My first kiss was in the back of a school bus. My fifth grade crush and I awkwardly chatted about homework and the latest episode of ALF. Occasionally we held hands while blushing. She had dark, blonde, curly hair—big, coke bottle curls—and a tiny pig nose. Not in a bad way! It was cute. One afternoon, I gathered all my courage, closed my eyes real tight, and planted a smooch smack on her lips. Fire. As we parted our faces, careful not to make eye contact, we both looked down smirking and bumping along the bus ride in shock. I remember we smiled at each other, then the floor. Nervous and unsure about what had just transpired, but we both knew this was a game changer.
For most of us, that memory of your first kiss unlocks nostalgia for lost innocence, and maybe the hope for the future we once held...But can one silly peck on the back of a bus alter your path in life? Probably not. Well, unless you’re comedian Bill Blank.
Bill was a late bloomer. Bill barely had hair under his arms while all of his friends were shaving and sneaking cigarettes out of their mother’s purse. He was short, frail and hairless. More importantly to him, he was the only one left in his group of friends who hadn’t kissed a girl.
Bill’s group of friends included a pair of sisters. The older sister was tall, beautiful, and intimidating. A teenage Goddess with flawless skin and perfect smile. The younger was, well…the exact opposite. So, Bill set his sights on her, the younger, more “attainable” sister.
Their relationship had all the hallmarks of a 13-year-old treasured love story. They held hands under the table in the cafeteria. They chased fireflies on summer evenings. She even wrote his name on her shoes, which back then was like becoming “Facebook Official.” Sure, she had to cross out a few other names to make room for his, but that didn’t matter to Bill.
Young love is a time of euphoria and possibility. But all that came crashing one afternoon on the doorstep of Bill’s paramore. This was the moment. This was the day he was to become more of a man, and the anxiety to perform under those conditions was crippling. He rang the doorbell, and the thoughts started to spiral.
This is the day. I’m going to kiss her. Yes! But...Then what? We fall in love. We get married. We have kids. We die? Oh, my God. I am going to die. We all die.
The day that was supposed to mark Bill’s first kiss ended up being overshadowed by his first panic attack.
Emo music was still about seven years away from mainstream popularity, but I imagine it stemmed from an experience like this. Bill battled the depression and anxiety for years before discovering stand-up comedy.
“I was so afraid of dyeing that I became halfway suicidal.” Bill said.
At 21 years-old, Bill stumbled into one of the only professions that doubles as a therapy session: stand-up comedy. The rush and the adrenaline of performing on stage acted as a vaccine for his anxiety. Bill turned those irrational thoughts into hilarious, relatable humor. He used his sickness to power his happiness instead of allowing it to control him. Bill found peace and solace in the spotlight of the stage, surrounded by welcoming strangers. Stand-up comedy didn’t cure Bill of his anxiety, but it did eventually replace his therapy.
Oh, I almost forgot... Bill did end up getting his first kissthat summer day in nineteen ninety something.
“I closed my eyes and put my lips together like I was kissing my mother goodnight. I had no idea what I was doing.” Bill said, chuckling. “She ended up swallowing my whole face!
Like itwas shiny afterwards. It looked like I put on too much carmex!”
So, next time you get nervous and feel the rush of anxiety take over. Stop.Take a deep breath, shut your eyes real tight and pucker up.