One of my only memories of preschool was running around the playground from a boy who wanted to kiss me. I remember that he ended up sneaking up on me when we were in the classroom and planting a peck on me anyway. I don’t remember if it was on the cheek or on the lips, but I do remember that I was furious, and that at another point during the year, he threw sand at me, so I imagine the kiss wasn’t all he thought it would be.
In spite of that experience, I remember watching The Little Mermaid as a child, and being thrilled by the “Kiss the Girl” scene. I was cynical enough back then to know that my first kiss wouldn’t have a romantic set-up like that, and I was pretty sure the guy wouldn’t be half as handsome as Prince Eric. But I just hoped that it would be special because I’d like him and he’d like me.
If you’d told 5 year old me that 20 years later, I’d STILL be wondering what my first kiss would be like, I’d probably have cried a little.
When I was in grade school, kissing was far from a priority in my life. As soon as I started high school, though, and started watching the teenage soap operas playing on the WB, I became painfully aware that kissing and dating and relationships were things that were supposed to start happening. I immediately developed a huge crush on a senior who bore a painful resemblance to Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, and I wondered if maybe I’d set my standards too high. It didn’t matter. Nobody liked me. Or if they did, nobody said anything. Can I fault my imaginary anonymous admirers for that? No, because I sure as hell never told any of my crushes that I liked them. By the time my senior year rolled around, I’d settled into a deep despair that I was 17 and hadn’t even come close to kissing a boy when so many of my friends had. I did go out with one boy a couple times that year, a genuinely nice guy I had no feelings for, and I was immensely relieved he made no moves, as the one thing I didn’t want to do was just kiss a boy to get it over with.
It was hard not to get my expectations up when I arrived at a college. There were just so many more people that I assumed my chances of finding someone I liked who’d like me back were higher. Maybe if I’d gone to more parties, or drank, or walked to my classes without my earbuds in, I would’ve gotten kissed in college. Maybe I seemed unapproachable, as one of my guy friends had once told me I was. I feared he was right, as fairly early on in our friendship he had correctly guessed that I’d never been kissed. If he could tell, was I just a walking advertisement for untouched lips? And if so, was that polarizing to the male community? I imagine that if you tell a guy you’ve never been kissed, he’ll either react in one of two ways: first, he’ll want to be your first kiss, maybe because he wants to say he’s been someone’s first kiss, or maybe because he has a fetish about it; or second, he’ll back off because he only wants to kiss someone who has experience, or because he’s afraid you’ll put too much significance on it being a first kiss, when he’s only interested in something casual. Of course, there’s a third option where the guy doesn’t care that you’ve never been kissed and kisses you anyway because he really likes you and really wants to kiss you. But when you’re finishing college and no guy likes you as anything other than a friend, you begin to wonder if that’ll ever change.
It’s an annoying burden to have to carry around. I make a lot of dirty jokes for someone who’s never done more with men than hug them, and sometimes I wonder if it’s a coping mechanism, or an attempt to distract from the “NEVER BEEN KISSED” sign I’m afraid hovers over my head. I live in fear of meeting new people who will want to talk about their first kisses, and having to make up a story about mine because I’d rather lie about it than see their looks of pity. I’ve tried to tell myself that it’s not a big deal. I know that not everything happens at the same time for everyone. I suppose if I really wanted to, I could quit being stubborn and summon a surge of confidence and just go for it and kiss a boy I like, but the thought of it gives me an anxiety attack. And like I said, I’m stubborn. If everyone else has been on the receiving end of a kiss, why can’t I be?
I know that never having been kissed doesn’t mean I’m unlovable. But sometimes I get angry and depressed about it. At the risk of sounding like an entitled 20-something, I think I deserve to be happy. I may feel jealous and sulky when I see how easily other people get dates and jobs while I’m perpetually single and unemployed, and I may complain about my life when I have plenty to be grateful for, but I deserve to be loved, and I deserve to be kissed passionately by someone I’m head over heels for. I know falling in love isn’t easy. I know that couples fight and relationships end, and in spite of the fact that I romanticize all my crushes, I know that no one is perfect. I know first kisses can be awkward and messy, which is part of the reason I’ve grown to fear my first kiss- how obvious would it be, if I’m ever kissed, that I’ve never been kissed before? But at this point, what I really want from a kiss is something simple: the feeling of being wanted by someone I want, too.