Sunday, May 17, 2009

The One Kiss Rule

Several months ago, during the heyday of the inexplicably popular "15/16/25 Things About Yourself" Facebook meme, fellow gent B. Graham posted her list - and one of the things she wrote has stuck with me ever since. It was her number 6, and while I and several friends were agonizing about how not to post a list of 14 incredibly depressing personal secrets and 1 or 2 harmless quirks, Graham had used to opportunity to (I have to assume without meaning to) in one line lay the groundwork for months of idle thought in my brain that eventually led me here - and to a new code to adopt into the way I live my life.

This happens sometimes - with a song lyric, or a movie quote, but most often a quick offhand aside from a friend - one line that will stay with me, constantly being revisited in a search for why this particular phrase, this concept, these words have resonated so deeply into the core of my psyche. That months after the originator has forgotten all about them, leaving no sign left of their original intent, they still exist in me, turning over and over like clothes in a dryer every time my mind is left unguarded and unattended.

"6) I truly believe the world would be a much, much happier place if everyone got to kiss everyone they wanted to. Just once. I would probably kiss everyone I know."

I'm not sure I would kiss everyone. I think I'd use the gift sparingly, taking advantage of those precious moments. But the sentiment, I think, is beautiful and worthy. And one that I'm adopting as a general principal.

There are a lot of terrible feelings in the world, and it's hard to qualitatively say which is worst. But one that hurts, that burns, that I wish on no one, is that feeling when you go in for a kiss and the look you get is fear. Some mixture of dread and revulsion. Not a gentle no, or a laugh at the exuberant audacity - nothing kind, because there's no time. Just that immediate face of fear.

It's a terrible feeling, and I have to say, I've been there too often. It's a fear that stays.

The opposite, and it's what reminded me of this - a few week's ago I asked a girl out on a date. A new friend, someone I know reasonably well but not too well yet, and I thought that she was cool enough to take that risk (which is pretty much my barometer). She's seeing someone, it turns out, which is totally cool (which is always the best reason, because it has nothing to do with you). But she smiled - she was surprised, and was sorry the timing wasn't better. And she seemed genuinely interested the idea if things were different. She apologized - I said "you definitely don't have to do that." And then jokingly I said 'make me feel better - tell me you would have said yes."

And she said "Of course I would have said yes."
And followed it up with "I always do."

And that's pretty cool. All you have to do is ask, and you get a shot at being seen in a new light, just because. One date, almost as a reward for putting yourself out there. But really, one night to shift the paradigm, one chance at being something different. Whether it seems likely to work or not.

Just like that one kiss.

I have a story I've been writing in my head for years, of this character who is firmly and utterly in love with his best frend - Daniella Grey. He literally goes to hell to try and save her from Lucifer, and there are vampires and road trips and things ensue and if I ever write it down I think it will be pretty damn good. But at it's core, is this realization, this moment where he suddenly knows it's never going to happen. She's fallen in love with his best friend (because he can treat her as an equal, and the main character almost can't help but worship her). So there's this moment, where after living with this love for so long, and being on the run, he finally breaks into a rant that ends with "and all I've ever wanted is to kiss you."

And she smiles and says, 'then why haven't you?'
And she kisses him. And for one moment, lights shine and angels sing.
And then it passes. And he says 'But you still love him." And she nods.
And it's ok. He has his moment. And sometimes that moment, even if it lasts a second and will never be repeated, is enough.

It's not as though the world is knocking down my door for a kiss, but this my new rule- anyone who wants one, gets one. Not if I have a girlfriend, not if I think you're dangerous or violent, but in any other reasonable situation that I would maybe otherwise turn down - why not? One date, one kiss. I can take those risks.

I wish everyone could get a chance to kiss who they wanted, just once. Just to see what happens.
Because you'd be surprised.

I'm not talking about an epic makeout, or a quick peck on the cheek either. Just a quick strike at the flint in the hope of a spark. A simple, solid kiss. A possibility.
Because the likelihood is that nothing is going to happen, that nothing is really going to change. But maybe, in that moment, something magical will happen. You can learn so much about someone in how they kiss, and even more in how they kiss you.
In a way that words and want can't convey.

