Have you ever wondered about the custom of kissing? I never know when to kiss and when not to. Do you kiss work colleagues, when they are leaving for a long time or you haven’t seen them in a while? It’s easier to kiss same gender than the opposite. Leon’s dad is always in for the kiss and there is no escaping. He grabs your head with both hands so you can’t turn away and you feel a rising sense of panic as he leans in, and you are struggling to get your face to the side to offer the cheek, as is proper when an eighty year old man is heading for the lips.
You always get to view people in close up when they go in for the kiss. I know you are probably supposed to close your eyes, but I don’t. I am watching. Getting an eyeful of open pores, wrinkles, glasses frames, grey hairs escaping from noses and ears. In Leon’s dad’s case I can see he’s been out in the garden or the shed because his fingernails, which are right below my eye, are caked underneath in black dirt. And his face is rough and unshaven and smells of Pears soap. It’s impolite to say no. But inside I am curling up at the edges like an old page in a book well read. No more you can’t read this again.
His mum is less confronting and she just smells like camphor, and her foundation hides in the craggy folds of her skin. And I lament my own lost youth. Because this is what I am looking at twenty years from now when my nephew, my step-grandchild and my friends’ kids are grown up, the dreaded kiss from old Aunty Karen. And I’ll probably make them do it too, like it’s my right to issue discomfort. It comes with old age.
My best friend is alway kissing family members, but curiously we rarely give each other a kiss. And we’ve been friends forever. She never seemed that demonstrative to me, and then she had kids and suddenly she was drenching them in maternal affection. I realised maybe it was always me that wasn’t demonstrative. So I made her promise to give me more hugs and kisses as part of a drunken new year’s resolution.
My dad never kisses. He’ll hug, but he’s always cringed away from affection. Whenever he hugs he’ll time the lean in with a cough, like he accidentally collided with you while clearing his throat! Mum was full of kisses and hugs. If you hurt yourself she would say, rub a kiss in and kiss her hand and rub the sore part and miraculously we were cured. It was like she had to love us double the amount to make up for dad’ s inability to push himself beyond a pathological discomfort with closeness. I think some of that rubbed off on me, despite my mother’s ointment of kisses.
And what about the passionate kiss. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, so they say. Whoever they are. The invisible keepers of age-old wisdom. I’ve had my share of bad kissing. The first boy I ever kissed was Mark Harris and it was all air. I felt like my lips were doing gyroscopic air gymnastics. It felt all wrong and I had no idea why. After that I couldn’t look at him again. I dropped him after a day. Or did he drop me?
Then there is the unrequited sexual tension kiss, the one you have been anticipating forever. The one you think will never arrive because he’s not interested in you. How could he be? He is good-looking and popular. And then there it is, stolen behind the gym at the school social and I am so nervous I lean in and pierce him with the stilettos I am holding in my hand. So it’s painful for more than one of us. But it is delicious as well.
What about your first love kiss. It’s all you ever wanted to do, all you think about. An Italian boy, in his old FB holden on the bench seat in the front, and before you shut your eyes you’re staring down at the dials and the radio and then trying not to laugh as you notice the choke is labelled in black texta as “chock”.
And you are heartbroken when it ends. As though you may never live another minute, if you can’t bask in the glorious madness that is being in love for the first time.
Then there is the disappointment of saliva man. Anticipation is everything and when it ends with bucket-loads of saliva transferred from his mouth to yours, you’re thinking “suck it up for God’s sake’. Annoying disappointment, because he was perfect in every other way, but a bad kisser is insurmountable.
Then there’s the guy who wants to batter out morse code in your mouth with a tongue so pointy you’re imagining he is reptilian. You can almost see scales. Then there’s sloppy man who wants to lick your entire face and that’s out in the cold after first go. Or there is pecker, who doesn’t want to have anything to do with your tongue, also undesirable.
It’s such an art the kiss. You want it to be movie-like where you can barely wait and you want to sink in and lose yourself in him, be driven wild by the promise held within. That’s when you close your eyes. When you’re finally ready to surrender to it and the madness that may come after, be it a first kiss, and illicit, sinful, cheating kiss, a drunken kiss, or my current favourite, the well-worn path to home kiss.