I’ll be honest, guys – I was a little bit embarrassed about writing this. Despite the fact I’m an actual grown woman who is supposed to have proper things to worry about (like… um, mortgages? Recycling? I still don’t know), I was reluctant to actually put the words down on paper (ok, screen) in case everyone laughed and pointed and the villagers turned up at my door with pitchforks and fire.
But yes, it’s true. I was a teenage snogging celibate.
I had what could *generously* be called my ‘first kiss’ when I was 11 – from my middle school boyfriend, on the cheek, barely a moist residue left – and smugly assumed that it would be the first of many kisses. Longer, wetter ones. I thought I was firmly on the saliva highway; the long road to Snogsville, tongue population: two. Little did I know it would be a full seven years before I actually achieved mouth-on-mouth contact, and then it would be when I was old enough to drink and vote.
There are many reasons it never happened, in theory. The main one: I went to an all-girls high school, and barely knew any boys. Our bin-sack uniforms felt fugly enough to send any potential bus stop snog partners running for the hills, and all my extra-curricular hobbies – ballet, amateur dramatics, hanging round in Accessorize trying on big hats – weren’t exactly spilling over with viable straight boys. Who was I going to snog? The caretaker’s son? The boy who worked in Co-op?
Also, I was fussy. While my mates went to parties and cheerfully got off with whatever friend’s brother’s cousin they could find as long as he was adolescent and doused in enough Lynx Africa, I shied away and quietly waited for The Dream Snog Situation to present itself. If I was only patient enough, I thought, a cross between Mr Darcy and Oliver Wood from Harry Potter would turn up on my doorstep with a pot of Carmex and a string quartet.
But they didn’t. The years rolled by, and I stayed un-snogged. It started to feel as though other people’s lives were one long tongueathon, only coming up for air every so often to tell me about it during assembly.
Everything else arrived that puberty had promised – periods, boobs, pubes, chin acne – but still no kissing opportunities, except boyband posters and the back of my own hand. At this point I became less fussy. I’d settle for a spin-the-bottle kiss; a dare; a guy accidentally falling on my mouth as he walked past in a corridor. Maybe CPR, at a push. I worried that everyone could tell, which would make me even less kissable. I felt like an old sandwich, marked down with a bright yellow sticker because it was past its snog-by date.
Then at sixth-form college, finally surrounded by boys after four years of basically being a nun in a navy jumper, I got so excited I immediately fell in love with about 10 at once – but because the only type of flirting I knew how to do was gazing seductively (read: staring creepily) at them across rooms, no snogging happened then either. Boys were more likely, it turned out, to snog the girl who actually had a conversation with them than the one who appeared to be trying to put a hex on them with her scary saucer-eyes from the other side of the canteen (important life lesson, write that down).
So that’s how I ended up 18, losing my kissing virginity as a university fresher. I would never know what it’s like to have that awkward teenage first kiss – the lingering snog goodnight on your parents’ doorstep, the hour-long, messy make-out sesh in the corner of a school disco, or the kind where your mates gather outside the cupboard door, giggling.
And you know what? It turns out that’s fine. Better than fine: nobody even gives a s**t! People are generally far too obsessed with their own hang-ups to really pay attention to yours (write that down too). There may not have been a string quartet, but there wasn’t any laughing or pointing either. The guy in question didn’t pull away in horror, yelling “what are you DOING?! THAT’S NOT HOW THE TONGUE BIT GOES.” And once it was done it was done; just like that, the issue dissolved into thin air. Not once in all the years since has anyone ever even asked about it. And FYI guys – not trying to sound like a snogging superhero or anything, but I’ve more than made up for lost time.
More importantly, I’ve never regretted not snogging anyone sooner. Honest. I’m glad I didn’t leap on the caretaker’s son, or the boy who worked in Co-op, or try to instigate spin-the-bottle in the sixth-form common room. Although I also have no doubt that if I had got off with every juicy pair of lips that crossed my path, that would have been fine and fun and hilarious too; just different.
Because here’s the real secret: it all evens out, eventually. Whether you have your first kiss at 13, 18 or 33, lovely though it will eventually be, practice never really makes perfect. Just spit. All you actually need to have achieved by the end of your teen years is to have a few good people around you, and a few funny stories to tell – and you can tell yours just as well (better, even) without someone else’s tongue in your mouth.
Image: Hailey Hamilton