How to Kiss: A 4-Step Guide, Because a Little Guidance Goes a Long Way
When I was 16, two of my managers at Quiznos coached me on how to kiss a girl. This should send up a number of red flags. First off, I stopped wanting to kiss girls for good a few years after. Secondly, that workplace power dynamic should really be more thoroughly examined. And thirdly, just that discussion of kissing alone seems like a health code violation, though I’m not entirely sure how. But nonetheless, I learned how to kiss at a Quiznos.
Much has changed in the past 14 years, but an adapted version of that initial conversation isn’t too far off from what I have found to be true in life. Kissing can be fun and adventurous, whether or not it reminds you of a chicken carbonara sub. It is not nearly as complicated as it seems when you’re starting out, but there are some rules that everyone should know. And, in a world where we’re getting closer and closer to treating everyone equally, these rules aren’t gender-specific, nor are they going to lead you into strange macho territory. The baseline? Get consent, don’t be too aggressive, and don’t be afraid to mess up a little bit. Yes, it’s awkward. No, the first kiss you experience will not be your best material. Kissing takes practice, and the more you finesse it, the better. In the meantime, here are some guidelines.
Test the situation in a non-weird way.
One of the lessons I learned from my Quiznos managers had to do with body language, and it was, in my opinion, one of the most beneficial pieces of advice that I’ve ever received. A lot of young people seem to think that the whole “yawn and slide your arm behind your partner” move is a sly one. Not only is it tired, but it’s a trap. If your potential kissing friend isn’t here for it, you’ve fully iced out the situation. Way to go! You’ve ruined this fine home cinema screening of 21 Jump Street!
Instead, I learned there’s a middle ground between fully getting into someone else’s space and sitting paralyzed in your kissing anxiety. Simply find yourself just close enough to lean a knee over and touch theirs. Seriously. It’s a non-invasive way to feel out the physical situation—if your partner pulls their knee away, you know that this is not your time. Don’t question it, just play it off with a quick apology. Stupid phantom knee. However, if someone does want to kiss you, they’re probably not going to be strangely knee-phobic right before a potential facial exchange.
Getting consent is sexy.
If you’re not in a place where you want to risk going off body language vibes alone, there are ways to literally speak to someone about whether it’s okay to kiss them, without making it awkward. The best way to dodge the anxiety is to be as logical as possible. If all the signs are there—the proximity, the body language—then lean in just a bit to signal your interest and quietly say that you’d like to kiss them, then wait for their response. Asking is also a good option, but remember that there is a difference in asking for a kiss and asking a grocery store clerk if avocados are still on sale. Tone is important. And a bit of lingering can be as much of a turn on to your partner as the kiss itself.
Oy, with the tongue already.
A lot of people feel the need, especially in those early years, to go all in with tongue. That is decidedly a mistake. You do not go up to someone’s house and kick the door down to enter. You are not the Undertaker. So much about kissing really is an in-the-moment decision, and it’s one that should be made with a bit of caution. Instead of starting with aggressive tongue action, really focus on what you’re doing with your lips. That’s the ticket. There are six muscles that control your lips alone; that’s like, the Arcade Fire of your face. So much can be done with your lips that’s just as expressive and intimate (if not more!) than trying to sneak in the infamous tongue move. If it comes to a time when it feels natural to use tongue, you will know, and a passionate but tongueless kiss is a great way to start that physical conversation.
This is not a game of Twister.
Let’s be square with each other. You’re not reading a story on “how to kiss” if this is your 500th rodeo. I respect that. You’re probably about to go on a promising first date, or first hang, and you’re thinking, “What if tonight is the kissing night!?” If the witching hour truly is upon you, Goody Proctor, play it cool. Don’t ruin it by treating the person you’re kissing like a Bop It.
Everyone thinks: What do I do with my hands? The answer is to let your brain, and not any other part of your body, decide that. If this really is a first kiss, imagine that the only part of the body available for your hands to reach is the shoulders and up. A gentle hand on the shoulder, face, or neck is all you need for a first kiss. No honking. No grabbing. You’re not an animal. Just be a sturdy foundation for that kiss.
A kiss is an invitation, not a lease. Act in a way that makes you worthy of being invited back.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.