Confession: I’m one of those annoying people who won’t share drinks with friends. It’s not because I’m a germaphobe as much as I’m a saliva-phobe. To me, spit’s just gross. It is. But that particular phobia doesn’t end with me not letting someone take a swig from my Poland Spring bottle—it also means I hate making out. I literally can’t stand the feeling of someone’s spit on my lips, let alone—shudder—inside my mouth. And I don’t want anything to do with tongue.
When I first started dating, I didn’t know it was OK to dislike French kissing, so I put up with it. I participated in games of Spin the Bottle, made out with guys at college parties, and pushed through the kissing portion of foreplay so I could get to the sex, which I actually did like.
Needless to say, my kissing style was drier than most. “Timid,” one ex called it. “You don’t open your mouth enough,” he explained. “You’ve gotta kiss more aggressively.” Nope, sorry.
As an insecure 21-year-old, I took his critique to mean my kissing style was objectively bad and then resolved to “fix” it. I sought instruction from a friend, who taught me to move my tongue around, stomach the saliva it was inevitably picking up, and brush off my uneasiness about—ugh—ingesting it. After we broke up, I put up with a string of dates and hookups who left me wiping my mouth, all the while thinking I was the one who just didn’t understand how to kiss.
It was pure luck that at age 25, while clubbing in Ibiza of all places, I came across a hot guy who—as I braced myself for the inevitable torrent of slobber—gave me a simple, dry peck. And then another one. And then another. “I love the way you kiss!” I yelled over the music. Obviously, I had to go home with him…and then make him my boyfriend. You can’t just let a kisser that restrained get away. Finally, someone I could state my preferences for dry kisses to, and who would listen and not think I was being weird. Why couldn’t I have just told all my past partners the same thing, instead of feeling pressured into passionately making out?
By realizing he was the type of kisser I preferred, I recognized that I’d been pretty good at it all along—I just wasn’t with partners who had a compatible style. And once I found someone who was compatible, it wasn’t an issue like I’d feared. We just fell into a rhythm of dry kisses.
Instead of doing things I didn’t want to do, I should’ve asserted my boundaries up front, like I do with anything else sex-related. Unfortunately, we get this idea that there are certain acts you’re allowed to turn down and others you’re supposed to like. Anal sex? Not for everyone. But kissing? You’re a freak if you don’t love it.
In reality, there’s nothing you have to like, and we shouldn’t assume our partners are into something just because it’s “normal.” Whether it’s kissing or oral sex or PIV or holding hands, a lot of us might prefer to skip out on certain dating and sex conventions if only we didn’t feel any pressure to participate—and so we should skip out.
Now, I still kiss as part of foreplay—just without any tongue. But honestly, I prefer not to spend much time on that either. I find it kind of repetitive and just want to get to the sex already.
This came naturally to my partner and me. I didn’t even realize we were doing things differently than I had with past partners until one morning just a few months ago, when he gave me a slightly wet kiss by accident. “No spitty kisses!” I jokingly warned. Since then, it’s become our line: When he wants to mess with me, he’ll call my kisses “spitty.” But all kidding aside, he knows I won’t accept them—and no longer will I ever let anyone criticize my kissing style for not being spitty enough.