August 7, 2020

How to Kiss: A Lecture

posted on: Wednesday February 3, 2010

Conor Leary ’11 / Asst. Portfolio Editor

There’s something to say about how long a breath takes to come up out of your lungs and pass slowly out of your lips. Yes, it’s something natural, and without the physical process of breathing, your skin would always be a nice shade of blue. But it’s something incredibly noticeable when you’ve reached an intimate amount of space between you and another person. When you’ve crossed a boundary, or three hundred. When you’re about to complicate friendships, throw rivalries out the metaphorical window, or violate the barriers set between an absolute stranger and yourself by placing your face right in front of theirs. Or allowing theirs to get very close to yours. Close to theirs. Closer than it’s ever been before. When you lay lip upon lip, and when you tuck your lower one under their upper one. By getting so close, you kiss someone. Anyone. I think.

It’s considerably different these days, the vicinities that are acceptable and unacceptable by society, by culture, and by the people that compose both culture and society. You can sit next to a girl in your biology class, even during the lessons on sexual reproduction. You can stand in line at the unemployment office with men. You can slap a fellow sportsman on the butt as a compliment on a successful play in same-sex sports. You cannot wolf-whistle at women in the office without receiving a visit from a court officer and hearing their nice little catchphrase: “You’ve been served.” It’s harassment. You can bathe in public showers though. You can wonder at what people look like naked. That’s called using your imagination. You cannot watch people getting dressed. That’s against the law and you’ll be visited by a very different kind of officer if you peep. You can hug men and women. Europeans even share kisses on the cheek with practically everyone. Americans, not so much.

You take your time. You plan the perfect strategy most of the time. You go over it again and again in your dreams, over the lip of red Solo cups, and across the classroom where the sight of them is always enough to distract you, even from the always-compelling sexual reproduction lectures. You don’t exactly practice, but you let your breath linger out of your lips when you’re just breathing, slightly prepared and pursed, so the wind is siphoned out, delicate and airy. You imagine them close, breathing their own airy and delicate breaths. You taste them. You check your breath constantly and chew minty gums until your jaw hurts. Anywhere you go. Anywhere.

You’ll never know if you’re doing it right. Even when it’s happening, you’ll stand there with your hands placed firmly at your side, not knowing whether to make the second move (the first one already initiated by the lip play you’re currently experiencing). Just stand there. Enjoy it. Savor the moment when you sense their lungs rising to release a breath. Don’t bother with your hands. Don’t re-enact some movie moment by cupping their cheeks or skimming your fingers through their hair. It’s not worth it. When there’s a break, honor it, even when they pull away to breathe for just a second, or linger for a moment to think. Watch them touch their lips. Don’t count how long they touch them. Just enjoy the first second.

Watch for a reaction! Wait and hope to God they are not regretting what just happened. It’s something that could always happen. You could have misjudged the signs and therefore built your entire strategy on a deceptive foundation. When they pull away, it could all fall out from beneath you.

They could look up at you with a thousand emotions in their eyes, all distinct and crippling. They’ll use the eyes that haunted your dreams, that you longed to catch looking at you from over red Solo cups, that you hoped would turn towards you on just the right piece of sexually-reproductive jargon. Embarrassment, the what-just-happened kind. Confusion, the where-did-that-come-from kind. Humor, the mocking kind. Humor, the entertained kind. Shock, the oh-my-God-I-cannot- believe-this-just-happened-with-him kind! With her! With them! Rejection, the never-in-a-thousand-years kind. Pity, the I-like-you-but-I-don’t-like-like-you kind. Suspense, the what-are-you-going-to-do-next kind. Passionate, the what-are-you-going-to-do-next kind. Drunk, the slurring-compliment kind. Uncertainty, the what-does-this-mean kind. Or emptiness. Just nothing there. Nothing.

Never regret it. Don’t let yourself do such a thing. Never regret it and never, ever try to forget it. Never forget the feeling of listening to your heart pounding in your ears and the moment it went mute. Never forget the life you felt, the mysterious breath you swallowed, the taste of it. Never forget the first move, or the second, or the third, or the end. Remember the kiss no matter who it’s with or what it means. They’ll mean something in the end. Every kiss will.

Try and be the one to end it though. When you are touching your lips repeatedly, back and forth, gaining territory and being pushed back in friendly competition. When pillows and blankets get involved, when your fingers get caught in sleeves and straps, and when you laugh into them and they laugh into you. Pull away. Smile. Sneak one last kiss. And then turn away.(It’s okay if you turn back. For a look. For a little jog back over. For a hug. For another kiss. For one last one. It’s okay if the first thing you do is start making plans for the next one. Your next kiss. Even if it’s not with the same person. Even if it can’t be. That’s okay too.)

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