First Kiss

His name was Tim and he lived on a neighbouring farm. Our house and his family’s house shared a drive lane, so we’d see each other coming and going. We’d also see each other waiting for our respective school buses at the end of our road and occasionally while working together in an orchard or at market.

We were 13 and I had a big crush on Tim. He was very shy so we hardly ever spoke, so I don’t really know what he thought about me.

One evening a bunch of us were hanging around the back field – he and I and his siblings, my siblings, his friends and my friends. Egged on by his friends, he offered to take me for a ride on his dirt bike. Thrilled to bits, I went.

He stopped the bike in the middle of a peach orchard, out of ear and eye-shot of the gang back in the field. We got off the bike. “What now,” I thought. Before I could finish the thought, he grabbed me, and without further ado pushed his face onto mine and rammed his spit-slippery tongue down my throat.

Stunned, I pushed him off me so hard that he tripped and fell over his bike knocking both himself and his bike into the dirt.

“What the hell?” I yelled vigorously scrubbing my mouth with the back of my hand and spitting a couple of times. “Shit!” I added, and for good measure, kicked a clump of dirt in his direction. Then I stomped off toward home.

He ran after me, puzzled, apologetic. “I thought you liked me?”

So anyway, that was my first boy-girl kiss that wasn’t part of some spin-the-bottle type game where lips barely met. It also marked the end of my crush on Tim. We never kissed again, but we did become sort of neighbourly friends over the years and were able to laugh at what an ass he was that day.

The first kiss in any relationship is so memorable and important. It really can make or break a fragile, new coupling. It has to be timed right; pressure and saliva levels have to be just right; the length of the kiss has to be carefully coordinated – break off too soon and someone feels rejected…carry on too long and someone gets creeped out. And you have to figure out what to do with the rest of your body: Where do you put your hands? How close do you stand? Do genital areas touch? Which direction do the noses go? Tongues: yes or no? Eyes open or closed? Should teeth be involved? Have you eaten anything in the last 48 hours that could be passing on a revolting after-taste?

It’s a minefield, boy oh boy. How did we humans ever decide kissing was a romantic thing to do?

It’s not even a universal human thing to do. It’s not genetic. It’s really Western cultures that got into this whole romantic kissing thing – and only quite recently.

In Sub Saharan African, Asiatic, Polynesian, Native American and Australian cultures for example, kissing was unheard of in the romantic sense until European and Western colonization. As late as the Middle ages even in Western countries romantic kissing was considered mainly an act for the refined upper classes.

In many cultures, like in the animal world, sniffing each other was an indication of affection. Science has shown that we are most attracted to the smell of sweat from people whose immune system is most different from our own (So, with whom we are likely to produce the healthiest children). As well:

Kisses pass epigenetic pheromones that are important for human health and behavioral appetites. Kissing is implicated in the pathogenesis of sociopathy, mental illness, and autoimmune disease. The non-volatile skin surface and mucosal surface lipids that are passed in kissing have some of the greatest chemical complexity of any pheromone.

I don’t know exactly what all that means, but it’s mighty impressive so I wanted to include it. It also makes me wonder why kissing wasn’t part of our original genetic behaviour. Doesn’t it make you wonder that, too?

And speaking of amazing kissing facts, try and guess which language has the most words for kissing? To help you out, you should know that the Japanese apparently kiss less often than any other culture; with East Indians running a close second. Also 10% of the world’s population still place no importance on kissing at all. And,  the Glasgow Kiss is the least romantic kiss of all since it consists  of head butting.

Give up? If you guessed the French as having the most words for kissing you’d be close – they have words for 20 different types of kisses. But the big and astonishing winner is the Germans – with words for 30 different types of kisses!

The word, Nachkussen, for instance means a kiss to make up for kisses that have been forgotten or overlooked. It’s been said that “having a name for kisses that don’t exist is testament to German thoroughness”. Ja Deutschland!

PS: Eventually, I did manage to have an actual and nice first kiss with a nice boy I dated for over 2 years. We did an incredible amount of practicing and got pretty good at it.