It’d been a nice night with mixed drinks and homey Brooklyn fare. The conversation hadn’t teetered, except in those first moments when we were testing the waters. Dipping our feet.
Then she said, “I find it funny that people feel uncomfortable in silence.”
I didn’t say anything. She smiled. We felt comfortable.
After dinner, I paid the bill and we walked down the street, aimlessly looking for a bar with dark spirits. We found it in the form of a skuzzy dive bar. We sat in the back where a moose head watched us from the wall. Our faces were lit by the “Buck Hunter” and “Last Action Hero” pinball machines. Christmas lights in red, blue, green and yellow hung from the ceiling, and helped brighten the mood.
She told me about her family, and I told her about mine. She told me about past relationships and I told her about mine. Sobriety had morphed into tipsiness and was now making the slow evolution to semi-drunk, the time when conversation transforms from polite to personal. Things were going well.
And then it happened. That one thing that brings the moment all into focus.
The jukebox clicked. The Pearl Jam song ended and an indie song too mainstream for an art house flick, but not commercial enough for a star studded rom-com, began. The perfect song for a first kiss. She stopped talking and listened to the song. I stopped talking.
I’m comfortable in silence, I thought. Can’t you tell?
She crooked her head so that a loose strand fell into her face, and she smiled at me. I leaned forward slowly, but with enough intention to make it clear I was not blowing away a stray eyelash. She placed her hands on my cheeks and leaned forward.
This was it!
But then her head took a left. Derailed off course. Chose the wrong fork in the road and landed on my cheek. She then moved back and smiled at me again.
That … wasn’t … right… That was not how that was supposed to go.
I refused to accept defeat, so I asked bluntly, “Can I kiss you?”
And she said what every girl says when you ask that question: “You’re not supposed to ask.”
I had first attempted a kiss, not having asked, and now having asked, was told that I shouldn’t ask. I was so confused.
How the hell do you make the first move?
It might seem like a silly question, but I really didn’t know anymore. All the first kisses I’d had before this most recent, most confusing one raced through my head. I traced my lip-locking history for clues as to what I did wrong.
My first first kiss. Kindergarten. Elizabeth. She came over after school for a play date. My older brother paid her $20 to kiss me. She barged into my bedroom while I was playing with my Transformers, grabbed my face and planted one on me. I had not been the initiator. Had this experience perhaps stunted my first kiss growth? Had this created a beta kisser, rather than an alpha?
I’d like to recall my second first kiss, but it seems to be lost in the hollow spin of a bottle, or vanished between the question of truth and dare. And yet, that leads to a rather important point: In a game there are rules. If I’m dared to kiss a girl, there is an understanding of how it will go, namely, lip-to-lip. And with spin the bottle there’s not even a question. That bottle’s decision is second to God. Its word shall be done. There’s no fear. No terror of the turn down, because the rules say you gotta do it. In the dating world there are no rules. It’s a jungle full of poachers and prey.
As I got older, Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle gave way to AIM. A messaging system so filled with mid-adolescent sexual desire it might has well have been called F**K. Hours were spent typing back and forth about the first kiss.
“Do u like me?”
“How many ppl have u kissed?”
“Wud u kiss me?”
The way to first kisses was paved in HTML. First you talked about the kiss you would eventually have, and then you’d do it. You were avoiding the turn down, by dealing with it ahead of time.
And then things got complicated. Things got real. High school gave way to parties, which opened doors to parent-less houses and popped the tops off Smirnoff ices. It was time to act on instinct. The turn down may happen, deal with it. It was about what brought you to the turn down. Life decisions needed to be made. Were you an “asker” or a “do-er?” More importantly, did she want to be asked, or did she want to be kissed? Decisions had to be made in a split second. You never knew when the front door was going to open and the manly roar of, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN MY HOUSE?” would cut short your batting for first base.
In college things got a helluva a lot more complicated. Girls claimed that they never wanted to be asked if they could be kissed. Some took such low blows as “Be a man” or “Man up!” The words ran through my head and I heeded them, but then when I made my move, girls seemed surprised. They’d move backwards as if deciphering my neck twitch. Once they understood it, they’d neck twitch their way forward.
But I was a man now, dammit! I looked at the beautiful woman sitting across from me. She seemed neither surprised or repulsed, but still, she was not neck twitching her way to my lips. Now, Mama didn’t raise no fool: I know when to retreat and when to advance. I didn’t want to give up on kissing her. I knew there was something there. This was all too clear in the way she leaned her head on my shoulder when we walked down the street. The way I traced her palms. The intimate eye contact and stimulating conversation. This was not a miscommunication of interest. I made a split-second decision to advance once again.
I moved in and kissed her on the lips, not giving her a chance to detour this time. And she didn’t back away. She moved into it. Kissed me fully. And there we sat, in the back of a dive with a moose head smiling down upon us, kissing and kissing until the song ended. And I’m pleased to say it was the right decision. We’ve had plenty of dates since, and plenty of fantastic kisses.