Jack has been my best friend for as long as I can remember.
We met over toy telephones and it was a match made in heaven. Like Forrest and Jenny, the two of us were the proverbial peas and carrots and were inseparable for the majority of our childhood. We practically lived at each other’s houses and became honorary members of each other’s families. Our lives were so intertwined that very few of my memories don’t feature him in one way or another. No matter if we were riding bikes, playing ball at the local Little League field or engaging in a healthy game of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours,” it seemed as if we did everything together.
It wasn’t always easy to have a boy “friend,” of course and we certainly endured our fair share of teasing from those who seemed unconvinced that our relationship could be anything other than platonic, but it was. I never thought about Jack being a boy anymore than he thought about me being a girl.
Except at Christmas time. The one time of year when my ordinarily sane best friend was driven to distraction by the thought of chasing me under the mistletoe in hopes of getting the customary reward for his efforts.
I don’t know if it was the sound of Bing Crosby, snow on the ground or some kind of testosterone surge running through his budding hormones, but in the three weeks leading to the holidays, he became uncharacteristically amorous and I avoided him like the plague. I would insist that we hang out at his house (a mistletoe-free zone). I begged my mother not to hang our fake sprig of the aphrodisiac between the dining room and the kitchen and if all else failed, I trained like an Olympic sprinter in order to outrun him whenever he stopped by to play.
“You know Julie, you could just give him a kiss,” my mother suggested.
“Are you out of your mind?” I panted after a rather long-winded race when I was 10. “I’m not giving my first kiss to Jack! He’s my friend not a…boy!”
“Has it occurred to you that maybe he likes you?” Mom observed, giving me one of those maddening all-knowing smiles and overemphasizing the word like.
I seriously doubted it. Jack was too much like family to me. Now his little brother? That was another story altogether. Over the years, I’d become accustomed to fending off his affections and was quite deft in my technique, but I knew that Jack’s seasonal romanticism was a temporary condition; and one that put a dent in my holiday cheer.
My mother argued that if I let Jack kiss me, it would get the whole thing out of his system for the year and we could get on with our lives. I had a problem with her theory. Not only did it prove that she wasn’t on my side in this matter, but she clearly hadn’t read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”
One year, I gave in out of sheer exhaustion. Jack chased me into a corner of my parents’ bedroom where I begrudgingly agreed to let him kiss me…on the hand. On another occasion, I caved to a memorable peck on the forehead, but more often than not, I simply counted down the days until Dec. 26 when the decorations came down, I got my best friend back and we put all of this kissing nonsense aside for another year.
To this day, our lips have never touched and although I love that man more than life itself, the thought of kissing him would be like kissing a sibling: awkward, weird and just plain wrong.
I’m pretty sure his wife would agree!