Top Four Kissing Crimes–Are You a Perpetrator?

Gentlemen, hear me when I tell you that ladies are into kissing. It’s one of the most intimate and sublime sensations out there–when done well. 

But lately, some of my friends have been sharing stories of kissing woes. Guys that they stopped dating, because these fellas did not know how to smooch properly. 

Herewith I submit the top four kissing crimes. 

Kissing Criminal #1: The Goldfish

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Goldfish is an insecure and tentative makeout agent. He will purse his lips before planting them repeatedly on his chosen paramour’s mouth, cheek, or other exposed body part. 

Essence of the crime: Annoying smacking noises; pursed lips are not passionate, but redolent of a disapproving great-aunt. 

Rehabilitation: When you’re kissing a lady, let your lips relax and be soft. And if you hear cartoony smacking sounds resonating off your face–beware! 

Kissing Criminal #2: The Vacuum Cleaner


Image courtesy of Wiktionary.

The Vacuum Cleaner goes for what he wants, which is a plus. But he mistakes penetration for passion. Having some guy shove his tongue down your throat is about as sexy as getting a root canal. 

Essence of the crime: Dental connotations; lack of sensitivity. 

Rehabilitation: Even if she’d be open to it, it’s hotter to postpone any tongue action until it’s clear there’s some chemistry going on. When things start to get passionate, let her lead, and go slowly–this is neither deep-water drilling nor fracking. 

Kissing Criminal #3: The Monk


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Monk may be really into you, but you’d never know it. He’s too scared to even try to place his lips anywhere near yours. Nice guys don’t want to go in too fast and scare you off. Which is commendable! But The Monk veers too far in this direction, leaving his lady wondering if he’s interested at all. 

Essence of the crime: Not going for the gusto. 

Rehabilitation: Start with a kiss on the cheek. See if she seems happy with that. If so, try a gentle kiss on the lips. See how that goes. If she pulls back at that point, all is not well and it’s best to find out what’s up before proceeding further. 

Kissing Criminal #4: The Saint Bernard


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Saint Bernard has lots of puppy-dog energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, he also lacks control. Nothing is less hot than having a damp splotch of drool left behind after a kiss.

Essence of the crime: Excessive saliva distribution.

Rehabilitation: Some people just kiss wetter than others, which is fine. But make sure you’re taking time to swallow your own spit. And if you lick your lips before a kiss, make sure it’s just to lube them up for action–not to saturate that whole area.

On behalf of women everywhere, thank you for avoiding these criminal activities!

Chemistry Versus Attraction

Image from Wikipedia

I usually have to hang out with someone a few times before I can be sure whether or not I’m attracted to him.

A fair number of my friends face this same issue. And I think it all comes down to the difference between chemistry and attraction. 

Chemistry is a biological response that occurs between your body and the body of a potential mate. This is all about pheromones and neurotransmitters. It has nothing to do with the person’s appearance, behavior, or personality, or with whether or not they’re a good kisser. (Though that’s an important skill to develop.) 

When I have chemistry with someone, I feel it as an electric current passing between us. Even a simple touch on the arm comes with a ffsssszhooom (insert lightning-strike sound). 

OK, so that’s chemistry. What’s attraction? 

Attraction is a combo of all the emotional, intellectual, and other forces drawing you to someone else. I might be attracted to a guy because he has gorgeous eyes, because he makes me laugh, or because he’s wicked smaahht. More likely, for a mosaic of about fifty such reasons. 

What gets so confusing is this weird intersection between chemistry and attraction. I might find a guy super-sexy for the reasons I just listed–but if he and I don’t have chemistry, kissing won’t feel right. The force field around our bodies will be pushing them apart, not pulling them together. 

I’ve encountered some resistance on this. Some of my friends, and a former shrink of mine, say that the attraction part of the equation is way more important than the raw biological chemistry. They point out that attraction to someone can grow as you get to know them. 

It’s true that attraction can wax and wane. Chemistry, on the other hand, is a constant. It’s the equivalent of skin color, eye color, or height–it’s just there. And it won’t change based on how nice someone is, or how good a match you are on paper. 

For some people, an intense sexual spark isn’t of prime importance. They’d rather be with a terrific person who’s a good friend to them, even if the physical side of the equation is less than spectacular.

But if a thriving sexual connection is a priority, the real killer thing is that there’s nothing you can do to fabricate chemistry. It’s there or it’s not. 

Here are two ways to know early. 

1. Touch his hand or bare arm. Maybe you’re playing darts at the bar and you hand the darts to him. Maybe he’s coaching you on your golf swing and fixes your grip. Pay attention to what you feel. No need to freak out–just pay attention to it. 

2. If activities like kissing, holding hands, and making out don’t feel great, don’t pursue the connection. A little awkwardness early on is natural, but it should still be exciting. 

Here are two ways to make chemistry work for you. 

1. Don’t let it overshadow other compelling decision-making factors. If he acts like a jackass, no amount of pheromonal compatibility will make up for that. 

2. Don’t pretend it’s there if it’s not. Even if your attraction to someone grows, your level of chemistry with them will remain the same. This is not a situation where practice makes perfect. 

What do you think about all this, my worldly and sophisticated readers?

Creativity and Rust

That’s the guitar my mom gave me in 1999, when I got back from two years in China.

She’s a Fender. Her name is Van, after Townes Van Zandt and Camper Van Beethoven.

When I got back to the States, I took some guitar lessons and played about 45 minutes a day. I learned a bunch of chords and some very simple fingerpicking. I got comfortable enough that, when my dad gave a talk for the high school where he’s a teacher, I played a song before and after.

But when I moved to Boston in 2000, even though Van came with me, I just didn’t play her much. There was too much else going on: finding a job, stage-managing a crazy huge theatre production, and entering my first serious relationship.

