How to Kiss

I kiss like a goldfish eats. Leaning into the person I’m making out with like they’re food and trying to take in as much as I can in one gulp. I do whatever I want when I kiss. My kissing is gross. At the beginning of a relationship, I'm tentative but experimental. I don't want to reveal how disgusting I can be too soon, for fear of scaring them off. "Is this how you kiss?” “I’m a bit shy.” But I'm not, I want to get more in there. I want to taste what you ate for breakfast. I want to taste how you just brushed your teeth because you knew I would kiss you. I want to taste the cigarette we just shared. I especially want to taste the mix of drinks we've had tonight. What many guys I've dated think is gross, I can’t stop doing.

"Is this how you kiss?" they ask me after the second or third time we’ve kissed. I’ve stopped pretending. I have the sense and decency to look embarrassed, but I'm not. "Uhhh.....yeah. Sorry." I'm not sorry. From what I've seen, bad kissing has been portrayed in movies and TV as overaggressive, overzealous. Licking people's faces, shoving tongues unceremoniously into their kissing partner's mouth, lunging. It's easier to depict this as bad kissing form than using their teeth or thinking kissing is like multiple pecks on the mouth in a row for a few seconds. Or bad rhythm. Or a rigid jaw and mouth. To me, if the other person isn’t enthusiastic or is shy in their kissing technique or they don't open their mouth enough, I can't work with them. I can't get farther back. What am I supposed to do with you coming at me with pursed, tensed lips when all I need is open access to the amusement park that is your mouth? I like to venture as far in as I possibly can. I still can’t understand why this is bad.

An old friend of mine used to tell me that there aren’t good and bad kissers, just compatible and incompatible ones. I think I agree with this sentiment because no matter how you kiss, there’s someone out there that kisses the same. It’s nice to believe in this way of thinking.

People have complained to me about my kissing before and I appreciate that. I react well to constructive criticism but what I think is going on are just different tastes. Sometimes guys will kiss me the way I kiss them as a reward, to let me know they’re paying attention and that they care. So I’m aware they know how to do it. I always notice the difference immediately. My first boyfriend said that we kissed messily when we first started dating. I don’t even remember that because I was too focused on how good the kisses were. Those messy kisses for him were eye opening and new territory for me. His were always the best because he took my intensity and harnessed it with his kissing style. We both worked at our kisses throughout the relationship and only got better as time went on.

I had never had sex, despite having lived away from home at school for four years. My kissing experience there was limited and with two guys, one in my first week who kissed me while I was passed out in his arms in the backyard of the kegger I was at. Yeah.

The second was with a friend. After what was possibly the drunkest night of my life, I threw up in his roommate's bathroom after taking a big hit from a bong and then he walked me next door to my house where I continued to throw up in the kitchen sink and garbage and then eventually into my own garbage, while I hung upside down from my bed. He patted my back and nursed me back to health then I went downstairs to the bathroom to brush my teeth. The next morning I noticed that my attempt at brushing my teeth involved smearing toothpaste on the cupboards and mirror in the bathroom. When I went back upstairs, we kissed for hours. It was the first uninterrupted kiss I had ever had in my life and I must have been starved for it. I grabbed his face so hard and pressed it into mine.

I didn't know it at the time, but when I was 22 I would get a crash course on kissing the right way, my way, from my first serious boyfriend.

We spent the first few months of our friendship giving each other long hugs before we went to work. The hugs turned into trying to subtly touch each others’ hands or arms in his car but never going further. This touching turned into us watching A&E, The Food Network and TLC shows like we were actually retaining anything that was happening on the tv. It was mostly a vehicle for us to sit close to each other while he brushed my hair and traced my ears with his fingers. When I leaned into him, I could hear his heart beating fast. I asked if it was because we were watching the conjoined twins Abby and Brittany and if the way they finished each other's thoughts but out loud was freaking him out. He said no. After doing this a couple of days in a row, the tension was too much and I turned my face to him and we kissed for the first time. The buildup to this moment was so huge that it could only have been a letdown. But it wasn't, it was the best. This opened a floodgate of psychotic levels of kissing that we took to his car, behind buildings, in the backs of restaurants, in my bathroom. Literally anywhere that provided the slightest bit of privacy, we would be kissing there. For hours. This was the only way I knew how to express myself sexually. But it felt like enough at the time. I could feel myself getting hot but I could just grab his arm and pull him towards me and would be instantly satisfied. Any moment we weren't kissing was wasted to me, so I made up for years of lost time. I kissed like I had a point to prove and that point was that I loved kissing.

Since then, I’ve been leading poor, reserved people into unchartered kissing territory. My mouth opens so wide that my jaw unlocks and makes a noise. I probe with my tongue and pry their mouths open so their teeth don’t go anywhere near mine. My kisses are like I’m trying to absorb your whole life with my mouth. I kiss like a pug sneezes. With my hands in your hair, I pull you closer into my face, where I want you to stay for as long you’re willing to kiss me.