Dear Lily June,
The origin of the kiss is an interesting thing, but I’m no philematologist. I know relatively few things about the origins and enactments of kisses on a grand scale:
I know that anthropologists fall into two kiss origin camps. One side believes kissing, as an isolated act, is instinctual and intuitive. The other believes kissing evolved from the act of “kiss feeding,” a process whereby species would feed their babies by pre-masticating foods and then passing them into the mouths of their young.
I know there are so many variations on the kiss. From the classy act of old-fashioned handkissing…
…to the sweet affection of butterfly kisses (which involves fluttering your eyelashes over someone else’s skin) or eskimo kisses (which involves rubbing noses together–loosely based on an Inuit greeting called kunik)…
…to the passionate “French kiss” (which involves saliva swapping and tongue tangling)…
and all up to and including the fact that some cultures (not necessarily American) kiss on the cheeks for friendship, while others refuse to kiss altogether because of its intimacy…
I find it a fascinating action in human history. Heck, you can eat a kiss…
…or, according to the blog Be Different Buddy, you can even, now, drink a kiss.
The last fun fact I know about kissing is this: in 1997, researchers at Princeton University found that special neurons in the brain’s premotor cortex–neurons responsible for tactile sensation and visual awareness–actually allow lovers to find one another’s lips in the dark.
But far from just giving you a few isolated facts about kissing that may or may not be useful to you, I also wanted to give you a sense of your dorky old mom’s kisstory so hopefully you can glean some lessons for your lips from my kissing misadventures (kissadventures? too punny? too bad!)
Remember, all the names have been changed to protect the (mostly) innocent. See me if you ever want the real dramatis personae.
My First Fake Kiss: “Jonathan Krackenberg”
It’s hard to count a kissing-game kiss as a real first kiss, because the kisser didn’t hand pick the kissee. Rather, fate–and a rapidly rotating liquid container–did the picking. What I got was a peck from a man tall enough to make Paul Bunyan blush. His lips were dry; his demeanor bored; the kiss unsatisfying to us both.
Lesson #1: There’s no context in which sandpaper is romantic. Wet your lips for that first kiss!
My First Real Kiss: “Bobby Moore”
If it’s possible, this kiss was even more disappointing than the “fake first” because it went to the opposite extreme. If “Jonathan” was too bored, “Bobby” was too excited. We were at a middle school dance–one he’d asked me to–and he went from planting his lips on my mouth, which I was all for, to trying to plant his hands on my chest, which I was not for at all.
His lips encouraged his hands; his demeanor was perv-y; and the kiss was the last thing he ever got from me.
Lesson #2: Appetizers don’t have to lead to the main course. A kiss can just be an eggroll, Lily.
My First Boyfriend Kisses: “Nathan Carr”
I was his first real girlfriend and he, my first real boyfriend. As such, we kissed a lot. Like, a lot a lot. We kissed like we were revolutionaries and a fascist regime had declared a war against PDA (which, by the principal’s and bus driver’s standards, may as well have been true). We kissed until our necks strained and our lips bruised.
But quantity didn’t mean quality. Sure, there were tingles at the time, but only because my inexperienced tongue didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be lapped like a cat on nip. This guy seemed to have more tongues than a shoe store, and he loved jamming them into my face like he was trying to loosen my fillings.
His lips were always soaked; his demeanor over-eager; the kisses like clouds, heavily with precipitation.
Lesson #3: Don’t overestimate the tongue. You’re better off with soggy French toast than drool-y French kisses.
My First Kiss After My First Breakup: “Eddie Morstaller”
When Nathan broke up with me (or I broke up with him? or we just broke up? suffice it to say, it was the single-most confusing break-up of my life), I was devastated. Like, swan-dive into a kiddy pool of ice cream devastated. Poor Eddie came upon me at the absolute worst time, when I was so low, it was only to easy to sweep me off my feet.
The first kiss with Eddie was good. We were away at an arts camp, and he walked me to a tree–the prettiest one on campus. He looked at me like I was the prettiest girl on campus. And like no seventeen-year-old boy does, he had the old-school charm and charisma to literally dip me as he kissed me. It was the right kiss from the wrong guy–the rebound guy–and I figured that out when, later, I couldn’t get past the fact that his mouth always tasted like rotten Coca-Cola.
His teeth were always unbrushed, his approach for the first kiss too polished, and all the kisses that followed couldn’t live up. But that first one reignited the fire that I could be desired again. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.
Lesson #4: Good dental hygiene is essential, for more reasons than one. Good flossers make good kissers.
My First Same-Sex Kiss: “Lora Schiller”
There is nothing wrong with figuring out who you are and what you’re attracted to. If I weren’t married to your dad, I might still be wary of labeling myself and cutting off half of the world and half my chances at finding my soul mate. It just so happened he’s the love of my life. But if he’d been a she? I’d like to think I’d have known that heart in any body. Just don’t kiss one gender to get the attention of another. That’s plum obnoxious, Lily, and an affront to anyone whose sexuality is de-legitimized by these (usually inebriated) ploys for attention.
In the meantime, this kiss was mostly just embarrassing because it was like starting from scratch all over again. We both turned our heads in the same direction for starters. And for seconds, it set off no sparks. Her lips were soft, her demeanor bubbly, but the kiss wrong for both of us.
Lesson #5: Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss. Live a little, and let your lips learn.
