When I first heard about today’s International Kissing Day, my first thought was, ‘who cares?’
There’s a ‘day’ for virtually everything, and it’s not as though I’m going to sprint outside and start swapping saliva with everyone in sight.
Plus, we’re surrounded by the swirling particles of the Covid-19 Delta variant, and most of us are still too put off by those now-infamous Matt Hancock images to feel like engaging in the act.
But for all my initial scepticism, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of that afternoon.
I found myself reflecting on the fact that I haven’t snogged with anyone for 18 months and how the enforced ban on physical contact has put a stop to sparks of new romance flying. I felt a rush of lockdown-induced nostalgia.
I soon realised that, actually, I do care about International Kissing Day. Because when it’s between two mutually consenting people, kissing – that first kiss, in particular – is one of the most wonderful parts of being human.
It makes me feel more alive than almost anything else.
My first kiss was at a school disco when I was 14. Back then, kissing was something that simultaneously fascinated and terrified me.
I was dancing in a circle with a few others, who gradually coupled off, leaving me and one boy staring uncomfortably at each other. We gradually edged closer together as Rihanna’s Don’t Stop The Music played, each knowing exactly what was about to happen.
As he hesitantly pressed his lips to mine, I felt an incandescent thrill: I was finally experiencing something I’d wondered so much about.
Years later, when I was at university I’d sometimes kiss total strangers in clubs. The feeling of having this intimacy with someone I’d met 10 minutes previously made me feel infinitely, electrically alive.
‘Getting off’ with people whose names I couldn’t remember while under pulsing lights and with the music’s beat reverberating through us both was a unique link. It never meant anything, but it also meant everything.
It was a bond with another person that didn’t have to be emotionally draining, or require a level of personal investment – it was fleeting and transitory.
Having someone else’s mouth fused against mine rooted me in the present moment more than any mindfulness apps ever have. And I say that as a big advocate for mindfulness.
It made me feel alive, because personal connection is, after all, what being alive means.
And those were just with strangers. When I’ve had first kisses with people I had deep feelings for – and who, I knew, had the same feelings for me – I’ve felt a golden glow spread over my entire being, lighting me up from within and making me feel that this, really, is what life’s all about.
One first kiss I’ll remember forever only lasted about four seconds and took place several years ago, but I can recall every detail: the breeze that rippled through my hair as I stepped out onto my doorstep, the pressure on my toes as I lifted my heels and balanced precariously.
One split second of kissing can be more clarifying for establishing my feelings about someone than several hours of talking it over with friends, mugs of tea in hand, and Lover by Taylor Swift playing on loop in the background.
Romance can’t always be intellectualised; it often has to be felt. We only need to watch three minutes of one Love Island episode to know that locking lips can help you realise your true feelings, once and for all.
I’ve had terrible kisses that have shown me, unequivocally, that there was no hope of a relationship with that particular person, and I’ve had encounters that have made me feel closer to the other person than anyone else on earth.
I haven’t locked lips with anyone since New Year’s Eve 2019. That was with my then-boyfriend (we broke up about five days later). I haven’t had a first kiss since July of that year: a passionate encounter with said boyfriend, in the middle of Wimbledon station.
The dating app Inner Circle recently polled its members in a survey about post-lockdown dating, and 46% said they’d ‘think twice’ about sharing a first kiss with someone now due to Covid-19 risks. I sympathise.
Coronavirus has taken so much from us. But I’m hoping that the ‘first kiss’ – and intimate touch of any sort – will be a temporary hostage rather than a permanent robbery, as the numbers of vaccinated people continue to grow.
For me, it’ll take time; the pandemic has certainly affected my love life. I’ve only dated one person, and that was truly a ‘Covid-19 romance’ – even though it was someone I already knew, it took place entirely over WhatsApp and Zoom. We never even met in person before it ended – let alone shared a kiss.
But there is hope: 48% of Inner Circle members agreed with the statement, ‘If I like someone, nothing can stop me.’ While I wouldn’t always go that far, (I’m still finding it hard to completely switch off my mental alarms), I’m now looking optimistically forwards, rather than nostalgically back, when it comes to thinking about first kisses.
The world is opening up, and my double vaccinated status is on the horizon – which means connecting with someone physically is something I can now conceptualise and even feel excited about, rather than simply envisaging a transfer of Covid-infected water droplets.
International Kissing Day is a quiet reminder of how wonderful the act can be – to me, it is a fundamental part of human existence.
Once those double vaccinated certificates are in hand – bring on the return of the smacker.
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