Toto, we’re not in middle school anymore—so everyone should stop kissing like confused tweens


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Photo: Getty Images/Merlas

I’m really big on Pen15, a masterpiece series that’ll resonate in some way with anyone who attended middle school ever, but it really tested my cringe tolerance when a character had her less-than-perfect first kiss. The uncomfortable up-close make-out sesh was like a summation of every kissing eff-up. And to anyone who’s ever battled an unwanted tongue, so much slobber, TEETH, or an unfortunate headbutt, it’s all very triggering. Worse yet, bad kissing doesn’t necessarily stop in middle school.

To that point, I’m putting my foot down and pledging to not take part in any additional bad kisses because I don’t have time for that. So, with expert guidance, I’ve identified the components of a perfect first kiss, which skills to double down on, and what you should have stopped doing when you still had braces.

A perfect kiss is less about technique and more about desire and dental care

Not to riff too hard on junior high experiences, but Your Chemical Romance (don’t @ me, people—I know the band’s real name is My Chemical Romance) is really what makes for a pleasurable kiss. That’s to say, a good kiss occurs when you’re actually attracted to someone.

Our pheromones draw us to those with complementary chemistry that, when mixed together, makes a really intoxicating, unique cocktail,” says Andréa Demirjian, real-deal kissing expert and author of Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures. “You love the way they taste and smell…and how it mixes with your own individual tastes and scents. It’s a very primal, magical, chemical combustion.”

“By the time you come into your adult life, you should have control over waterworks. If not, don’t go French.” —Andréa Demirjian, kissing expert

The caveat, of course, is that we can’t control these pheromones or to whom we’re attracted (otherwise I would’ve dated like 40 fewer musicians and baristas) but we can “floss and gloss” our way to having a perfectly and alluringly kissable mouth.

“Maintaining good oral care for sparkly teeth and breath, and moisturizing your lips to keep them silky soft and smooth are key to pleasure,” Demirjian says. “This should be part of your daily routine. You never know when a kiss might present itself, so don’t get dinged on a technicality.”

Photo: Getty Images/Fat Camera

Now for Good Kissing Etiquette: 101

Get your mouth off the bedpost and listen up, because Demirjian wants you to pay attention to your partner. “Remember, too, kissing is about synchronicity—from knowing the right time to make the move to taking time with it,” she says.

We’ve all seen classic, heteronormative Hollywood kisses spurred by spontaneous bursts of passion wherein men exuberantly pull in women close, blurring the lines of consent, etc., etc. In reality, a good kiss should include some buildup, and signals of it can be spotted from a mile away. “Smiling eyes, touching of the hands and/or shoulders, standing close, and leaning in are all cues a kiss could be eminent,” Demirjian says. (But, of course, still do follow guidelines for appropriate consent.)

“When you’re sure about the ‘green light,’ come in gently and take it slow” she adds. “Let the excitement and passion build.” Basically, refrain from playing a game of “how far can I stick my tongue down your throat?” No one wants to play that game.

2 things to never do during a first (or second or millionth) kiss

The rules of kissing are finite and simple, and most of them focus on knowing what to do with your tongue. Since less is more, you’re going to end up in trouble if your kiss goes into slurpy (OMFG I just want to curl up and die even typing that word) territory. Here’s specifically what Demirjian says to avoid:

Tonsil tongue

Remember that Sex and the City episode where the gals declare “stabby little pointy tongue” to be the worst? They’re right, says Demirjian. “The tongue is a very strong muscle—it should only be served with finesse. Be delicate with it, keep it supple a gentle, and use it to explore, not tunnel.”

Sloppy saliva

I don’t have a lot to say here because getting into it will escalate some triggering memories of being cat-bathed by a human at the age of 18. Demirjian sums up up nicely: “By the time you come into your adult life, you should have control over waterworks. If not, don’t go French.” Oui, oui to that.

If you’re all about that lipstick life, Jennifer Aniston has a hack to make any color kiss-proof. BTW, I know you love your hedgehog and all, but here’s a good reason to stop making out with your pets

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