My First Love Kiss: “Brett Schmidt”
For me, Lily, the difference between a first love and a true love is this: The first love teaches you how to be a better partner; the true love teaches you how to be a better person. I needed the kisses–and the relationship–with Brett to learn what a relationship could and couldn’t be before I got to your dad. It was like a game you play just to level up, an appropriate metaphor since I promised to kiss Brett once he beat me at Tetris. The first round we played after that promise, he killed me. And so he kissed me. And the rest, as they say…
But the truth is, Brett and I were buddies who shouldn’t have crossed that line. We were amazing friends and horrible partners to one another. And the relationship tore the friendship to shreds. So if I could go back and not kiss him at all, I almost wouldn’t. Except, as “way leads onto way,” I needed that kiss to get to the last pair I was ever gonna tango with.
His lips were penultimate; his demeanor affectionate; the kiss a domino that tipped me into my future.
Lesson #6: Sometimes a kiss isn’t just a kiss. And sometimes, you can’t go back to who you were to each other before you were kissing. So kiss wisely, little Lily.
My True Love Kiss (and Last Kissee): Your Dad
You already know the story–kind of–of your dad’s and my first date. It was during that ridiculous Heigl rom-com that your dad and I locked lips. And in locking lips, we unknowingly locked our lives into place. He’d had a female “Brett” of his own and had kissed enough people in Tuscaloosa that his lips had a reputation for getting drunk and trying to land on strangers, friends, acquaintances, any who were willing, really. He’d been lonely, Lily.
I was still hurting and healing, but your dad was no rebound like Eddie. Your dad was the real deal, Lily, the one for whom your leg pops (metaphorically, since I was sitting in a theater) and sparks fly (again, metaphorically, as you can’t cause a fire in a crowded theater) and your heart skips the beat to give you time to insert them into it.
We’d been waiting and waiting and had eaten tacos and your dad had said he wanted to kiss me even with cheesy Taco Bell breath. (That charmer has always had a way with words.) We’d been trying and trying to watch that abyssmal affront to cinema that is 27 Dresses when your dad gave me a look that announced, “Aw, f@%$ it,” and neither of us could wait until the end of the date any longer. And while I spent the rest of the date nervous that I’d done it wrong, I knew everything about what he’d done had been right. So right.
And I went home that night feeling as if I were grinning all through my dreams, and dreaming of him all through my grins. It was, as Dean Martin once sang, the best kind of “kick in the head.”
And for the rest of my life, Lily, I don’t have the desire to kiss anyone else (but you on the cheeks and the belly and the feet, of course). Your dad’s lips, to me, are sweet; his demeanor just as; the kisses honey to my memory every time. They endure as our love has, and in nine days, we’ll celebrate five years of marriage. I can’t wait, I just can’t wait, to kiss him–with my whole heart–again. And again. And again.
Lesson #7: They say you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs before you get to your prince. I kissed one woman and at least five men. But if amphibians rock your boat, just to sure to wash your mouth out afterwards with soap!
- “The Kiss – Gustav Klimt – Google Cultural Institute” by Gustav Klimt – Google Art Project. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Kiss_-_Gustav_Klimt_-_Google_Cultural_Institute.jpg#/media/File:The_Kiss_-_Gustav_Klimt_-_Google_Cultural_Institute.jpg
- “Reed warbler cuckoo” by Per Harald Olsen – Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reed_warbler_cuckoo.jpg#/media/File:Reed_warbler_cuckoo.jpg
- “Denis Thatcher Nancy Reagan 1988” by White House Photo Office – http://www.margaretthatcher.org/multimedia/displaydocument.asp?docid=109671, but the photo is a product of the White House (see explanation on page for additional info). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Denis_Thatcher_Nancy_Reagan_1988.jpg#/media/File:Denis_Thatcher_Nancy_Reagan_1988.jpg
- “Eskimokiss” by Bayonetblaha at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eskimokiss.jpg#/media/File:Eskimokiss.jpg
- “French Kiss” by KoS. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:French_Kiss.JPG#/media/File:French_Kiss.JPG
- “Pretty woman movie” by POV – IMP Awards. Via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pretty_woman_movie.jpg#/media/File:Pretty_woman_movie.jpg
- “Hershey’s Kisses and Cherry Cordial Creme Kisses” by IvoShandor. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hershey%27s_Kisses_and_Cherry_Cordial_Creme_Kisses.jpg#/media/File:Hershey%27s_Kisses_and_Cherry_Cordial_Creme_Kisses.jpg
- “Edvard Munch – The Kiss – Google Art Project” by Edvard Munch – Google Art Project: pic. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edvard_Munch_-_The_Kiss_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg#/media/File:Edvard_Munch_-_The_Kiss_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
- “Coca-Cola 1915 Contour bottle” by nagualdesign. Licensed under CC0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coca-Cola_1915_Contour_bottle.jpg#/media/File:Coca-Cola_1915_Contour_bottle.jpg
- “Nate Freiman on defense” by SD Dirk – Flickr: Nate Freiman. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nate_Freiman_on_defense.jpg#/media/File:Nate_Freiman_on_defense.jpg
- “Giraffe’s tongue” by Irina Polikanova – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giraffe%27s_tongue.jpg#/media/File:Giraffe%27s_tongue.jpg
- “Legendary kiss V–J day in Times Square Alfred Eisenstaedt”. Via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Legendary_kiss_V%E2%80%93J_day_in_Times_Square_Alfred_Eisenstaedt.jpg#/media/File:Legendary_kiss_V%E2%80%93J_day_in_Times_Square_Alfred_Eisenstaedt.jpg
- “Kissing Prairie dog edit 3” by I, Brocken Inaglory. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kissing_Prairie_dog_edit_3.jpg#/media/File:Kissing_Prairie_dog_edit_3.jpg