How to Kiss

As a kid, I hated being kissed.

“The kisses went to Florida,” I would tell my mother when she leaned in to say goodnight. Florida was the only place I knew about. I was 16.

OK, not really. I was three. But even at 16 I wasn’t a fan of kissing. My first kiss felt like being slowly swallowed by a giant squid, all rubbery glup and spit.

Over the years, I’ve kissed men and women, inexperienced and proficient, garlic lovers and vampires, people with whom I shared chemistry and those who were all technique. I’ve pondered a good kiss’s permutations. Soft lips? Open mouth? Tentative tongue? None are across-the-board positive; when it comes to kissing, circumstance is all. However, I do have some general guidelines gleaned from my years in the trenches. Follow them and I guarantee you won’t be compared to a sea creature. At least not by me.

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Be present.
Your body isn’t enough. I need your mind. If you’re thinking about tomorrow’s early wake-up call, whether you made the right impression when you spoke french to the waiter (we had dinner at Outback Steakhouse, so the answer is no), or even how to maneuver me over to your futon, you’re not in the moment and I can tell.

Pay attention
When you set a hand to my low back or run your thumb over my jaw, how do I respond? If you’re kissing me lightly and I press my lips more firmly against yours, take note. If you tug at my hair and my breathing changes, that tells you not only how I feel right now, but about our future sexual journey. (Writing that phrase made me feel like Sting—yikes—shake it off, Rosenblum.) The point is, use all of your senses, just like your ancestors did to avoid being killed by a lion on the velt.

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Be responsive
This isn’t all about me. Note: you will never hear me say that again. But truly, just as you’re observing me, I’m tuning into you. So, if you like when I trace a finger down your chest, show me. Words can be great, but if you’re the shy type, use your breathe, your body, your hands.

Be generous
This isn’t about kissing per se, but my worst sexual experience to date involved requesting something (I’m still too traumatized to say what.) and having my partner tell me she was satisfied already so she’d rather pass. For God sake, if I ask you to kiss me, if I initiate but you’re tired from a long day of hacky-sac or whatever, kiss me back. Further, if you know I like being kissed a certain way, say while eating waffles or listening to Justin Bieber, make that fantasy come true. Even if you’re not dating a Wiccan, the Law of Threefold Return applies; give and I’ll give back—enthusiastically.

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No substances
I’ll admit this one is personal. A first date once told me she couldn’t figure out how to kiss me because my sobriety made her self-conscious. Of course alcohol eliminates inhibitions, and I’m not here to judge your drunken encounter (though you’re welcome to Skype me and I’ll dress up like an Olympic judge and hold up a sign). But here’s the thing—I’ve kissed pot smokers and alcohol drinkers and recreational cocaine users (boy, I hope potential employers are reading this.) and perhaps their experiences were enhanced by their drugs of choice, but pot smokers’ tongues feel like cotton, drunk people kiss sloppily and coke tastes like the dentist. Moreover, if you’re altered, numbers 1-4 are pretty hard to pull off.

At this point, my attitude toward kissing is, if I’m attracted to you, you haven’t just pounded an everything bagel and you don’t roll your eyes when I want to discuss my feelings, I’ll probably be into kissing you. Even if you make me listen to Sting.

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