Perhaps their passion is a dying ember being gently snuffed by soft wet lips ushering it to where desire goes after it fades.

Or maybe it's a single explosion, building to it's crescendo, and in the interlock of lips that energy is released and in the aftermath has been dispersed, waiting to collect itself and build back up again.

But on that rare occasion, it's a fire, small and burning, that's been cared and tended for, stoked by sideways glances and the joy of a single smile - a fire so well tended that if given the opportunity will light itself into you without you're being aware that it was there.

And suddenly you're burning too.

And if not - that kiss is just an answered question, a fond memory, a gentle goodbye to a dream, a souvenier of unrequited love.

All of which is better than that terrible stare.


Max Nova said...

I think the one corollary I would add is this -- it has to be someone who knows you. Even if it's just slightly. You don't get to go kissing random celebrities.

And to this day a part of my life and attitude toward human interaction is affected by that first look from a female years ago when I went in for a very awkward kiss. Even if this rule was in place, part of me would still be hesitant to partake in it.

Jason Heat said...

someone you know, definitely.

ali d said...

I once kissed a guy who I knew didn't like me that way, just because I wanted to. He was leaving for the summer, and I figured dammit, why the hell not? Who knows what could happen? Essentially what happened was he laughed at me and patted me on the head, said "Goodbye friend," and went back inside his house. I doubt I'll ever get to a place where I regret that tiny little kiss.

Here's the thing though - I gave him some warning. I looked him in the eye and told him I was going to invade his personal space for a second before I kissed him, and that, at least for me, is something important.

Kissing is an intimate act, and when suddenly pulled out of context, no matter WHO is moving in for the smooch, it can be extremely awkward and, yes, terrifying. I could think you're the cutest, most awesome guy (or girl) in the world, but if you surprise me with the lean-in, there's a good chance I'm going to get a deer-in-the-headlights look. I wouldn't say it's necessarily the person who's scary - just the situation.

I'm all about going for it though. Kiss away! Ask that cute guy/girl on a date! Take the risk and say yes! Just make sure that there's some kind of awareness and/or agreement, or you might get that "Oh my gosh, what the hell is going on?!" stare.

Also, I've gotten my kiss from B, and I loved every second of it.

Dennis said...

I don't like that rule at all. What if the person you want to kiss didn't want to kiss you? Are we forcing people to kiss now? I don't even really like kissing....

Can we change it to

"6) I truly believe the world would be a much, much happier place if everyone got to kiss or donkey punch everyone they wanted to. Just once. I would probably kiss or donkey punch everyone I know."

AZ Winer said...

I dunno Dennis... I think I'd prefer to be kissed by a stranger than Donkey punched.

Jason Heat said...

Okay, so, I thought it was implied but yes - this isn't with regards to stalkers, or strangers. It's a metaphor for potentially overlooked opportunities and closure.

Ozkirbas said...

I agree with Dennis and Ali (except the donkey punching. Though, it made me laugh inside). Even if it wasn't stalkers or strangers - a close friend can just as easily overstep his/her bounds. The revulsion may not necessarily be about attraction. Not to knock the concept down completely. I do understand the appeal and, if we're talking strict metaphor or a personal stance on "accepting: ALL KISSES!" then, hey, it works fairly well. Power to ya. Put an ad in the paper. Hang a sign up on your door. Have a T-shirt made. Buy a megaphone and shout it walking down the street.

... but remember when a kiss was a special thing two (or more, depending) people shared?

Jackie.Russell said...

I agree with Ozkirbas. I totally understand the going on a date with anyone that ask you rule but the kiss rule is pushing it a bit.

I know that each person has rejected someone who was interested in them at one point. You can't have it both ways. If someone who makes you squirm or who you think is annoying or who you just generally aren't attracted to at all well, you'd still have to let them kiss you. I'm sure I can name a person for anyone where you would instantly make the rejection face without even knowing it.

And the stranger thing doesn't really work. Just because you may not know the person who wants to kiss you doesn't mean that they don't know you.

The worst case scenario that I could think of is that your Dad would want to kiss you. And then what could you say?

