My wonderful, brilliant, seahorse of a colleague Lauren wrote a piece last week about not having her first kiss until she was 18.
After I read it, I tried to mentally compile a list of the people I have kissed over my lifetime. After the first four or so, things get a little hazy. The list becomes things like: ‘Jo’s brother’. Or ‘The guy in the bar on St Patrick’s day’. Or ‘The Brazilian guy on the boat who I think was meant to be in charge of the BBQ but instead made out with me the whole time’.
I wasn’t one of those people who went to under-18 parties and tried to get off with as many people as possible. This was partly because I was a nerd and didn’t like parties that much and partly because my best friend is a literal model, so standing next to her didn’t do a lot for my prospects.
But now I’ve kissed a fair few people now, and to be completely honest, I wouldn’t be able to tell you how many. I’ve kissed boys who I didn’t know the last names of and boys who I was in love with. I’ve kissed boys that I’d just met, and boys I’d known for years. I’ve kissed girls that I adored and girls who were so brilliant I couldn’t believe they looked at me twice. I’ve kissed Brazilians and Nigerians and Colombians and Australians and Americans and Brits.
And there are people who would like for me to feel bad about that. There are people who use words like ‘slut’ or ‘whore’ or ‘tramp’ to try and shame women into behaving a certain way (words they’d probably never use for boys, by the way).
At my best friend’s 18th birthday party, we had one of the worst fights we’ve ever had. She was furious at me for making out with the guy her older sister had a crush on (her sister had a boyfriend of four years, just for context here, and I had no idea she felt that way either). I can still see her outraged face, yelling: ‘You’re a slut’. I can still feel the tears, hot and embarrassed, running down my cheeks as I ran to the bathroom, sat on the loo and cried. I can still remember that crushing feeling of shame. That word sent me spinning into a vortex of self doubt – and yet I also remember feeling to my core that I hadn’t done anything particularly evil.
There was a boy. He made me laugh. I made him laugh. I wanted to kiss him. He wanted to kiss me. So we did.
As long as everyone feels safe, respected and gives consent, whose business is it other than yours who you make out with? Kiss whoever you want (within limits, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from other people’s boyfriends and girlfriends, for instance), whenever you want (again, within limits, it’s probably not a good idea to start getting off with someone in the middle of a classroom).
Frustratingly, boys and girls are often treated differently when they explore their sexuality – teenage boys are treated like rabid dogs that can’t control their hormones and so no one judges their behaviour, whereas girls are often seen as the sensible ones and are judged accordingly. Like seriously, when have you ever heard anyone talk about a man’s ‘purity’ or how short his skirt is? No one cares. Because boys will be boys, right? But hold on, what about girls? What will we be? I say girls will be smart and funny and self-confident – and they will make out with whoever they want.
Who knows why smooshing tongues together is a thing humans like to do, but it is. Sometimes a kiss is a prelude to something bigger and grander, and sometimes a kiss is just something nice to do with your mouth for a while. Either way, though, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
One piece of advice though? Try and remember their names, if you can. It will make it easier when you’re writing a list of your own one day.