It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this? It was only a kiss; it was only a kiss. 

~ The Killers, Mr. Brightside

As leaves crumble and cold weather creeps in, the jovial, magical holiday season begins: festive trees, dainty mistletoes, and colorful lights. Mariah Carey sings that all she wants for Christmas is you, and every K-drama includes a kissing scene with snow dancing around the couple, who finally interlocked lips upon realising their previously suppressed and exponentially sprouting feelings. Talk about an unrealistic winter romance!

For any of you feeling particularly single this season – there’s really no reason to be. I don’t mean to sound like a cynical love expert, because I’m not – never been in a relationship, and unashamedly turning 18 this January. But I can tell you something I’ve learned from my “romantic” experience: something I wish I would’ve known as a teenager growing up with the idealistic mentality that your first kiss was meant to change everything.

Well, it doesn’t. Not necessarily.

As a year passes by, I’m taken back on a whirlwind of memories to where I stood; but this time – stronger, smarter, and a bit saltier. This distinct, unforgettable moment: a first kiss (called a flashbulb memory in psychology). To be frank, I don’t remember the actual kiss itself; what I do remember clearly to this day, however, is how that moment made me feel, and how it has impacted me thereafter.

Hoping that our kiss would make things “different,” I was baffled that everything went back to normal, as if nothing happened at all. I battled confusion and absolute frustration; how were you supposed to define a relationship that crossed the borderlines of friendship? It’s all fun and games when you’re going through that phase of “flirtationship” (썸); that is, until something like a whimsical kiss happens and now you don’t know whether “you and me” are now “us.” Although I wanted to deny it, I had a sinking feeling that things would wind up this way, because he was the type of person who just didn’t know how to deal with whatever happens after this kind of “stuff.” It wasn’t like I knew any better, because hey, I was 16 and just as lost as he was. What do young and naïve teenagers know anyway– in the spur of the moment, anything like that could happen. After all, it was only a kiss, right?

When I look back at it now, there was no one to blame for that awkward situation, but I do think that we should have talked it out better. We remained complicated; the fact that we could never settle and define who “we” were was something that we both accepted in the end. If it weren’t for him, however, I wouldn’t have realized that a relationship doesn’t follow a kiss as simple as that. Sometimes, a kiss is just a kiss: an expression of intimacy in its purest, most innocent form; a moment that stays true within the moment and then fades away into dust. It’s not to say that he didn’t like me because he didn’t choose to pursue me; for us, the opportunity was just there and we chose to live it.

While I wouldn’t have my first kiss any other way, how things unraveled afterwards was a regretful roller coaster ride for me. At the time, I didn’t understand that a kiss could just be a kiss and still remain special; instead, I was heartbroken that mutual confession and even a kiss didn’t always lead to couple status. Was there something faulty about me? Was it a quality as a girlfriend that I lacked? Neither was the case.

Yet I stubbornly continued to seek the attention of other male figures, to patch up the holes in my turbulent heart; to receive a lifeline of support that I apparently thought wasn’t enough from family and friends; to feel acknowledged by other guys. Simply put, I took more opportunities elsewhere, and what I learned is that the physicality of a kiss is actually meaningless. It was funny how my later kisses felt like absolutely nothing, despite the fact that it was “better” in the bodily sense. The ecstatic sensation only came with the person I had a strong attachment to, and not the person I merely kissed for the sake of making out– motion, without emotion.

While I’m not trying to degrade a first kiss, I believe that it is overly magnified. Media and society place an idealistic pressure on first kisses as a big deal that happens during youth (if you’re 20 and you haven’t kissed anyone, you are basically considered a nun). The same logic applies to sex; what’s the hurry in losing your virginity by the time you’re 16? I’m not trying to rip apart high school couples and criticise relationships altogether; however, there shouldn’t be an age bar that tells us when we should have our first _______ (you name it). There’s peer pressure between the “innocent” and “experienced”; experience makes teens feel cooler, older, and more… accepted. But it shouldn’t. Teens shouldn’t have to feel judged based on something as silly as, “Have you had your first kiss yet?”

Everyone’s first kiss has a different story, so I’m not one to make the final conclusion on whether it’s meaningful or not. That’s for you to decide. So if you’re in a relationship, I’m happy for you. If you’re not, I’m happy for you too, because your worth is not determined by your number of relationships. There’s no certain point in life when you must reach a romantic milestone, and being “forever alone” (모태솔로) doesn’t define your value. Only time will tell when you have your first kiss, and it’s honestly no rush either way.

After all, it only matters if you put meaning into it.


Featured Image Source: “Silhouette Kiss” by Christian Schulze
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