They say you shouldn’t kiss and tell, but what do you do when there’s nothing to tell in the first place?
I was once a twenty-something guy who had never been kissed. I was what I now call “kissless.”
Never been kissed. It’s not just the name of a sweet Drew Barrymore flick. It’s a real, embarrassing, sometimes shameful state of being for a guy in his twenties. Hookup culture made me feel like I should be having sex, a lot of it, as soon as I could.
Forget sex. I would’ve settled for a make out session if I could only find someone to share it with. Dating never quite happens for some people, but the dateless need not fret. In an era where Tinder and Grindr are literally accessible at your fingertips, finding a casual make out buddy can be as simple as ordering a pizza. This should have made it easier for me, right?
The perceived ease with which my peers found suitable kissing partners made my being kissless feel even worse. I had gone through all of middle school, high school, college, and early adulthood without being kissed—nearly 24 years. Surely there must be something wrong with me, I thought.
First kisses are a rite of passage in our society, yet mine eluded me, making me feel like a child. By the time some people hit their twenties, they’re already seasoned pros at locking lips. I wasn’t even a rookie.
Why was I kissless? This was a question I often asked myself late at night, when my quiet insecurities came out to play. I’m a good-looking guy, at least by most standards, even though you don’t have to have movie star looks to kiss someone. I rarely told anyone else about my kissless status, but when I did, their eyes usually widened in disbelief. It’s not like I never had opportunities to kiss people. I did, in nightclubs, at high school parties, in swimming pools and college dorms. I could have found a stranger online to kiss if I really wanted to.
Like many of the kissless, the reason behind my virgin lips could be boiled down to one thing: I was intent on having the “right” experience.
I wanted it to be with the right person, in the right situation, at the right time. This obsession with wanting to have the right first kiss filtered out many prospects, leaving me feeling insecure and lame.
Many a night was spent alone in bed, wondering if it would ever happen and perusing Reddit for stories of people who were in my same predicament. Indeed, there are many people who reach their twenties, even their thirties and beyond, without a lip lock.
At first, I told myself that it was okay. The right person would come along. So I waited, and waited, and waited some more. “When you least expect it,” everyone would say. Years passed and I listened to my friends tell me stories of their initiations into the world of kissing, on dorm room beds and in shitty cars. The night my younger brother had his first kiss threw me into a panic. Maybe something is wrong with me, I thought.
Eventually, I made peace with the fact that my lips would stay untouched for my early twenties. I focused on making the most of other aspects of my life and working on other goals that didn’t involve lips. By the time 23 came along, I set a goal to kiss before my next birthday. My search for the right experience proved futile. I wanted to do the deed.
I dreamed of traveling as a kid, so I worked hard and made enough money to do it. It was on one of these trips that my first kiss found me.
My first kiss ended up not being with a date, a significant other, or even a good friend. It wasn’t under a moonlit sky or atop a Ferris wheel. It was nothing like the movies. Movies make first kisses look so easy. You don’t hear the inner monologue. Oh God, here it is. The first time. Will it be good?
Then it happened. I did what I had observed my whole life. I closed my eyes, moved in, puckered up, and smooched. It was one of the most intimate ways I’ve gotten to know a person, an experience filled with new and exciting tastes, scents, textures, and sensations. I loved every second of my first kiss. It wasn’t what my younger self envisioned as “right,” but who cares what he thought he wanted? I never imagined it would feel so good.
On the walk home, I pranced with relief to the first song that popped into my head: Finally. “Finally it has happened to me.” Corny, I know, but I couldn’t contain my feeling of finally being normal. The spell had been broken. Looking back, I’m grateful that my first kiss happened at the age it did. There was no awkwardness or clumsiness. It felt instinctual, mature, and magical. That first kiss indoctrinated me, and I have since made up for lost time. But I’m not writing this to boast about my newfound experience.
I’m here to tell all you kissless twenty-somethings that I know you’re out there, keeping a secret. I’ve been on the other side. I know your late night rumination, your questioning, and your doubts.
Everyone experiences life in their own time. There is no expiration date for life’s milestones. There is no right way to experience life. Maybe you’ll be 25, 30, 45, or older when you have your first kiss, if you have it at all. That’s okay. Once you stop believing that you have to check off an unspoken checklist of human experiences in order to be seen as normal, you will breathe easier and sleep better.
Maybe you don’t want to hear that. Maybe you’re over all that bullshit about late bloomers and “when you least expect it.” Maybe you’re getting impatient. Well, you know what they say: to have what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfortable little world to experience life. Go on Tinder. Go on a date. Go to a bar and strike up a conversation with someone you’re attracted to. Force yourself to do something you wouldn’t normally do. Don’t get crazy, but live a little.
Once it happens, you will become many of the billions of people in this world that have felt a kiss. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes intoxicating, and occasionally terrible. You will realize that kissing changes nothing about you, other than giving you experience and a story to tell your friends. They say that you shouldn’t kiss and tell, but I waited a long time for my first kiss, and I’m happy to tell. I’ve earned the right to.