In seventh grade a teacher painted my lips red for our school’s dance performance. It was the first time I’d had a full face of make-up and it made me feel mature. The teacher admired the shape of my lips, called them ‘kissable’. I’ve never told anyone that before – maybe because it’s strange for a teacher to say to a thirteen-year-old girl – but I was delighted by her words, and have admired the shape of my soft, kissable lips ever since.
It would be eight years until I put them to use.
My best friend in primary school used to kiss boys behind a tree while I watched, having nothing better to do, and no other friends. She used to bug me, asking who I had a crush on, not taking “I don’t have one” for an answer. This was in grade two – I was eight. I picked a boy with red hair who was about my height, just so she’d stop annoying me, and then convinced myself before long that I did have a crush on him. But it was her who I had dreams about, dreams in which she kissed me behind the trees. I woke up confused and embarrassed.
In grade six another girl invited me over to her house. She had posters of Channing Tatum and Taylor Lautner covering her bedroom walls, and was shocked to hear that no man was pasted to my wall in similar devoted fashion. I wondered if I was strange; I just wasn’t interested.
Last week was Anzac Day, and I
kissed a girl beside a lake
behind the town’s sporting oval
where schools come to perform
athletics and win ribbons of
blue, red, green
but this piece of land was isolated
there was only she, I, the ducks and
a flock of cockatoos screeching
overhead in gumtrees.
I haven’t seen Never Been Kissed but, for a while, I could relate to the title and sympathise with Drew Barrymore’s character. In high school, I avidly recounted my medical experiences to my best friends in too much detail, telling them about surgeons feeling cysts in my breasts and general practitioners giving me vaginal swabs. We laughed at the fact that a grown man in Mornington had touched my right breast, when I hadn’t even been on a date or kissed a boy. I was seventeen – shouldn’t these things have happened by now?
Amy said, “Christ, if nobody kisses you soon, I’ll do it.”
But that wouldn’t count. Not really.
It wasn’t as though no one had ever shown interest in kissing me. Granted, no one at school or work ever did but, whenever I went out to nightclubs with friends, I seemed to attract the same attention from men that many women receive – men who grope and linger and ask if you want a drink. Once when I was nineteen and in the city on a Saturday night, my hair straightened and long legs exposed by the slits in my black maxi skirt, I told Nicole that I had never kissed anyone before. She asked if I wanted to do it that night, just to get it over with. Part of me did, but I was still young and romantic and believed that a first kiss should be ‘special’.
Without looking at him, I danced with a guy to Gold Digger by Kanye West, too shy to make eye contact. He ran his hands up and down my legs. I enjoyed it, it was fine. When the song was coming to an end, he leaned forward to kiss me – and I panicked. I turned away and his lips brushed my cheek before I took off, flying past my friends, trusting that they would follow me downstairs and hoping that he wouldn’t.
A few hours later I sat in the girl’s bathroom, my feet too sore to dance anymore, and talked to two girls – one had purple hair, the other pink. They were kind and made me feel welcome in their private corner, warning me to watch my drinks because last week a girl had been taken to hospital. The girl with the purple hair, Alex, lent me her hairbrush and held my gaze when she spoke to me. I did not look away.
I remember enjoying my conversation with them more than any interaction I’d had with men that night.
If I’m to tell this moment of
our history correctly, then
it would be more accurate to say
that this girl kissed me
rather than I kissed her
though I did pitch the idea, saying
“this would be a good spot to make out”
but we were nervous and sat
holding hands side by side
until my time in this town was
drawing to a close, and she said
“let’s just do it”
On Tuesday morning, my alarm clock wakes me up at 4:30 for work; Prince is singing I just want your extra time and your kiss. I hit snooze and pull the doona over my head, roll onto my stomach. Crushing on my co-workers is a habit of mine. Over the years I have imagined myself kissing at least five of them. In the staff carpark, the invoice office, out the back half-hidden by a roll cage full of dog food, in the freezer on a hot summer’s day. It passes the time.
These workplace crushes are generally for fun, although once I was very close to falling in love with one of the grocery boys. After two years of on-again-off-again attraction to him, I finally worked up the nerve to message him on Facebook and confess my feelings for him, a few minutes before midnight. I went to bed without knowing his response – a “let’s stay friends”, ultimately – shivering so much from the cold and my own anxiety. I barely slept.
Months later I downloaded Tinder for the first time, deciding I didn’t care if my first kiss was with some random guy I met online. I wrote in my journal:
I have these wild crazy dreams of actually going on casual dates and making out with people for fun and to quench this sexual desire of mine. I don’t really think I’d mind anymore, my first kiss being with some Tinder or nightclub guy. I don’t think I’d consider it ‘real’ if there isn’t any emotion behind it, anyway.
I never went on these casual dates.
Last year I was deeply infatuated with one of my friends. She was the first girl I had genuine romantic feelings for, and the first girl I could picture myself in a relationship with. Before then, I’d suspected that I wasn’t heterosexual but didn’t want to label myself as bisexual too soon, scared that my attraction to women wasn’t valid. The bi community already has to cope with too many accusations of “it’s just a phase” and “you’ll pick a side eventually” without me adding to the problematic stereotype.
One night in early autumn, about half a year into my crush, I told her about my feelings for her and she said she knew. I guess I’m not very subtle when I have a crush. I was a little drunk at the time and paid more attention to “I think you’re cute” than “but I don’t think I’m ready for a relationship.” We talked on the phone a few days later which confirmed that nothing would eventuate from these feelings, that we were to remain friends. And we did for a while, although I wish I’d handled it better.
We went to Thursgay together two nights after I confessed my feelings for her, and I sat on her lap on one of the couches upstairs. I remember kissing her on the cheek and she patted me on the head, like a loyal dog.
It all seems so far away now. The pain is gone but I think of her every now and then, smile at our summer memories, maintain the gentle affection I still have for her.
When o when shall I be kissed?!
I must be patient, lie on my back in bed, hands clutching a bouquet of flowers to my chest, and remain incredibly still for the rest of the year. Wait for my prince/ss charming to wake me with a kiss.
But that’s a little problematic and I have shit to do. This Honours thesis isn’t going to write itself. Is kissing overrated anyway? Maybe the girl I think about constantly will send me a letter stained in pink lipstick from her kisses. Maybe I can reinstall Tinder and find a willing and enthusiastic teacher. Or maybe I can set up a kissing booth at the Wednesday farmer’s market and earn some cash, make a proper business out of it. Come one, come all, please make out with me, that’ll be $5, would you like a receipt?
Last week was Anzac Day
and I kissed a girl
buried my face into her hair –
is this what the diggers died for?
so that we could meet on this day
of honour and remembrance
for our gentle lips to meet
in a rapid kiss
and for my heart to cry out
in ecstasy and terror
like the white yellow birds exploding
from trees above.
My first kiss was at twenty-one years old, and it wasn’t how my seventh-grade-self had pictured it. For one thing, my first kiss was with a girl, not some cute boy I used to idly dream about because it was the only thing I thought I could dream about. She was as nervous as me – it was her first kiss too – but she was bolder, in a way. I think if it was entirely left up to me, I would still be waiting for that first touch of somebody’s lips pressed against mine, even for a split second. I was hours from home and was going to be late for my train but, for a moment, none of that mattered as she leaned forward and I squeezed my eyes shut. Then my arms were around her neck, my face buried in her hair. She held me close, and I felt like melting into her.