by Annabeth Leong
“K wants to know what it’s like to kiss a girl,” G tells me. We’re standing out back of a club where we all hang out a lot. K is a girl I know slightly, a little younger than me, in the midst of a phase that seems to involve sending every rebellious signal she can copy or invent. She’s wearing a white shirt that reads “Sweaty Ball Licker,” and her hair is dyed a Kool-Aid color. She’s breathless and excited.
“Will you kiss me?” she asks.
G watches eagerly.
I sort of want to. In the past, I always would have. When I was in college the first time, before dropping out for a few years, I used to stand in the quad on Friday and Saturday nights and ask people to kiss me. While people whispered about how I was slutty, I was experiencing something else, some sort of desire to be generous with everyone, to share some sort of formless love and appreciation for all people—and to satisfy a curiosity that seemed giant and unquenchable. My attitude toward kissing back then was, “Sure, why not?” I liked doing it, and I liked finding out how different people did it. I either didn’t mind exhibitionism or I enjoyed it. I tried to kiss everyone, regardless of gender or appearance, assuming they gave permission, and only rejected those who assumed it meant they could take any liberties they wanted.
So it makes sense for me to kiss this girl K. G knows me well enough to have seen me involved in many anonymous makeout sessions over the years. Besides, she’s pretty. On top of that, I have always deeply loved initiations. It excites me to do things I haven’t done before, or to help other people do things they haven’t done before.
I surprise everyone by saying no. I just feel weird about this moment. I don’t really want G panting over us.
(G has been grossing me out recently. He’s told me casually that he’d love to bend me over a table and fuck me, and this doesn’t strike me as honest as much as it strikes me as entitled. We were at a funeral a few weeks before, and when a beautiful friend walked toward us in the parking lot, he greeted her by saying, “Look at that. Nothing but tits.” It seemed like the wrong time and place for a comment like that, and I’ve been figuring out lately that I don’t like comments like that in general.)
I also feel worried about K. I’m not sure if she actually wants to kiss me. Did G put her up to this? Does she actually want to kiss a girl, or is she just trying to be “bad”? Does she have any actual desire to kiss me? I didn’t expect to care about that, but I do.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my last chance to kiss a girl for more than a decade. I’ve thought back to that moment a lot. When I was younger, the main way I was out as not being straight was by being loud and a bit obnoxious about it, flirting aggressively with anyone in my path. Because I was so public about it, I was the person people came to when they were curious, and when guys wanted to watch, I let them stick around.
Sometimes, I felt sorry that I didn’t kiss K. It’s a moment I think of as my “conservative turn.” For many years after that, I turned away from many of my sexual impulses, partly because I thought they were morally wrong. I watched K after that encounter with a curiosity of my own. What would it have been like to kiss her? If she had actually wanted to kiss me, would she do it some other time, when G wasn’t watching? It seemed for a while like I’d forgotten how to be the person I used to be. How did I flirt with girls in the first place? Who was it who stood so boldly in public spaces and begged near-strangers for kisses?
On the other hand, I’m not sorry. I don’t like the conservative turn, but I think it was important to notice my impulse for privacy. I think it was okay in that moment to feel tired of being everyone’s experiment, to want a girl to want to kiss me for myself, not as a symbol of “badness.” I think it was wise to worry about G, both how his presence would affect me and how it might be affecting her.
We’re talking about forks in the road, and this was one of them for me. By not kissing K, I chose to close off a part of myself for years. However, roads are mapped in funny ways, and recently I find myself driving through similar hills and valleys.
I’ve got a better sense of the lay of the land now, and I know more about where I do and don’t want to go. If this happened to me today, I’d tell the curious lady I’d be happy to give her a kiss—as long as she was okay with ditching G. I still get the impulse to kiss or play with interesting strangers, and I’m okay with that as long as my sense of privacy and safety is respected. I am an exhibitionist, but I’ve learned about what things will make me feel sorry and what things won’t. I love getting naked at kink events, and I don’t mind being looked at by whoever is around. For making out, though, I need any dudes around to take several big steps back. I don’t want to feel their breath on the back of my neck while I’m kissing Curious Lady. And I do want people to want to kiss me. Even if they don’t know me all that well, I want them to like something about me besides that it will impress some nearby male person.
I’m also a little more relaxed about driving around this country. It no longer feels like every opportunity might be the last, that I have to say yes to everything or I will never get the chance to say yes again.
I haven’t done my usual thing leaving comments, but if I took time to do that now, I’d be even later posting than I already am. I will read and comment soon, though! I love reading the posts of my fellow Grippers! :)