First kisses not always ideal

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve wanted to fall in love.

But more than that — more than the simple act of stumbling into bliss — I wanted to fall in love through a kiss. A peck on the lips, something sloshy — I was even okay with the idea of braces. I just knew, instinctively and wholeheartedly, that my first kiss was going to be magical. And how could I think otherwise? From almost every story told to me at bedtime, from almost every annual holiday I could imagine, a kiss was something that transcended a tangible connection. It was, to put it simply, something overwhelmingly powerful. Kissing a frog catalyzed his metamorphosis into a prince; kissing a boo-boo was the fastest painkiller; and a kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve was enough to grant an entire 365 days’ worth of good luck. Mistletoe? Sleeping Beauty? Dementors? You may kiss the bride? Michael Corleone’s kiss of death in The Godfather: Part II?

I was convinced. Weren’t you? I was sure that in whatever capacity — whether it was promising your heart or stealing your soul — a kiss was an everyday, yet otherworldly phenomenon. Especially that first kiss with someone brave or someone new or someone seemingly wonderful. Clearly, it was not mundane — it was much more than a handshake, a salute or even an interpretative dance. But despite the many ways in which it appeared supernatural, it always seemed easy. Simple. Lips touched, sparks flew. It would be like two puzzle pieces fitting together, snug and comforting.

Is it any surprise that I was wrong? My first kiss was a bit of a mess. It was hesitant and clumsy. It was filled with doubt and worry but, despite the discomfort and awkward parting, it was with someone I truly, deeply cared about.

It’s interesting when I look back and see how I met the people most important to me. Rare was the encounter when I knew friendship was inevitable — most of the time, it was awkward hellos all around. One of my best friends who I met in middle school initially labeled me a ditz. One person I now consider a kindred spirit stole my crayons in the third grade, justifying a disgruntled vendetta that I held against him for three years. I met another close friend in the eighth grade, and we shared a tense, 30-minute bus ride in complete silence — every passing second, I hated the concept of assigned seating more and more.

I want to say that when you meet your soul mate, whether it be your best friend or your significant other, it will be natural. Fluid. It will be like finding another piece of yourself. And yes, this is certainly true for some — some people have entered my life with ease and have stayed there, happily harmonious. Others, equally wonderful, had rocky, tentative steps — we dipped our toes into the pool and it was only after a few awkward glances and roundabout conversations that we jumped in.

So, who knows? I’ve had some explosions-in-the-sky first kisses that fell out of the heavens before the next sunrise, and I’ve had some chaste, barely-there first kisses that ultimately bloomed into something rapturous. If I had followed the advice that my mom gave me when I was five, I would have taken every first kiss as a sort of affirmation. A test: Why hello, potential suitor, I have a challenge for thee.

Normally, everything my mother says is true. This might just be, however, her one false kernel of truth. I nevertheless ate it up as a child and, unbeknownst to me, it got stuck in my teeth while chewing. But years later, I’ve finally fished it out. I’ll share a secret with you — it’s all mental, I’ve figured out (yes, this one probably took me a bit too long to realize). First kisses and their supposed magical properties, the frogs and mistletoe and New Year’s good luck: Adorable and wonderful, but potentially overrated.

But maybe not the dementors — that’s serious business.

Tiffany Yang is a junior majoring in comparative literature. Her column, “Alphabet Soup,” runs Wednesdays.