B.Graham said...

I actually meant if all of society was built that way. That kissing was an acceptable form of getting closer with your fellow man. To assume it would mostly be awkward is, I think, rather small picture.

B.Graham said...

P.S. Jason, thanks for this

Jason Heat said...

I agree with Brittany - this was sort of meant as a paradigm shift.

Though to be honest, the poetry of what a kiss means to me is really what I was driving for in this post, and I suppose that this is the risk with anything put online, but I'm disappointed that the words I was really invested in and/or proud of seem to have been overshadowed by the 'ew' factor of kissing someone you're not immediately into. Or the idea that there isn't a special nature in giving a bit of oneself. Even if this were a real 'rule' it's meant to be adopted by choice, not imposed. No one would ever force you into it. But it would be a nice thing if people saw it as something worthwhile.

Obviously in the majority this is not the case.

Damo said...

Actually, Jason, I get what you and B are trying to say and I think it's a beautiful thought. I have a list of "could-have-been's" a mile long and all it could have taken with any one of them was that one kiss to make a whole new world possible.

On a related note: Are there really people that don't like kissing? A good make out session can make my MONTH! I think sex overshadows the noble, sensual kiss when it comes to developing intimacy with a partner.

All the passion, playfulness, and affection that is or can be present in lovemaking is or can be present in a kiss, with far less opportunity for awkwardness, regret, embarrassment, or the contraction of STD's like herpes, or pregnancy.

Dennis said...

I don't know. It seems to me that Brittany is referring to it as less romantic, more friendly sign of affection. I don't really understand where Jason is going with his argument. Rejection would be less painful if the rejecter gave it a chance with a kiss and/or a date? In my experience I know when a girl is interested in me, and if I am interested in a girl, I make it apparent. I don't believe that if a girl I was not interested wanted to kiss me, and I let her, that some kind of magic could suddenly happen. A kiss becomes special because of the emotion that is put into it, it doesn't just achieve that on its own. Going into a kiss with a friend wouldn't have that emotional background, so to me, it would just be an awkward kiss that could lead to even more pain for the rejectee.

Also, I agree you can learn a lot about a person by how they kiss, but I don't necessarily want everyone knowing all about me and how I kiss. Its something I reserve for people I care about romantically.

P.S. It's not that I hate kissing, mouths just really gross me out. I have to really be into a girl to want to kiss her, or the gross factor is too much.

Damo said...

I suppose germaphobia is a legitimate excuse for being weirded out by kissing. ::shrugs::

Anyway, I think there is more to it than all that. What if all someone needed to know was how you really felt about them to open up their eyes/mind to the possibility? I can't tell you how many times I've had feelings I was completely incapable of expressing in words, or was just too afraid to try.

But whatever, to each his/her own.

Ozkirbas said...

Honestly, I don't think you have to have a phobia/irrational fear to not be comfortable when someone you don't (or even do) expect kisses you. To each his own, certainly. But I don't think it has to do with the "grossness of kissing" or sexual attraction. Comfort is the issue. Trust. When two people kiss to form a connection, they're exposing themselves and, at times, risking emotional harm. What reason is good enough to eliminate their defensiveness simply because one of the parties is curious about what could have been?

When you go in to kiss someone and they don't reciprocate, it sucks. Especially if it's apparent that it somehow really offends. But, wishing that part of it away destroys that persons choice and agency - which I think is an important point and not small picture at all. Given, Jason mentioned that this wasn't meant to be imposing and I think Britagne's rule (wish? thought? random thing?) isn't about kissing itself, but more to the point, the willingness of people to put themselves out there more. To take risks and chances with the people around them. And THAT is a very, VERY different "paradigm shift." It's why the metaphor works and why Jason should stand behind his post with dignity. It could just use a little clarity, that's all.

I afford all readers the intelligence to see where I am going with this and, as I have a penchant for being verbose, I'll stop here. And leave the discussion to continue sans Ozkirbas at this point.

Blogden Nash said...

Oh Jason, it's like you looked into my current problems and wrote a blog post about it. I love you so much I could kiss you.

B.Graham said...