The idea of kissing was terrifying to me as a young teenager. I remember at sitting in an empty classroom at school one lunchtime with my two best friends, one of whom had just had her first kiss. We frantically demanded she tell us everything (we weren't savvy enough for any affected insouciance on the matter - that would come later.) How did you know when to lean in? How did you know which way to lean? What did you do - with your lips, your tongue, your teeth, your hands, your expression afterwards? Like an old sage, she told us to just relax - we would instinctively know what to do when the time came. But we couldn't relax. We could barely look a boy in the eyes. We were alarmed. What would become of us? We were consumed with worry. I wish I could somehow retrieve the MSN conversations surrounding this time. They would be a real hoot to read.
In the end we kissed each other while we were away for the weekend on a retreat that we had to go on as a requisite to making our (Catholic) confirmation. Oh, the irony. That first quasi-sexual kiss opened the floodgates for many more: on playground swings, in skate parks, at the back of the 24 bus. Usually with boys. When I look back on these times they are imbued with a sort of innocence, but it certainly didn't feel that way at the time. Back then, a kiss was positively sexual. Kissing, along with other teenage pursuits like binge drinking Smirnoff Ice in the park and buying legal highs from Camden, felt thrillingly illicit.
When did this cease to be the case? I suppose it was when we discovered other things. Kissing now is no longer particularly exciting, nor is it necessarily even sexual - was it ever? Certainly some of the kisses I had with near strangers when I was younger felt sexual to me at the time (it doesn't take much when you're fourteen) but by the time I reached university drunken sweaty encounters in nightclubs were just par for the course for your average night out, devoid of any real lust or meaning, and so started to feel depressingly de rigeur and passé. Something to do in the smoking area, for no particular reason. But now, from the vantage point of a long term relationship, it seems to me that the exhilarating kisses of old (or young?) relied on a sense of novelty, and that I would have had to embark on an extramarital affair or some otherwise forbidden liaison to recapture that early sense of heady excitement, at least as far as kissing was concerned.
Kissing has gone from something I once feared and anticipated to something that meant nothing much at all to me to something that is now just reassuringly ordinary. Does that sound boring? I don't mean it to. What kissing means to me now is warmth, familiarity, comfort. Love. I wouldn't change it for anything.