Collage by Ruby A.

Collage by Ruby A.

Well, it’s happened. You’ve found someone you like. Someone you have a crush on. This is HUGE. OK this happens all the time—but this time it’s different: this time, this person you’ve been secretly obsessing over forever and who is so cute and sweet and nice and funny and smells good and is UGH SO PERFECT…this person LIKES YOU TOO. You like each other, and it’s amazing, like a needle-in-a-haystack, no-one-has-ever-felt-this-way-before, I-can’t-believe-we-found-each-other sort of thing.

You start hanging out more. You maybe go on a few dates. And then you want to kiss him or her.

This idea of kissing them starts to occupy your thoughts. You’re thinking about it all the time, and every time your beautiful perfect adorable crush talks, you can’t bring yourself to take your eyes off their mouth. You are staring creepily at their lips a lot.

Then one day your crush comes over and you’re playing video games on the couch (well, they’re playing video games; you’re watching the light from the screen reflecting off their face out of the corner of your eye) and…you snuggle a little closer.

Crush takes eyes off video game and sets them on you. You and crush lock eyes. And suddenly you both know: this is it. Your First Kiss is about to happen. You lean in and suddenly you’re in their face space, inhaling their warm breath, and then you gently, gently touch your lips to theirs like a butterfly who can’t decide whether to stick around or fly away and then it’s like a dam breaks and you’ve both wanted this SO MUCH and your crush grabs you and suddenly you’re really kissing and it’s so easy and so fun and so perfect and the music swells and as you lace your fingers through your crush’s you can feel in your heart that this is so, so right, and that was your first kiss—and it was better than you ever could have hoped.

That’s how every first kiss with someone new would happen if life were perfect.

But we all know how life really is, and while the first time you kiss someone is often absolutely lovely and wonderful and great, it can also be awkward, funny, terrible, gross, and occasionally—let’s face it—really, truly awful.

You don’t have to look far to find stories about kissing, images of people kissing, whole entire songs about kissing, and of course Ukrainian art installations where you can kiss a “sleeping beauty” but if she opens her eyes you have to marry her. But what about the actual MECHANICS at play here? What if you don’t care about the context or narrative surrounding the kiss but want solely to learn OMG what to do with your mouth when you finally start kissing people? Like, is there a “right” way to kiss? Major, fatal mistakes to avoid? What if you’re a bad kisser and you don’t even knowwwww??? This kind of information is a lot harder to obtain.UNTIL NOW.

I’m about to break down for you, step by step, the five basic types of kiss. (When you’ve advanced beyond these, you won’t need my help.) But first let me reassure you: Kissing is not hard, you do not need to stress about it, and you are most likely going to be an excellent kisser (maybe you already are). Kissing is just getting to know someone in a new way (like a handshake, but with your lips!), and all the good manners and putting-each-other-first type things we already do on the regular with our friends can easily be translated to kissing. If you’re a thoughtful, considerate person already, you’ll probably be a thoughtful, considerate kisser, without even trying very hard. The Golden Rule applies here: Kiss unto others as you would have them kiss unto you.

(Don’t worry if you aren’t sure how exactly you would have someone kiss unto you—we’ll cover that here.)

One final caveat: don’t feel like you have to follow anything I’m saying here. The truth is that any way of kissing is just fine, so long as you and your collaborator in this endeavor are enjoying yourselves. It really all boils down to your style. What follow are just some basics to get you started and to help you out on your own trip down lip-to-lip lane. (Yes I just said that.)

The First Kiss With Anyone, Ever

Ooooh, this is so exciting. First kiss! Yeah!

But before we get down to logistics, your first step should be asking yourself, “Do I really want to kiss this person, or do I just feel like I should?”

If you’ve never kissed someone, please do not listen to people you hang around with who act like it is everything. Judging by the number of emails sent to our various advice outlets each month by kiss virgins worried about either catching up with everyone else or staying that way forever, you’re in good, abundant company. No matter how old you are, you are not the only person your age who hasn’t had their first kiss. There’s nothing wrong with starting your kissing career before any of your friends; and there’s nothing wrong with graduating from high school or college without having touched your lips to another human’s. This isn’t a race, and it’s not like if you don’t have your first kiss now the window of opportunity will slam shut forever. You have all the time in the world. And don’t worry that people will ostracize you in college or that no one will want to have sexytimes with you when they find out that you’re not super experienced: college is full of virgins, including some kiss virgins, and being a curious, engaged partner is way more important than how many people you’ve done stuff with.)

Also: If someone wants to kiss you but you don’t want to kiss them…don’t. It’s OK. It doesn’t matter if they gave you a ride home or paid for the movie or took you to prom or saved you and your entire extended family, plus assorted pets, from a burning building: you don’t owe anyone close personal access to your lips. Plus, you’ll be kissing people for the rest of your life, so why not wait to kiss until you really want to?

And when your first kiss does happen, here’s something else to keep in mind: it might go really great or really badly or totally boringly or kind of weirdly or any of countless different ways, but no matter what happens, remember that your first kiss does not determine your kissing future. It’s a kiss you’ll remember, almost certainly, but it’s still just one kiss.