Tag Archives: kisses

Losing Your First Kiss

21 Aug

Jeannie Lin kicks of this week’s Month of Kisses with a great view into culture and the kiss!

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I remember my first kiss. I think most people do.

I was in high school and my first boyfriend and I had been going steady for over a month. When I first agreed to be his girl, we hugged and I gave him a kiss on the cheek, but that was it. He never tried to kiss me.

Finally one night when he was taking me home, he brought it up, saying that we’ve only had that one little peck. He asked me if it would be okay if he kissed me. My heart was beating real fast and in my head I was saying, “Well, duh. I’ve been waiting for an entire month!” but all I said was yes.

He was really tall and lanky and I’m tiny and he leaned down and I had my first kiss right there on my front step. The whole affair was weird and awkward and really, really wonderful.

Imagine that time when a kiss meant everything. When it wasn’t a starter act, the first step. There was one point in your life when you’d never been kissed. (Or maybe that point is now?) Maybe you’re hoping to be kissed soon and hoping it will be someone special and you’ll remember it forever.

Think of all that anticipation building. And all that fear of what it will mean.

Now take that feeling and multiply it.

Since I write historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China, of course I had to research kissing in Chinese culture. At one time, when Westerners came into broader contact with Chinese culture in the 19th century, they noted that Chinese people were shocked by the sight of couples holding hands or kissing in public. This lead to the misconception that Chinese couples didn’t kiss at all and were sexually repressed.

Given the number of people who today (let alone two centuries ago) are uncomfortable with PDA, is that really a fair conclusion?

Hopefully that old stereotype of sexual repression is starting to fade, but we still see echoes of it in how Asians are portrayed in movies or television. Or how they’re NOT portrayed as three-dimensional people with real desires. Every culture has specific rituals and expectations around romance and courtship. In traditional Chinese culture, and especially back in imperial times, kissing was seen as a very private, very intimate act. As intimate as giving your body to another person.

In Chinese culture, girls can speak about their first kiss as intensely as we would expect to speak about losing our virginity. In fact, it’s common to say “I lost my first kiss.”  (我失去了我的初吻)

During my research, I encountered a site about dating, courtship and relationships in China that wasn’t fetishized. While reading a post on LoveLoveChina about losing that first kiss, I came across some quotes that tried to express that feeling of deep intimacy.  (http://www.lovelovechina.com/dating/chinese-girls-first-kiss/)

Quotes:

“He wanted to kiss me. I said that we have to wait until after marriage. At that time I didn’t know [about sex]. I was afraid I’d have a baby once I touch him. Every time he wanted to kiss me, I would move my head away.
I planned to let him kiss me on his birthday, but one evening I felt I wanted. We were sitting on the ground, his body leaning against my leg. Suddenly I felt that I want to kiss him very much, so I gave a kiss on his neck.”

“He tried to kiss me, but I instinctively moved back. He got angry and complained that I push him away.“So, tell me what I should do” – I replied. After hearing it, he immediately moved forward and gave me a kiss…
I almost fainted…
All the way back home I couldn’t stop thinking about it… The first kiss was wonderful.”

“At the beginning, I tried to hide and pushed him away. After we kissed, I suddenly felt that I gave all my life to him and he seemed to be responsible…
I clearly remember how scared I was…The feeling was as I am not virgin anymore.”

“First kiss should be beautiful and sweet. However, my first kiss was lost without any feeling of sweetness. It was robbed when I was crying [after I drank alcohol]. When I recall that kiss, I don’t feel any happiness.”

Some of the snarky comments on the post made me angry and sad. They criticized Chinese culture for its lack of sex education and called these girls naïve and stupid for thinking a kiss can make you pregnant.  They made fun of women who were twenty years or older before having their first kiss.

Here’s the thing: learning about this nuance of Asian culture – about how precious and risky that first act of kissing can be – didn’t make me think of Chinese people as being repressed or backwards or other. It took a universal concept, the first kiss, and elevated it to something even more special.

I know that not EVERY woman in China has this feeling about kissing. China, like the US, like any culture is in a constant state of evolution, with a wide spectrum of attitudes about love and intimacy.

What these accounts did, in the extreme vulnerability of their emotions, is yield the language to describe a feeling that we’ve all felt, but have lost the ability to recapture as that moment becomes buried under  time. As we see kiss after kiss on TV, selling gum, selling toothpaste, selling lip balm. As kisses become a joke and a gimmick and a throwaway. First base.

