“You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.”—Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With The Wind
When music swells and bosoms heave, a great cinematic kiss is just around the corner. But divorced from Hollywood-enhanced atmospheres, kissing runs the gamut from strange to fully gross. There is a world of difference between the greatest kiss to ever grace our TV screens (Nick and Jess in New Girl; do not @ me, this is the hill I die on) and the drunk couple tonguing on public transit.
How To Kiss
Everyone wants to ensure that when the crucial moment comes, we imitate the greats and avoid the full-body cringe of a kiss gone wrong (Michael Scott slowly leaning into innocent, unwilling Oscar Nunez). While kissing is an inherently tactile or, after so many romcoms, visual act, writing about kissing may seem like a doomed endeavor. Even so, I live to please. In this article, I’ll go over the basic rules of tonsil hockey and fill you in on the long, wet history of sucking face.
A Kiss Is Not A Contract
First things first, only kiss people who want to be kissed. Though we all learned to love him over eight seasons, this is not the place to emulate Michael Scott. “But how do I figure out if someone wants to be kissed without ruining the atmosphere with a direct question?” you ask.
Asking if you may kiss someone can be cute, hot, polite, or a glorious mush of all three, so check those worries at the door. And while I personally may have all the subtlety of a freight train, I hope to help the shyer among us. There are plenty of ways to coyly test the waters before going in with a gaping maw.
Hold their hand. Stroke their arm. If you want to channel a Bond villain and brush their face with the back of your hand, that also works. Lean in slowly, Hitch-style. Go 90% of the way and wait for your partner to complete the other 10%. If, during any of these activities, the apple of your eye seems shifty and uncomfortable, wait a minute. Maybe try again after the next date, if one should occur.
TL;DR: Kissing is fun when both people want to lock lips.
A Kiss Is Just A Kiss
Kissing is more about preparation and attitude than any specific technical skill. My two biggest tips are to pop a mint and relax. Nerves kill the mood way more than imperfect technique. Go slow, don’t try any crazy moves on your first rodeo, and follow your partner’s lead. If you want to introduce new acrobatics, do so in a tentative, respectful way, and be ready to back off if your partner doesn’t reciprocate and/or seem enthusiastic.
It’s best to keep it simple at the start. You don’t have to pucker up for a kiss dryer than desert sand, but there’s no need to go in with your tongue flapping wildly or your canines out for a misguided attempt at a sexy nip. For early dating kisses, prioritize lips, not tongues and teeth.
The Nitty Gritty on Kissing; or, a Strange Foray into Panini Presses
I warned you: writing about kissing is gross so for what happens next, I am sorry. But in my defense, there are enough vague articles with general kissing tips like “believe in yourself!” and I’m actually trying to help you with some real talk.
If you’re trying to visualize the nitty-gritty mechanics of kissing, you might want to think about a panini press. Gently use your upper and lower lip like the griddle and roof of the press, while one of your partner’s lips is the panini inside. I specify one of their lips because trying to, like, chomp down on their whole mouth is a bad idea.
If all goes well, you’ll probably repeat variations of the kiss-panini by swapping the roles of press and toasty sandwich throughout the duration of the smooch. The beauty of this panini simile brings a tear to the eye and a Pulitzer to my name, I’m sure.
The Long, Wet History of Kissing
People have been kissing since at least 1500 BCE, with the first recorded lip lock occurring in a Vedic Sanskrit text. And furthermore, in a primo example of first-thought-best-thought, I have to note that this early kiss wasn’t some boring peck, but full-on open mouth action. Get it, historical kissers.
After this tonsil hockey breakthrough, kissing spread far and wide. It was featured in ancient Egyptian poetry, the Kama Sutra, the Old Testament, and soon enough Roman laws. As for how the kiss managed to traverse time and space, some historians think that we have one man to thank. Alexander the Great may have learned about kissing while conquering India and, being kind of a horndog, brought the practice all over his not-insignificant amount of ancient Fit Bit steps.
How To Kiss: Learn From The Best
Writing about kissing can only get us so far. For extra credit, I recommend studying the greats in action.
Here are some 10/10 kisses to emulate:
- Devlin (Cary Grant) and Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman)’s chatty kiss(es) in Notorious.
- Spiderman (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane (Queen Kirsten Dunst)’s acrobatic kiss in Spiderman. (PS: This kiss perfectly illustrates my patent-pending Panini Press method!).
- Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) and Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) put the “hot” in “hot tub” in To All The Boys I Loved Before’s swoon-worthy kiss scene.
- Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) and Chiron (Ashton Sanders) share an incredibly tender first kiss in Moonlight (heads up, this one gets a little NSFW).
What makes these kisses so good? The magic of cinema helps, but it’s really the emotional connection between the characters. These people want to kiss each other! Let this be a lesson unto you: if you have that key component, the rest will fall into place.
For those who worry that this could not possibly be true in the sublunary world of Tinder and her depressing kin, try not to freak out. Kissing is an improvable skill. So long as you aren’t channeling the Vogelcheck family, you’re probably doing just fine.