The Stupid Things a Girl Will Do for Lack of a Kiss

There in the back of my red, dented hatchback was a pair of men’s underwear. Tiger-striped bikini underwear to be exact, and since I’d had no hand in putting them there, I was surprised.

But I did know who they belonged to. My tactophobe boyfriend and I were at the laundromat, and they must’ve fallen out of his basket. However, he hadn’t kissed me in the 7 months we’d been dating, and his choice in underwear was news to me.

It was not a pleasant surprise, and when I walked into the laundromat and saw him standing idly by a washer, my thoughts about him began to change.

The roommate has evidence.
The roommate has evidence.

Since he’d hadn’t kissed me, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him what I’d found. I left them in the car thinking that he’d find them when he put his basket back there to go home.

It was the longest two hours I’ve ever spent in a laundromat.

Tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, I watched him in the rearview mirror get his laundry, shut the hatch, wave goodbye, and walk to his door. He turned and looked back. I waved and sighed.

Down the block I stopped the car and went to make sure they were gone. The underwear were still there.

This would never do. I mean, I had to go to work in the morning. At the bank. Anybody could look in that back window and see them. Now, if they’d gotten back there in the more traditional way, I might not have cared. I might’ve been thrilled to have proof my boyfriend found me attractive. But he didn’t, and I had no desire to add color that I hadn’t earned to my reputation.

Once at home I took a plastic bag, scooped them up, hid them in my laundry, and carried them upstairs to my apartment.

My roommate, L., and my friend, J., were sitting at our kitchen table when I told them about it. “Really?” they said. “Let us see!”


“Oh come on. Are you going to give them back?”

“I don’t know,” I said. What would I say to him at this point?

They laughed and laughed. “I wonder if he misses them,” said J.

“You should mail them to him,” said L.

“Wear them,” said J. Oh, they did think they were funny.

Finally, J said, “Where are they?”

“I threw them away.”

The two of them sat up straight. “Where?”

I knew they’d dig them out if I told the truth. “At Wal-mart,” I said.

“Wal-mart?” they asked.

“In a dumpster.”

If that boyfriend ever missed that underwear, he never said.

The photograph is of L. trying to show me a picture of my tactophobe boyfriend. This is after we broke up. The picture in L’s hand shows the tactophobe boyfriend and J, drunk, and exchanging clothes in the middle of a party. Oh, the things we don’t want to see.

In fiction, characters often refuse to see the truth. Or they don’t recognize the truth when they see it. The hard part, I find, is making the reader believe the heroine doesn’t see the truth and not make her an idiot in the process. Blind, but sympathetic.

Can’t you think of stories where you wanted to shake the main character and shout, “What? Are you kidding me? A 5-year-old could figure that out!” This is not the reaction I want.

10 thoughts on “The Stupid Things a Girl Will Do for Lack of a Kiss

  1. I do wonder if you ever figured out why he didn’t kiss? Was he really a tactophobe, or you just came to that conclusion.

    I have a character in my novel who should be refusing to see that her husband is not only cheating on her, but is also a NOT NICE person, despite all the stories of what he is supposed to be. I think I need to let her struggle with not seeing that a little longer. It will add dramatic tension and I think will make her a more realistic character.

  2. rowena,
    To this day I have no idea what his problem was. He claims to have written me a letter explaining, but I never got such a thing. My friends and I just decided to refer to him as the tactophobe. Sounded funny and got the point across.

    Well, he did have a moment of non-tactophobeness… but that is another story.

  3. Hey, I had a tactophobe boyfriend too….we dated for eight months and never got that kiss in. Two years later some of my suspicions became true as he came out of the closet. Now we are friends and we talk about Broadway plays together.

    It’s so Shakespearean to know what your characters don’t. Keeping characters in the dark on some matters MUST be a part of any good story!!

  4. Are we talking naive narrator here? Possible, but I don’t think so; there is instead of naivete a kind of honesty and straightforwardness that invests your stories and recollections with a quality of utter believability. Take a revisit to Richardson’s “Pamela” which was so successful because readers at the time believd utterly that she was real, not a shrewd invention. Even if it were revealed at some later time that these recent recountings of yours were all made up, even to the point of you using staged photos to “document” your narrative, your narrator would still, I argue, emerge as compassionate, empathetic, and controlling the narrative, not for the sake of mere power but for the control of artistic integrity.

    These recent scenes or events of yours all emerge as real and accordingly tense or ambiguous because of your ability to relate them without being argumentative or defensive. Talk about me having found voice; you’re there.

    Simple answer to how I got it (ref your question) is that I got bored sounding like everyone else. More complex answer is to do what I suspect you do, which is to listen internally, listen, listen, then write down what they say about your attitude.

  5. The hard part, I find, is making the reader believe the heroine doesn’t see the truth and not make her an idiot in the process. Blind, but sympathetic.

    Oh, YEAH, and ain’t that the truth? Constructing events which play out in a plausible, consistent way is almost trivial next to the problem of constructing plausible, consistent (yet complex and nuanced) players. Can’t remember who said it, but there’s a maxim which goes something like “The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.” Which I’d agree with — except that I think it’s talking almost exclusively of plot. Fictional characters, just like real ones, have to do goofy inexplicable (and inexplicably dumb) things every now and then, things which aren’t in their best interest or the best interest of anyone else.

    I think your tactophobe is gathering steam as a real presence in the mind of your readers. Dunno if that’s a good or bad thing, though!

  6. D’Arcy, as far as I know he wasn’t gay. But how can we ever be sure?

    Shelly, I worry that though these are my stories to tell, the other people in them may take a dim of view of my sharing their roles in my life. Perhaps I am naive to believe no one will ever think to google me. Now there’s a transitive verb for you.

    JES, I don’t know if that is good or bad either. He’d probably not appreciate it if he knew.

  7. Hey there,

    Thanks so much for stopping by….I loved your comment and hope you will come back to play soon.

    This is my first time here. Like Rowena, I’m fascinated by the lack of kissing – did you ever talk to him about it? What did he say? Have you ever daydreamed about what you might have said had you confronted him about the underwear??

    I think when we hear a character’s inner dialogue in any – so say if this were fiction if we heard more of the main characters inner struggle it makes her more sympathetic…does that make sense?

  8. I have to agree with Natasha – when I hear the inner thoughts of a character, I am usually inclined to sympathize with them. I think, more often than not, unless a person is just a complete idiot, people are more alike than not, so when we hear what they really think, we can empathize with them. Also, having known you for a while through the blogosphere, I have developed a trust and a liking to you. So, the question is, how can we give our readers that sense of knowing someone in a shorter amount of time?

    Does that make any sense?

  9. Pingback: Choosing Disappointment « writing in the water

  10. Pingback: Hold on for dear life. « writing in the water

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