I love to kiss.
There’s nothing like the experience of lips against lips: the exchange of breath, the communion of heartbeats and intention. The best kissing is a give-and-take that obviates the world around us. It’s pure attention, where all that matters is that very moment. Kissing may be the precursor to something more, but it can also be a gem and a joy in its own right, a portal of intimacy that leaves us breathless.
I’m always surprised when I come across a woman who doesn’t know how to kiss well — who’s parsimonious with lips and tongue — who doesn’t understand that kissing is all about being generous. And I have plenty of female friends who say the same about men.
I learned to kiss from my high school girlfriend. I’ll never forget the day she took the time to truly teach me. We were sitting on the lawn at the side of my house, no windows in sight, just before sunset on warm Saturday afternoon. There was a low-level buzz of lawnmowers in the neighborhood, the distant sound of kids laughing and screaming on the playground across the street. She wore one of those cloying adolescent perfumes that teen boys find so intoxicating. I don’t remember what we’d been talking about, but the mood was light and happy, and when I leaned into her, she asked, “Do you want me to teach you how to kiss really well?”
And she did.
- She told me to soften my lips as I moved my face close to hers.
- She whispered for me to open my mouth just a little bit — to put my tongue away for a moment.
- She demonstrated the way to pucker just enough,
- and she paused... for barely a perceptible moment...
- before touching her lips to mine softly, sweetly.
- And then she withdrew them just the tiniest bit before moving in again.
- “Keep your lips soft,” she said, even as she kissed me a little harder.
- She showed me how just a tease of the tongue can create a frisson that travels from your head to your guts — how a little can go a long way.
We kissed for hours, trying different approaches.
- Sometimes you want to press your lips hard against each other, sharing your tongues with abandon, relishing the sloppy warmth and passion.
- Sometimes you’ll use your mouth to pull at her bottom lip, gently, before going back in for a full-on smash.
- But always the pucker, keeping the lips soft for the most part, only occasionally tightening them before relaxing into the kiss again.
- And then there are the hands — holding her face to yours with both hands, leaving room in between them for only your lips and noses; one hand at her neck, under her ear, while the other is pressed against her back, holding her close; a hand in her hair; both arms wrapped powerfully around her in a heated embrace; your hands holding hers, interlocking fingers; holding both of her arms, just above her elbows, keeping her tight against you.
But as much as I learned that there’s technique in a good kiss, the true take-home message that day was this: pay attention.
The best kissing is a conversation without words —it’s a call-and-response that requires each party to key into the other’s preferences and movements, rhythms, and levels of intensity. It’s ramping up when you’re both feeling it, or slowing down to attenuate the pleasure. It’s not about gearing up for what happens next; it’s all about being in the moment.
My favorite kisses have stayed with me.
There were magical first kisses, like the impulsive one in the middle of the street during a blizzard; the secret one on the corner; the surprise kiss after the first date — standing in the cold in front of her apartment, the woman a bit taller than me, with pillow lips I couldn’t keep my eyes off of all evening long; the stolen first kiss while Simone ran into her room to grab a favorite toy; the drunken, graceless one after we’d gone on an impromptu first date bender together; the sneaky kiss during a twilight hike at summer camp.
Some kisses are memorable; not so much for the way they felt, but for the circumstances under which they took place. I remember kissing Simone’s mom while our squalling daughter lay on her chest, umbilical cord still attached to her little body; I can recall a makeout session on a chairlift and the kiss from the woman who sought me out after a short conversation on an airplane. I won’t forget my first post-divorce kiss, with a gorgeous young woman who had a hearing aid that squealed if I brought my head too close to hers. I remember heartbreaking goodbye kisses, breathtaking one-time-only kisses, tearful reunion kisses.
Kissing is not about sex. It may lead to sex sometimes, but that’s not where the magic comes from. What makes kissing so important and special is that it’s a safe and joyful way to connect with someone you’re attracted to. If you open yourself to a good kiss, the rest of the world will go away for a short while, and you’ll know what it’s like to really pay attention to something close and intimate while abandoning all thought. It's being present and letting go at the same time. Kissing engages all of your senses into a tiny locus of pleasure and intensity.
Kissing is a form of communication — whether you’re kissing for the first time or after years together; whether you’re making out with someone you just met and may never see again, or you’re nestled in the soft and comfortable embrace of the love of your life.
Pay attention to the way a person kisses — it can tell you quite a bit about what you’re in for.
But, that said, I’ll ignore a bouquet of red flags for a woman whose kisses set my heart on fire.