It reminded me of my own so brief time of innocence, when the sight of others kissing seemed a little scandalous, and the thought of giving away my first kiss meant everything. This is why romance and especially historical romance are so appealing to me in the way that the pages try to embody and elevate and celebrate that first kiss. For the brief space of those pages, I can return to the exhilarating age of innocence when I had never yet been kissed and a kiss meant everything.

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A note from Bria:

I knew once I saw the characters for “I lost my first kiss” you’d all want to know exactly the same thing I did! How to write just “kiss” – so I shot Jeannie a note and she sent me back this lovely picture so it would be really clear.

Thanks again Jeannie Lin!

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Jeannie Lin grew up fascinated with stories of Western epic  fantasy and Eastern martial arts adventures. When her best friend  introduced her to romance novels in middle school, the stage was set.  Jeannie started writing her first romance while working as a high school science teacher in South Central Los Angeles. After four years of  trying to break into publishing with an Asian-set historical, her 2009  Golden Heart Award-winning manuscript, Butterfly Swords, sold to  Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her first three Tang Dynasty romances have  received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and  The Dragon and the Pearl was listed among Library Journal’s Best  Romances of 2011.

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Near Miss Kiss

16 Aug

Today we have Megan Whitmer on the blog! This girl is a riot. You’re going to be giggling through today’s whole post.

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If you know me at all, you know that I love kissing scenes. Timid first kisses, insane deep kisses, fast, slow, sweet, rough—I love them. Whenever I’m stuck, I write a kissing scene. It doesn’t even matter if the scene makes sense for the story—in fact, usually if it’s a scene I’m writing just to keep writing, it typically makes no sense at all. But it keeps me going.

And my most favorite type of kissing scene? The one that almost happens, or as I like to call it, the Near-Miss Kiss.

A boy and girl are sitting on a bench outside at night, spending just a few more minutes together before he has to leave. Shreds of moonlight spill across the yard. He can’t stop looking at her, and he knows she’s noticed. If he’s going to make a move, now’s the time. He brings his hand to her face. She lifts her eyes to his, then leans into him. He runs his thumb across her lower lip, and her fingers curl through the t-shirt he’s wearing. He dips his head closer. She feels his breath against her lips.

AND THEN HE DOESN’T KISS HER.

I LOVE THAT SO MUCH.

For me, the anticipation of a kiss is almost as good as the kiss itself. Sometimes, it’s even better. Angi’s post yesterday showed us that we’d all be better off if a few kisses never happened at all. The trick, of course, is to know when enough is enough. Too many near-misses, and your reader is going to hate you (and I’m going to feel sorry for your characters.)

A couple of my critique partners have pretty strong feelings about the near-misses (Hi Dahlia and Leigh Ann!) so the balance between near-misses and full-on kisses is something I think about a lot. Here are a few rules I have to satisfy my love for the near-miss kiss without making my friends hate me:

  1. You’re allowed one near-miss before the first kiss. One. Make it good. The tension should peak and then cut off so suddenly it makes you literally ache. Later when you’re building up to the actual first kiss, the reader is already emotionally involved because on top of your fantastically hot writing skills, they’re also still reeling from the near-miss. Everything is heightened.
  2. Just because your characters have kissed already doesn’t mean there can’t be a near-miss later on. Those are even more fun because your reader already knows how sexy that kiss is going to be, so expectations are high. This only works if the previous kisses have been good ones though. Otherwise, the reader is just relieved by the near-miss…and what’s the point of that? (My goal here, obviously, is to torture my reader along with my characters. I’m a mean person.)
  3. The last kiss in the book had better be an actual kiss. I beta read a book once that had a near-miss for the last encounter between  two characters and that was too frustrating even for me. It’s like making a promise and not keeping it. A near-miss has to lead to a real kiss. Don’t make me beg for it.

Kissing is fun. It’s downright OUTSTANDING. But don’t discount the thrill of making your characters (and readers) wait, at least for a few more pages.

When she’s not writing kissing scenes, Megan spends her time playing dress-up with her two daughters, drinking absurd amounts of Cherry Coke Zero, and wishing someone would pay her to tweet. You can find her online at http://meganwhitmer.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @MeganWhitmer.