Learning how to kiss

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I don’t count my first kiss as my first kiss. It wasn’t a kiss at all, first of all. It was a bizarre, slightly scary, totally awkward attempt by an unattractive boy I felt no connection to. My friend Susie and I were alone in my parent’s house with two boys a year ahead of us. It was daytime, probably a weekend. We were in the living room. I just remember long, painful silences and a kind of mounting horror.

We were in ninth grade. They were in tenth. They were pimply, greasy, diffident, and “cool.” They were “popular.” We were… not so much. We were supposed to feel flattered I suppose that these boys were hanging out with us.

All I remember though is a total lack of connection. It was so lackadaisical that I don’t think we knew, realized, or cared who was supposed to go with whom. It was like a silly spin the bottle game or something, without the game. It had a slightly sinister aspect, and looking back, I’m just glad nothing worse happened. As it was, I think we each received some kind of awkward, sloppy attempt at a kiss. I simply remember some kind of glancing wetness from the blond, less pimply boy and the urge to get him out of the house. They did eventually leave.

Some time later, Susie and I were babysitting in the Oakland hills. A couple of boys from a nearby private school wanted to come by. One of them liked Susie. He brought a friend named Mike. Mike had sandy blonde hair, tawny skin, and soulful brown eyes. He played guitar. Sarah and the boy who liked her disappeared behind a closed door.

The children we were supposedly caring for must have been asleep. I found myself sitting awkwardly in the living room with Mike. We were on the couch, separated by a cushion or two. A long, lighted aquarium gurgled softly behind him.

I don’t remember if we talked, but I think we must have. Mike was handsome, older, and confident. Most of all though, he was kind. I didn’t kid myself that he liked me particularly. But then, somehow, we drew closer together, and a kiss seemed to be in the offing. I don’t remember the preamble much, but I do remember we were kissing, or trying to, when he stopped us. Gently.

He pulled back and did what was then and still to this day remains extraordinary to me. He began to speak honestly about our kiss, the mechanics of it. He began actively teaching me how to kiss. He took it upon himself to impart this rather important information. He did not worry if it would hurt me, embarrass me, or anything else, and in fact, it did not.

Who knows what I was doing to make him do that. I smile now to think of it. Was I just opening my mouth like a gaping fish? Forcefully plunging my tongue down his throat? I don’t remember.

All I know is that he pulled back and very gently and respectfully began coaching me. He made suggestions. “Less tongue.” We’d try again. “Okay, a little more tongue.” “That’s it.” “That’s nice.” “Softer.” “Be playful.” “Gentle.” “Explore. Don’t be afraid to explore.” “Relax.”

He encouraged me when I did it right. He didn’t mock me. He also didn’t lead me on. He didn’t pretend he wanted to be my boyfriend. He also didn’t take the opportunity (which he probably had) to go further. He realized I was very young and very inexperienced, and he didn’t take advantage of me.

Instead, he amused himself by taking me on as an acolyte.

I’m 48 years old now, and Mike remains to this day one of my most precious erotic memories, for obvious reasons. What he did was actually highly unusual. In fact, I have had only one lover, ONE, since who has taken that kind of… what? Honest? Scientific? Direct? Communicative? view of sex and eroticism. Who took eroticism on its own terms and was willing, nay eager, to dissect it for the purpose of understanding it and going deeper. It was thrilling. It is thrilling.

Mike taught me how to kiss, rather well. I used all of his instructions from then on, to good effect.

I never saw him again.

Years later, I learned he’d married a ballerina.