I lied about my first kiss.

Not the one from the boy named Billy who defended my honor back in kindergarten. But the one in high school that I told my classmates about, rather than admitting that no boy had tried yet.

It happens. But it’s a shame when it does. Because when I finally did kiss a boy, when it finally happened, I couldn’t tell anyone. I remember leaning in, my lips pressed to his, and thinking “this is my first kiss!” But after boasting that I had kissed already, I felt I had to play it cool rather than reveal my secret.

Other times, I’ve lied to myself. “This is love,” I told myself with my first husband. At 23, I somehow convinced myself I was getting too old and may never get married. Then he and I met and rather than be alone I pushed and I prodded and I rushed our relationship from dating to living together to being engaged to getting married. One month after our wedding, I found myself lying face down on my bed, sobbing uncontrollably, feeling trapped in a situation that would continue until “death do us part.” It took me seven years and my dad’s death before I had the courage to admit failure and move forward.

Why do we rush love?

It’s kind of like power-leveling through a video game. We slash and hack and hurry through the starting zone, barely reading the quest descriptions or paying attention to the story line. We push to reach all the fabulous end-game content we’ve read about and then suddenly – we are at a standstill.

I don’t want to do that this time.

It’s like trying to frost a cake that hasn’t even baked yet. The process of mixing the ingredients, prepping the pans, preheating the oven, and the house filling with the wonderful smells: all this should be savored not microwaved. Anticipation gives heightened ecstasy.

Sometimes I wonder if we try to skip steps in the process because we don’t want to take the time and then see the flaws. We figure if we hurry past the red flags, maybe they won’t really apply to us. Sometimes we mistake the adrenalin of the hunt for the tingles of attraction.

I’m afraid to say that this time is different for me. That sounds so cliché and starry-eyed. But I’m not so anxious this time: I’m not looking to hit milestones and make declarations. I’m okay with taking things slow. I’m not seeking validation or assurances about what is happening. And for something truly shocking, I’m not trying to control the outcome.

“Who is this and what have you done with my Joey?” one of my close friends recently demanded.

She stopped to taste a bite of cake. And the cake is not a lie.