By the time I was a pre-pubescent kid, I knew a lot about kissing. All of it from the movies. Every Saturday afternoon, I’d take copious notes, jotting down the techniques of Humphrey Bogart, Montgomery Clift and Charleton Heston. I thrashed around in my seat as Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr were buffeted about in the surf, clinging to the lip-lock that would make them forever famous in “From Here to Eternity.” Then, I’d go home and practice on Bailey, our dog.
When I reached high school things really began to heat up. Kissing was all the guys in the Geography Club ever talked about. “Did you lay one on Mary Ellen Fenstermacher yet? Did she let you cop a feel?” It was getting serious. I knew I only had so much time to learn how to kiss before the opportunity arose and I embarrassed myself for life. So I went straight to the source: my older sister.
“Denise, would you let me practice kissing you?”
“Euwww. Are you crazy, you little twerp? Yuck. I wouldn’t let you give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if I was passed out under a moving train! Get outta’ my room!”
I hadn’t even touched a girl and I’d already experienced the rejection of my first kiss. But, after a few minutes, Denise caved in and agreed to give me kissing lessons.
“Listen, you little sleeze. I’ll teach you how to kiss, under three conditions. First, your pimple-covered face doesn’t get within three feet of mine. And watch where you put those meat hooks you call hands. Second, you don’t tell anyone that I helped you and third, you agree to take over picking up Bailey’s meadow muffins for the next six months. Agreed?” What could I do? I was desperate.
“OK. The first thing you have to remember is kissing is like farting: they both come naturally and we all have our own unique ways of doing them – one way isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s just how we express ourselves.” I never really thought of kissing as the same thing as farting, but I agreed to keep an open mind and follow Denise’s lead.
She started me out by teaching me how to kiss my hand. “Curl up your left hand and make the letter ‘O.’ Now, put your lips over the hole and move ‘em back and forth. Run your tongue around the inside of the hole, pretending it’s a pair of girl’s lips. And don’t slobber all over yourself.” She suggested I add a gentle caress by running my right hand around the back of my shoulder blades. “You can practice on other inanimate body parts like the inside of your elbow or the spaces between your toes, but you’ve got to be pretty flexible. Let’s move on to fruit.”
“Mom hasn’t been to the store this week, so we don’t have any plums, apricots or mangoes. We’ll have to settle for this peach.”
Denise ripped the two halves of the peach apart like they were an old phone book and spat out the pit. “Now, press your lips against the inside of this peach and run the tip of your tongue around the hole in the center. Gently draw your lips against the peach, then move your tongue in the other direction. And don’t suck too hard, you jerk. You’re liable to rip the girl’s tongue right outta’ her throat.” I appreciated Denise’s loving directions and could understand how that could happen.
From there, we moved on to dozens of other objects like peanut butter jars, wide mouth ketchup bottles and raw eggs until I got sick to my stomach and had to call it a day.
“You did pretty good for the first day, kid. The next step is to move up to the real thing – a live girl.”
We’d grown closer over the past week, but Denise still wouldn’t let me touch her. It’s just as well. There’s something creepy about the thought of kissing your own sister. Even I had to admit that. Fortunately, Denise had lots of friends and duped one of them into coming over after school so I could practice on her. Madeline was new in town and anxious to get into my sister’s circle at school, so she reluctantly agreed to be my crash test dummy for the afternoon.
“Marlene, this is my brother, Numbnuts. He’s the one I was telling you about.”
“Nice to make your acquaintance,” said Marlene. We shook hands and squared off like a pair of Sumo wrestlers. “Put your arms around Marlene and pull her in closer,” said Denise. “Marlene, don’t worry about my brother. I made him take a shower and brush his teeth before you came over, so you won’t catch any diseases or stuff.”
“Now, Numbnuts. Open your mouth and press your lips against Marlene’s.” As I moved in for the kill, our noses collided and I gave her a black eye. “You dummy. Didn’t I tell you to tip your head to the side?” Unfortunately, Denise forgot to mention that important point when I was pleasing fruit. “Now, try it again, moron,” said Denise. This time, both of you… angle your heads to opposite sides.” Success. My first kiss with a live girl.
I wasn’t sure what to do once we made contact, so we just stood with our lips pressed together like they were stuck to a frozen light pole. Eventually, we both ran out of breath and backed off.
“OK, Numbnuts… Marlene. Let’s talk about different types of kisses. How you can jazz things up a little.”
“There are twenty types of kisses you can use: the French kiss, Butterfly kiss, Single-lip kiss, Spiderman kiss, Earlobe kiss, Lip Gloss kiss, Eskimo kiss, Cheek kiss, Hickey, Secret Message kiss, Vampire kiss, Wet kiss, Lizard kiss, Air kiss, Biting kiss, Angel kiss, Neck kiss, Jawline kiss, Breath kiss and Love kiss.” Marlene and I just stood there looking at each other, our eyes as big as saucers. I think we were expecting the Cliff Notes version of kissing, but ended up getting a post-graduate course in physical intimacy.
“OK, you two. Dive in. Numbnuts… slowly push your tongue into Marlene’s mouth and flick it around a bit. Marlene, you do the same. And don’t be afraid to touch each other.” The two of us stood inches apart with our tongues jiggling around in each others’ mouths like two electric eels. “Howww wong ahr weh suhpozed ‘t du vis?” I asked in between breaths.
After several minutes, attempting to avoid the gag reflex, Denise let us separate and catch our breath. “Not bad, you two. You’re getting the hang of it. Then she moved on to more advanced maneuvers.
Numbnuts… sometimes you’ll want to titillate your lover by Single lip, Earlobe or Eskimo kissing her. Or, you might want to zero in for the kill by giving her a hickey.
“A hickey,” explained Denise “Is the ultimate expression of your love for a woman. It’s a chance to announce to the world that, ‘This woman is mine.”
She told Marlene to lie down on the floor and loosen the top button of her blouse. “Numbnuts… lie down next to Marlene, open your mouth and suck on the side of her neck. Suck as hard as you can until you break all the blood vessels or until she screams out in pain – whichever comes first. That’s a hickey.”
Somehow, that didn’t seem very romantic – to either of us – but I followed Denise’s instructions until my mother bounded up the stairs, concerned about the girl screaming in my sister’s bedroom. Marlene leaped up, grabbed the side of her bleeding neck and sprinted out the front door.
“What’s going on up here?” asked my mother.
“Oh, Numbnuts here, asked me to teach him how to kiss girls. Everything was going fine, then Marlene wimped out under a simple Hickey. She’ll be alright, though. As soon as she gets the stitches out.”
My mother just turned around and left the room. Some things are better left to the experts.