Also, you need tough fingertips to play guitar, and mine quickly became uncallused. So it always seemed like too much of a commitment to get back into it.


But over the last couple weeks, I’ve busted out my guitar again. Maybe it’s the energy of fall, or maybe I’m jealous of the fun I see musicians having when I go to live shows.

My goal is to take some singing lessons, using the guitar to back myself up. And then maybe some guitar lessons. And then maybe a songwriting class. And then, the Holy Grail: Open Mic Night somewhere.

Last night I wrote most of a song. It showed me the universe of what I don’t know about composition, music theory, and lyric writing. It doesn’t even have a bridge yet. Does every folk song need a bridge?

The funny thing is, when I picked up Van again, I realized that I’d gotten kinda good at playing, back 14 years ago. I didn’t recognize that at the time, but as I look up the chords for songs I used to play, it’s obvious that my 45 minutes a day created some ability. How could it not?

This happens a lot. If you work out every day, then take a long break, then try to get back into it, your body will feel old and stiff. Same with speaking a long-abandoned language. You can feel how rusty the gears are. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth the effort to clean them off, lube them up, and get the bike on the road again.

But the things we practice become our identity.

It seems like my mission in life lately is to prove that I’m a creative person, with the guitar and the screenwriting and the enormous collage I’m making. I go through periods where I doubt my own creativity. And that’s a deep, painful doubt–like doubting that I’m a good person, or doubting that I’m loved.

Hopefully as I keep practicing these creative things, some rust will come off the gears and there will be as much pleasure as effort.

I wonder if part of my urge to be creative is because I’m not planning to have a kid. Do humans have a finite amount of creativity, which they can pour into parenting, writing, running a business, whatever?

Or is creativity a quality some people have, and some people lack?

Playing Guitar in China

Painting by Seth Minkin.

When I was teaching English in China with the Peace Corps, another volunteer who was leaving passed on to me her cheap Chinese guitar and a book of chords.

This was a great gift. Our town was quiet, and our lives as volunteers were pretty isolated. If we weren’t going out with our students to sing karaoke, or grading homework, our evenings stretched out long and often lonely.

So I started learning to pick out some songs I missed from back home. Anything American took on an otherworldly beauty to us, because we couldn’t access it. This was 1998–not much Internet, no laptops or tablets, few cell phones. So being able to play “Me and Bobby McGee” or “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” was comforting.

Even better was when we’d meet up with other Peace Corps volunteers in another city. One of them had a mandolin, and he and I would play together and sing. I’m sure we sounded goofy, but it felt wonderful. Harmonizing must trigger dopamine release or something, because it’s one of the best feelings out there.

A year later, my term of service ended. On my last day teaching my favorite class, I played a Chinese pop song for them. It’s about saying goodbye to your friends, having a drink before parting ways.

My students were used to me playing simple folk songs for them in English–singing is popular in Chinese classrooms, even for college students, and we often used it as a teaching tool. But they’d never heard me sing in Chinese before.

Usually my students were vocal and enthusiastic. But I noticed as I played and sang that there was dead quiet in the classroom. When I finished and looked up, most of the students in the room were crying.

The lyrics go something like, “Friends, you’re leaving soon–let’s empty our glasses. The blue sky opens out above us. Our feet hit the path away from this room, where we’ve been so happy together. Drink up, friends.”

Having moved my students to tears was one of my proudest achievements of my two years in China. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t enjoy making people cry! But those tears were sweet, not bitter. By singing to them in my imperfect Chinese, I showed them that they mattered to me.

Chinese people have long memories. I hope some of them still remember that moment. I hope I always will too.

OK–this was supposed to be a post with some Important Guitar Updates from Boston, circa 2013. But I guess that’ll have to wait until next time…

Top 10 Reasons I’m Childfree

From time to time I invite a guest blogger to share their take on not having kids. This one’s by my friend Nancy.

10. From a feasibility standpoint, I am a single person who works at a nonprofit. Which equates to me barely being able to feed and clothe myself. It would be foolish and irresponsible of me to have a child. 

9. I love to travel. If I had the means, I would travel multiple times a year, and far, far away. Yes, you can travel with kids. But it honestly looks like a pain in the ass.

8. I am not a morning person. Never have been and never will be. The thought of being unable to sleep late for possibly 18 years is…unthinkable. 

7. OPK = Other People’s Kids. If I had a kid, he/she would one day have friends. I would eventually be dealing with other people’s kids. Too. Many. Kids. 

6. The “free” in “childfree” is key. I value my freedom: my freedom to eat cereal for dinner, to stay up until 1:00 am watching a movie or reading, or to grab an impromptu drink with a friend after work. 

5. Pushing 40, I am used to my peaceful and restorative downtime. I can’t imagine living without it. 

4. I enjoy my hobbies and interests. I live in a city because I like to do things. I like to attend concerts, museum exhibits, movies, book readings. I like to ramble in the park and listen to the wind blow through the trees. 

3. There are too many people on the planet already. There are so many people on Earth who need help as it is. I volunteer regularly and find it fulfilling to help those already here to learn, grow, and succeed. 

2. Speaking of the planet, it’s going to hell in a handbasket. I have no interest in raising a child in a world with sexting, e-books, global warming-induced natural disasters, mentally ill people killing people in schools, movie theaters, etc., etc. 

1. See #2–#10.

Disclaimer: I do not “hate” children. I can certainly understand why many people have them. They bring immeasurable joy into their parents’ lives (most of the time). I respect their decision to procreate, so I would hope they would return the favor and respect my decision not to. 

Nancy Howell enjoys her childfree life in Boston, and often blogs about her adventures.