Growing up in a more conservative family as a romantic, day-dreaming girl, I had always imagined and vowed that my first kiss would be on my wedding day. As a young woman who read many novels and watched many Austen/Bronte films, I imagined that kissing was a tender, wonderful, breathtaking thing. So, I thought, we would wait through however long it took to date and be engaged, and our first kiss would be incredibly special, a sign of our new life together, almost magical in its properties.
My husband, however, was not a fan of this idea. Being almost painfully shy in front of people he does not know, he didn’t want his first kiss to be a face-bump in front of strangers under a spotlight for everyone to see and record, awkward and tentative. And being pretty easily swayed by his coaxing and logic, I thought about it for a week or two, and decided giving up that wedding-day first-kiss was okay with me.
Or so I thought. I told him that I had never wanted to kiss a man I wasn’t going to marry, so if he was going to marry me, he could kiss me. He asked what that even meant, and I shrugged. It meant what it meant, he could take it how he wanted, whether that meant he would eventually kiss me after we were engaged, or whether he definitely saw us being married at some point and took the jump early.
What I didn’t tell him was that I had dreamed and waited for that perfect day, my first kiss, which I had envisioned being on a special day in a romantic setting, symbolizing a new life, after years and years of waiting for the perfect person to do it. I didn’t tell him that I was afraid of disappointing my parents, who had raised us to be more reserved, and focus on personality and friendship, not physicality and romance. I merely left it at the statement of marriage, and hoped it would all work out okay.
So, a month after we had started dating, and a week after I had realized I loved him, our first kiss came in an unexpected-yet-expected way, and it was… nothing, really. It came and went so quickly I barely knew what he had done; standing in the cold, huddled together on a late ferry back from Seattle, watching the lights twinkle and shine in the blackness of the night, I looked up at him, he looked down at me, and with one swift peck, he touched his lips to mine and pulled away.
It was not tender, or romantic; it was fleeting, tentative, awkward, barely even felt. I remember thinking — and maybe even vocalizing — “what was that?” and acting like it was no big deal. The next day, wandering the woods, he admitted he felt like he had gypped me, and maybe we should try again. So under dark, towering trees, standing on a muddy path where mushrooms sprouted about our feet and up the bark of the pines, he kissed me again.
I expected to feel a rush, butterflies, tingles, warmth, anything. I felt nothing. Nothing except slight confusion and the thought “are we even doing this right?” We kissed a few more times, and he admitted he felt the butterflies, the tingles, the excitement… but me? Nada. My heart didn’t skip a beat, my skin didn’t flush, my thoughts didn’t fall into a jumble. In fact, my thoughts were very, very clear: I felt nothing, did this mean he wasn’t right for me?
I have never been a believer in the whole “make sure you’re sexually compatible before you get married” stuff. Honestly, I believed (and still believe) that if this was the right person for you, you didn’t have to worry about the sex. God had created this person for you, why would you not be compatible in every area? But in that moment I realized perhaps I at least believed that kissing, something so simple and romantic, would not be a complicated thing you had to figure out. Kissing the person you loved should have been easy, right?
That Monday perhaps two days after our first kiss and a day after our second try, I was a mess. I didn’t like kissing. And not for more obvious reasons — I didn’t find it gross, I didn’t find him unattractive, I didn’t find the entire idea repulsive. It just did nothing for me, and I wanted it to. I was dying for a kiss that stirred something in me, that twisted my stomach into pleasing knots, or made my heart skip a beat, or sent a rush to my head. But no, I just didn’t feel it. So I decided that perhaps I really wasn’t ready, and I met up with him to tell him so. I regretted letting him kiss me so early, when clearly I didn’t know what I wanted and I wasn’t sure if I had been ready. I told him as much, through welling sad emotions, and we spent the entire day talking about it, drinking coffee, sitting on the couch and just being with each other. The entire time, I silently wondered if I had made a grave mistake, if perhaps he wasn’t the one for me. I never said as much to him, but I was terrified that this man, whom I had admitted to myself just a week before that I loved, was not the love of my life. I was heartbroken that I didn’t feel anything, that the person I had finally met who felt so right in every single other area, who I got along with and who shared my interests and made me feel like the most important girl in the world… was not the one.
Because of a kiss.
At the end of that day, which was the sole largest crisis of the relationship in my mind, I decided to try once more. We kissed again, awkwardly, tentatively, with no previous practice or experience, and I still didn’t get it. But I decided to go home, to breathe, and think, and pray… and I Googled it. Because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents so early in the relationship; I didn’t feel like I could talk to my mom about it (I wish I had; when I finally admitted we kissed to her, months and months later, it wasn’t even an issue), and I didn’t want to admit to anyone else that we had kissed; everyone I knew was aware that I had determined to wait until my wedding day. What if I was suddenly a hypocrite for changing my mind?
To my relief, Google brought me a slew of young women out there who had experienced this lack of feeling about kissing, and a plethora of answers saying that it sometimes didn’t click right away; sometimes it took practice, sometimes one or the other was just a bad kisser. Sometimes, things just don’t work quite the way you expected and dreamed the first time.
So, reassured by Google search and answer, I went to bed with only subtle worries about whether he was really “the one.” I reminded myself that I loved him, that I couldn’t imagine life without him, that he loved me, and that hey, even if I wasn’t getting it, he certainly enjoyed it, and I went to sleep. We continued kissing; stolen kisses, unsure whether our relatively conservative families would approve of these little trysts — and perhaps that was part of my overall displeasure with the process — and I let it go. I reminded myself that kissing was definitely not the most important thing in a relationship. I reminded myself that I still loved to hold hands, cuddle, and talk to him, and that we fit together better than I had ever imagined aside from the kissing.
Had I been a little less serious about relationships in general, it might have ended right there. I might have decided I wanted to find a man that fluttered my heart with his lips, and I might never have had the life I have now. But I know, and subconsciously knew, that love is not always how it’s portrayed in novels and Hollywood. Nothing ever is. Love, for me, was not a wild and passionate thing; it was slow and sure, steady and calm, confident and unmoving.
And the physical side of us would not always be around; someday, I knew, we would get old and no longer care. What mattered most was that we got along, that we had a solid love, that we had similar values.
Kissing is undoubtedly one of my favorite pastimes now. That and, well… other things we won’t discuss. Ha! The point is… love is not always what you think it will be. It’s not always a fairytale, a romance novel, a chick flick. Kissing, sex, physical attraction, relationships… they’re not always perfect, or perhaps they’re never perfect. They’re not Hollywood wonderful, they’re real. Messy, emotional, amazing, confusing, sometimes painful, ultimately… beautiful.