Whenever I need to forget about where I am, like during wisdom tooth extraction or stuck in traffic on I-95, I often focus on something from the past which makes me feel really good, like the best kiss I ever had.

I’d become great at summoning up the inside of Eric’s red Volkswagen at sixteen, or the night before I graduated college, the rebound relationship going nowhere that was still thrilling enough to distract me so many years hence.

But who would have guessed that, decades later, these memories would be replaced, because it was then that I got my true best first kiss ever?

It came from a man I completely did not expect to knock my socks off, during a time I did not think it possible for any socks to be knocked, and what happened was this:

After emerging from a pretty crappy long-term marriage, I was just starting to get my feathers fluffed, and had carefully crafted and posted a profile on Match.com for what would be my first internet dating experience ever.

There were a few stupid hits, when along came what seemed like a sincere, short note from a guy who sounded both friendly and funny. We exchanged messages online for a few days, then decided to meet that Friday for lunch.

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It was not love at first sight, and that was a bummer. On one hand, he was super preppy, and on another, he talked REALLY fast, like one of those marketing guys, which he was. Plus, he was obsessed with football (I had never been to a game in my life) and, of all things, was a former frat boy – completely not my type – ever!

But…..nearly three hours flew by, and at some point, I felt like I was looking across the table at someone I knew, so much so, that I kept thinking that he seemed like a male version of me! He was chatty, enthusiastic, and flung his arms all over the place when he talked.

At the end of the meal, I really appreciated that he didn’t even try to shake hands. I wasn’t ready to be touched yet.

Instead, the next day he texted me photographs and a narrative of a trip to Pennsylvania he took with his two boys while thanking me for a wonderful lunch. It felt so comfortable, so easy.

We met again that Sunday in a neighborhood pub, and he looked better this time, having exchanged the button-up shirt and oxfords for a hoodie and shorts (he had just come from coaching his son’s baseball game).

We sat eating potato chips, chatting away another couple of hours, until out of the blue, he announced that he knew we would kiss at some point that afternoon.

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I was horrified. It was such a bold statement to make on a second date, and I certainly had not even considered the thought; I mean, he was still a stranger!
“Why would you say that?!”

“Well,” he replied, wiping his mouth with a napkin, “when I got up this morning, I just knew.”

This man’s audacity was stunning, but more so because there was not an ounce of pressure; he was simply stating a belief.

“I don’t think I’m ready for anything like that,” I finally managed to get out. “I mean, how about we wait another week?”

“Oh no; that’s not a good idea,” he said, as his face turned serious.

“Why not?”

“Because then it would be way too much pressure.” His blue eyes began to sparkle.

“What are you talking about?”

“Because then I would have to order fireworks,” he ticked off on his fingers, “and hire a mariachi band…”

His joking was disarming, but when it came time to leave, to get back to our lives and our own kids, I could feel myself receding.

After all of the therapy I’d had at the tail end of my marriage, one of the main things I needed to work on was acknowledging my own feelings because I’d let someone else make decisions. For far too long, I’d gotten out of touch with myself and what I wanted.

And yet the daring adolescent in me that had been dormant for so long thought, “what’s the big deal?”

Still, I was terrified as we walked the block back to my minivan and faced each other in the cold late afternoon that April. I had to look way up at him (he’s very tall), take in the foreign-ness of all that gray hair, his still-unfamiliar face.

His eyes were warm and gave me a questioning look, as he paused first before easing me into a gentle hug for a couple of beats, and breathed in the scent of my hair, telling me I smelled good.

“That’s because I just took a shower,” I told him.

“No, you didn’t.” He smiled down at me, reached down under my chin, looked deeply into my eyes, and stroked my cheek. “You were with me.”

“OK?” There it was, the invitation.

And it was a yes. He leaned down, tilted my face up to his, and gently kissed me on my mouth.

What happened next was unexpected: Explosion! Fireworks! Melting! I nearly lost my balance and knocked my arm against the door of the car, grabbing the car handle to hold myself up. This kiss ROCKED my world, and I suddenly understood exactly what it meant to go weak in the knees.

My first, last, and only thought was… I am sixteen again!

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Editor’s note: If you’re trying to move on from a toxic relationship and beginning to imagine your own magical “first kiss,” consider viewing our workshop, “Rising From the Ashes: Nikky’s Story & How to Heal,” which is available in BTGO’s Sanity School now.