I used to imagine that my first kiss would be a magical experience that should be cherished and remembered. To thirteen year old me, I imagined that kissing someone was nearly as important as full blown coital, and even as my friends were getting their first kisses and much, much more, I waited patiently–most of the time at my house on Saturday night watching reruns of Boy Meets World, wondering if I would ever have a simple love like Cory and Topanga. I wasn’t sure what it would be like, so I asked my friends. Sadly, it was more like a giant secret, so eventually I went on to study movies and television. I wanted to understand what this kissing business entailed; I continued my search until I ran into the movie Man in the Moon. For those unaware, it’s Reese Witherspoon’s first role ever and the ending will leave you wanting to kill yourself out of depression. But to no surprise, young Reese and I had something in common: we both wanted the answer to this kissing dilemma. Her sister in the movie advised her to practice by kissing her closed fist.
Logic told me that if that was good enough for Reese, then it was good enough for me. So for a couple weeks, I went around practicing on my fist, hoping that I would gain some kind of insight as to what I was supposed to be doing, but after my dad caught me making out with my hand and told me that it looked like I was attempting to kiss a butthole, I decided to wait for the real thing. The only thing worse than being thirteen years old and not being kissed is being thirteen years old and have your dad accusing you of fake kissing a butthole.
The next few years, I lived vicariously through my slutty friends who got kissed on the regular. I used to pray for them and envy them at the same time, as any true Christian understands. I wanted them to be washed of their sin, but I also wanted what they had more than anything. Eventually, my day would come, but we’ve already discussed that. The first kiss is always the most dangerous because it reveals that kissing doesn’t kill you… actually, the first kiss opens up the door to so much more kissing, and if you time it correctly like I did, you don’t end up being called slutty like all of your early blooming middle school friends.
I stayed pretty monogamous with my kissing throughout high school, only kissing people that I was in a stable, healthy relationship with… which usually consisted of talking for 1-2 weeks, never going on a date, then deciding that you’re boyfriend and girlfriend. But in the summer before my senior year, I made a fatal error and kissed someone I wasn’t dating. At first, I imagined that God was scowling down at me from above, citing multiple verses of Leviticus that I hadn’t reviewed in years, which made me feel even more guilty for not knowing which verses of Leviticus I had infracted. With time, the guilt subsided, and I realized the world I had stumbled onto: the world of casual kissing.
I began to realize that I had just been a victim of American prudishness–countries around the world had been kissing each other for years. Hell, depending on what part of France you’re in, sometimes men kiss other men. In comparison to the rest of the world, America is nearly a celibate country. I began coming more and more open to the idea of sharing kisses with the masses, and soon, I began implementing my plan. College started out slow, but the more comfortable I got with the idea, the more people I kissed. I kissed future Broadway stars and people who would eventually drop out, but no matter the person, as long as they were open to the idea (and didn’t have cold sores… ew), then I would offer up a friendly kiss at least. I found it to be my gift, or calling, perhaps.
But with every good intention comes an equally important responsibility. I soon found that the amicable, mouth hugging ideal that I had in my head was fading. I found myself in competitions, particularly with my friend Patrice, going around and trying to kiss as many people as we could in an hour. At the time, it seemed like harmless fun, but in retrospect, I had become everything I had envied and prayed for–I had become skanky. I had started kissing so many people that it didn’t feel like anything anymore. It had become sport for me, so I decided to stop. College was college, but in the real world… things had to be different.
But when I was younger and wanting to be kissed more than Drew Berrymore in a 90s cult classic, my mom explained to me that people matured at different times and that we all go through things at our own pace. So when my roommate and I went over to a friend’s apartment and starting drinking flavored vodka, I could feel myself being catapulted back into my sophomore year of college. My super-post-grad-maturity kicked in, and I realized that my company had never had those slutty college years that Rita from Bridesmaids warned Ellie Kemper’s character about. I knew that for one night, I had to take a hiatus from my life of purity–I needed to be their Rita.
So after spending about fifteen minutes convincing one roommate that I was indeed not gay, I kissed her on the balcony, while to my surprise, my roommate was inside making out with the other roommate. Later that night, my makeout friend was throwing up in the toilet while my roommate was dancing alone to the Backstreet Boys smash record Millenium. I knew that was when the night needed to be over. Yes, it seems extremely immature, but these moments are necessary. We promised as a group that we wouldn’t let it affect our friendship, and much like sophomore year, we didn’t talk to them for a month. I was confused why we kept apologizing for kissing each other, as if we had taken turns punching each other in the face. I was quickly reminded that, even as a 22 year old, kissing is just something that no one really seems to embrace like the Europeans and me.
I find myself apologizing for a lot in my life because I’m naturally a guilty and nervous person, but one thing that I refuse to apologize for is kissing another person. Yes, I like to believe that I use a little more discretion these days than I have in the past, but when you come from a position where you’ve made out with your hand, you don’t take any kisses for granted. Kissing is nothing to be ashamed of, but my new friends helped me to realize something. Casual kissing is best done with people that you don’t know because casual kissing among friends leads to awkward silences and a laundry list of questions that never needed to be questions to begin with. Kissing, much like conversations about politics and watching sports, is best done with perfect strangers.