the same challenge. They called themselves the VL Club. Allison tried to create more incentive by offering to take the girls on a trip to a tropical locale — Hawaii, Fiji and Tahiti were mentioned — her treat. But one by one they dropped out of the club. Abbie is the club’s last member. She’s going it alone.
“I’m not judgmental of my friends,” she says. “It’s a personal decision. It’s what I want to do; I’m not judging what they do.”
Says Allison, “We know it’s not the norm. My son got teased a lot — man, you’re missing out. Some nights he’d come home and be emotional and say, ‘Is this too weird I’m trying to do this?’ ”
The truth is, Allison didn’t just fear the temptations that might follow a kiss; she feared her children would give away their hearts casually. She says she noticed the effect on teenage girls who gave up The Kiss only to find out it meant little to the boy. He moved on to other girls, leaving behind a broken heart.
“Then their whole self-worth is hinging on what a boy thinks,” says Allison. “The boy's kissed her and she’s wondering what does he think of me? I think Abbie has the inner confidence of who she is, independent of a boy. If she had kissed early and committed herself emotionally, and given a piece of herself to the boy, it might be different.”
On Abbie’s 18th birthday, Allison asked her daughter the obvious question: “Are you excited to kiss someone?” A couple of months later, she still has not given up The First Kiss.
“I’ve waited so long, I’m not going to kiss someone till I really like him and we’ve dated a lot," she says. "I want that first kiss to matter.” Glancing at her mother she adds, “I like that my parents have had awesome things to teach me.”
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org