There is so much pressure in today's society around having first kisses, what age they should be, and whether or not it has to be with "the one." Here's a look at why there shouldn't be so much stigma around first kisses— and why they aren't always like the movies— from a teenage girl who had hers at 15.
First, let's take a look at some iconic on-screen kisses, from Lara Jean Covey on the lacrosse field with dreamboat Peter Kavinsky to Rory Gilmore and Dean Forester in the aisles of Dosie's Market. Somehow, in each of these kisses, the characters are perfectly oriented, and it's like the world stops. It's as if the world has faded away, leaving the two lovers infatuated with nothing but one another.
As much of a hopeless romantic as I am, let me tell you why first kisses aren't always what we expect them to be. Often, with romantic partners and significant others, we first fall in love with the idea of who they are— who we want them to be or what they could be— before we fall in love with the person themselves. We want our first kiss to mean everything, to be a moment we reflect on wondrously. If we build up our expectations for this picturesque, butterfly-inducing kiss, we are just building ourselves up to be let down.
This brings us to look at what we are taught about relationships from a young age. As a young girl, I grew up surrounded by Disney princesses who only existed to find a true love's kiss, or to be docile and pretty.
The younger version of me didn't look like Cinderella, with her flowy blonde hair and perfect commercial smile; I was loud and opinionated, messy and unladylike, and in many ways, I am still that same little girl. While society told me to hold my tongue, "cover up," and cross my legs under the table, the strong women around me taught me to have empathy, patience, and compassion and reminded me that I was beautiful the way I was.
With social media's overbearing presence, and as middle school came around and my peers found themselves no longer interested in the playgrounds at recess, it was only natural that I, and others, had pre-established ideas of what love and our first kisses looked like. One friend, while we were lying in bed during a sleepover, told me matter-of-factly, "If you do it, then you're a wh*re. And if you don't, people call you a prude.
Either way, you're the villain." As rumors spread quickly around school, I learned that that was true. As a woman, you are automatically the villain in love, no matter what.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Following my first kiss, I learned to start to accept myself and support other women instead of tearing them down out of spite or jealousy. I learned that the rumors about me were often started by other girls, and as teenagers, we are growing, changing, and still figuring ourselves out.
We are in a vulnerable state, which leads us to feel the need to bring our female counterparts down in order to feel more secure or superior. When we take the time to love ourselves and accept our own identities, we are able to support and admire the women around us, as well as show ourselves the same respect we show them.
I was extremely nervous when I had my first kiss. I had been waiting for him to kiss me for weeks, and he didn't seem to be picking up on the hint. Every day, he would carry my bag, walk me home, and wave goodbye once we reached my block.
I eventually got tired of waiting, because the idea of waiting for a guy to pick up on my cues was not only exhausting, but outdated. I didn't want to be the kind of girl who waited around until the guy made the first move. One day, I worked up the nerve, and as he was about to leave, I ran after him and asked if I could kiss him.
It wasn't anything special, looking back. My life didn't pause and I didn't come to any epiphany after our kiss. Instead, I felt disappointed. I had saved my first kiss— avoided Spin the Bottle, Suck and Blow, and various party games— thinking it'd be worth it when I finally did have my first one.
I realize now, more than a year later, that during that encounter, the thoughts running through my head were all centered around what would please him and not what I wanted myself. This is one of the major problems society teaches women about love: we are made to be desirable. We must be a certain way so he will think we're pretty or good enough. We exist to please.
However, love is a two-way street. As I entered my future relationships, I learned that being satisfied and feeling comfortable, respected, and pleased is something that must be reciprocated. Men are less likely to stop and wonder if they are doing everything right, if they are pleasing us, while women are taught their whole lives that their role in a relationship is to cater to their partner's delights.
Kisses, and more, should happen on your terms, because it is what you (and your significant other) both want and get happiness out of. You are always allowed to change your mind— consent is not nonrefundable— and just because you say no does not make you a "prude," or whatever other labels society will throw at you to attempt to make you feel ashamed. Don't let anyone make you feel that way, because you are beautiful, inside and out. Do things in your own time, at your own pace, and how you like it.
As a society, we are taught to over-romanticize relationships and toxic dynamics, to the point where love becomes a compromise, something that hurts more than helps. While first kisses are milestones for many, over-romanticizing often leads to disappointment and expectations that can't be met. First kisses are not meant to be perfect, and there is no pressure to do anything until you feel it is the right time, circumstance, and person.
I wish I'd learned sooner that there is no need to rush into things I'm not ready for or certain about. Your life and your timeline are your own, and no one else should make you feel inferior.
So love freely, and don't worry about having the "perfect movie kiss." Significant others are temporary, but you are forever. Instead, don't stress too much and enjoy life before it passes by too quickly. Don't focus too much on pleasing other people, and instead, take some time to care about and love yourself. Sometimes, love isn't like the movies, and the best love you will find is the one within yourself.