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How To Kiss Well

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Ben Van Heuvelen
I am an aficionado of the kiss. No other act is so simple and so intimate. The light suction, the flick of the lip, the playful nibble, the deep advance and retreat of the tonguea good kiss is like jazz, an improvisation of melodies, flirtatious staccatos, and passionate brassy crescendos. A good kiss is a rapport enacted physically, like sex, but more erotic.

Many women don't realize this. I've been surprised at how many treat kissing like it really is "first base," just a step towards something better. And when I meet such women, I face a dilemma, like being a music lover who discovers that a new friend has bad taste. Do you break it off, or do you educate? And if you educate, how do you give lessons without giving offense?

My first encounter with such a kisser ended badly. Julie and I were 14, at the conclusion of our second date.

She tilted her head, put her open lips to mine, and, using a combination of wetness and suction, established airlock. Then her tongue invaded. I imagined an eel or a water-dwelling snake, or perhaps a tapeworm, darting towards my throat, slithering around, and then withdrawing, only to strike again immediately. I tried to block her with my tongue, but she swirled and pushed me back. I could not breathe. Then I began to gag reflexively.

Being fourteen has its disadvantages; Julie had not learned the cardinal rule of kissing: it's a conversation. There's nothing inherently wrong with an all-out tongue invasion, but if your interlocutor hasn't asked for it, then you're more scary than sexy. I didn't even call Julie to break up with her, figuring that if a girl had literally made me gag, she would probably get the message.

I soon realized, however, that my modest adolescent social status didn't leave me much room to be choosy. Plus, it turned out that even some awesome girls were terrible at kissing. I would have to teach them.

I took my instructional inspiration from my first girlfriend, Christinemy gold standard when it comes to kissing. Our first kiss had been, to a boy on a first date, a small miracle. I had been terribly nervous as we approached her front door. My hands had begun to sweat. (How could I touch her with sweaty hands?) I became aware of my gangly height. (Could I reach her without bending awkwardly?) I began to doubt that I should kiss her at all.

But she made it very simple. She took my wrists and clasped my hands behind her back, rose onto her toes, and pressed her bottom lip between mine, drawing my top lip between hers, just until I returned the gesture. Then it was over, punctuated with a little smack of suction as we parted. For several days after, the kiss ran through my mind. What stood out in my replay, even more than her malleable lips and that hint of her tongue, was my own feeling of pride. Despite my adolescent fumblings, I somehow felt that I had actedthere was no other wordsmooth.

A great kisser makes you feel like a great kisser.

The lesson here, for any would-be kissing instructor, is that you have to teach without suggesting something is wrong. In fact, your unsuspecting students should feel as if they are teaching you.

Ben Van Heuvelen

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