So we know the basics. Great! We’re kissing! (Not with each other.) It’s fun! Hopefully! But sometimes it isn’t, and even more very experienced kissers, things don’t always go smoothly. So now it’s time for:

Kiss Troubleshooting

Bad breath: So you want to kiss someone, and they want to kiss you, and you lean in, and they lean in, and…oh wow. WOW. This person has HORRIBLE breath. I mean the kind that is so terrible that you can almost see it hanging in the air. What do you do?

Welllll…how much do you want to kiss this person? Is this a first kiss with someone you’ve had a crush on for ages? Is this your boyfriend of three months? What’s the situation here?

It’s obvs up to you, but I would say, if you really, really want to kiss this person, and you’ve never kissed them before, you might want to go for it. Just this once! Of course, this is only if you like them enough to deal with this unfortunate situation in the hopes that next time will be a bit…mintier. A gross, but hopefully worthy, sacrifice.

But if you know this person a little bit better than that, you can totally say, “Hey, do you want some gum?”

This can be embarrassing for the poor girl/guy, though, so try this trick: If you suspect kissing might happen at any point when you’re out with someone, you cannot go wrong by putting gum or mints in your pocket and offering your date one while chomping on one yourself, before kissing ever has a chance to happen. Act like you just always eat mints, and it’s super-natural to offer one to her/him.

And of course if it just doesn’t seem worth it, at the moment you become alerted to the situation, when your lips are close to theirs, you are well within your rights to retreat and say vaguely, “You know what, this just doesn’t feel right.”

(And if you’re on the other end of this, please don’t be ashamed. Bad breath is easily treatable and not a reflection on your character. If you brush and floss regularly, didn’t just eat a bunch of onions and garlic, and you don’t smoke, ask your dentist and/or your regular doctor to help you figure out what’s going on. Nip the problem in the bud—isn’t it worth it if it means MORE KISSING?)

Slobbering: You’re kissing, you’re frenching, and…your date thinks it’s his or her mission in life to swab your entire mouth with their tongue. To them, a sexy kiss is the wettest, sloppiest one possible. They are licking your lips, the inside of your mouth, they may even (yes) lick your face. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON THIS IS TERRIBLE SOMEONE HELP.

Slobbering is dreadful and often inflicted by someone who really really really wants to kiss but has very little experience doing so. They’re trying to make the kiss really sexy, and for some reason they think this is the best way to do so. They are wrong. They must be stopped immediately. Here’s how:

  1. Pull away from the slobberer.
  2. Assuming you like this slobberer, smile.
  3. Say, “I like kissing you really softly, like this.”
  4. Then demonstrate what feels nice to you. Kiss him or her very gently, throwing in a little bit of tongue, but WAY LESS than they were using with you.
  5. Pull away. Smile. (You are so friendly and encouraging and not at all humiliating!)
  6. Then lean in to give them another chance. Your partner (if they are not stupid) should immediately try to emulate what you just did. If the new kiss shows marked improvement, congratulations! There’s hope. If, however, the new kiss is just as bad as—or worse than—the original slobbery kiss…I’m so sorry, hunnybun, but this person might not be ready for the hotness of your kisses.

(Unless, of course, sloppy kisses are your jam. Who knows? Everyone likes different things.)

Oddly aggressive kissing: You’re kissing, you’re frenching, and…your date has totally taken over. They’re kissing you really aggressively, maybe grabbing the back of your head hard, shoving their tongue in your mouth and pushing it around. Their teeth actually touched your teeth, and you didn’t like it. Meanwhile, you are clearly not matching their level of forcefulness and…gusto. This person is totally disregarding your body language, which is communicating that you are not really into this kind of kissing at all.

One thing you can do here, if you’re really uncomfortable, is to put a total stop to the proceedings, go home, and watch Downton Abbey. You can try again some other time if you feel like it, but maybe you won’t, and that’s just fine.

But if you want to keep kissing them, but not in the way where you feel like you’re being mauled by a bear, try these steps:

  1. Stop kissing your partner immediately, and pull away from her/him.
  2. Give them a surprised/confused look, and then slowly and carefully begin kissing them again. You can put a hand right under their collarbone as a signal that you want them to stay on their side of this kiss rather than tackle you. Your hand is resting there, not actually pushing them away. (If you’re continually physically pushing someone away and they keep ignoring it, this is worse than a bad kiss. It’s coercion, it’s force, and the only positive thing about it is that it lets you know right away that this is not a person you want to be involved with.)

If this beast still isn’t getting your message, stop again, explain to them how you want to be kissed, and demonstrate this preference on their mouth. This is their last chance: if this doesn’t fix the problem, take your leave. Go find someone else to kiss. Kissing is supposed to be fun, you guys!

Now, like I said, maybe none of this advice applies to you. Maybe you have your own idiosyncratic kissing technique; that’s awesome, since knowing what you like in terms of kissing will help you figure out what you like sexually for the rest of your life. Maybe you’re the girl who LOVES the feeling of a slack wet tongue resting in your mouth like a dead squid. Again, congratulations; you have a jump-start on knowing yourself.

My point is that there’s no “right” way to kiss. There’s only what you like, and what your kissing partner likes, and whether and how you two match up. Wait until you’re really and truly ready, and then—and not a moment sooner—get out there and practice. ♦