I was 25 when I had my first kiss. Here's what I learned.
By the time I was 25, I had accomplished quite a few things: I’d finished a few years of college, traveled abroad, and spontaneously moved to the other side of the country with my best friend. But there was one thing I had absolutely never done: I had never, in my life, kissed someone.
That was, until two weeks ago.
Now, before anyone has flashbacks to Drew Barrymore’s hit film from the ’90s, (you know which one) let me just say that having “never been kissed” in your mid-20s feels a little less romantic comedy and a little more strange-reality. Unless you are making the conscious decision to not kiss anyone, it can often feel as though the Kissing Fairy that visits most 13 year olds completely forgot about you. Sometimes, try as you might, your first kiss is just one of those things that never happened.
What happens if, like me, you don’t get your first real kiss until a later age? Here are answers to the most frequently asked question I get: How does it feel to wait 25 years for your first kiss?
It can feel pretty alienating.
When you are a fully-functioning adult who has never kissed someone, the main thing you feel is alone. By the time you are in your mid-twenties, many of your high school and college friends will be getting married. Some of them might even be getting hitched for the second time. They might have kids and mortgages and life partners who they kiss all the time. At family reunions, you can sit back and watch all of your younger cousins flash their glitzy engagement rings, knowing that even your twelve-year-old niece has more “experience” than you. And, while you can honestly be happy for all of your friends and family members, it can be difficult to not feel alone.
Of course, even if you did have your first kiss at a reasonable age, you can still feel lonely sometimes. But, there is a certain degree of loneliness that comes from holding your best friend’s baby, and knowing that the most intimate thing you’ve ever experienced is a sweaty hand-holding session at a McDonald’s Playland. You feel out of the loop and strange, constantly fearing the next party where “Never Have I Ever” is played. Because you will always be the most sober one, by a mile.
It seems like it defines you
Throughout most of my kiss-less 25 years, whenever I would break down and confide in a friend about my “virgin lips,” most would try their best to console me or make me feel less weird about it. But no matter how their advice might start out, it always came back to the same sentiment:
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not that big of a deal anyway.”
I get it. In this vast universe with all its wonders and problems, first kisses are pretty trivial. But in the same way that being the only meat-eater in a room of vegetarians can make you wary of your burger, being the only person who’s never been kissed can kick your self-esteem in the gut.
The thing is, when you’re the only one who has never done something, your brain has a way of amplifying that thing until it looms over you. It can feel like something you can’t move past, blocking your path and keeping you from growing as a person. And even if you know it isn’t actually hindering your daily functions, your brain will never believe you. When you’re in that moment, it can certainly feel like a big deal.
It can feel like it will never happen
By this point, many of you will likely be saying, “Okay, so not being kissed sucks. But why not just go and kiss a stranger on the street? It can’t be that hard to find a person to kiss you, right?”
Let me be the first to say that getting your first kiss is no easy task. Assuming that you don’t spend your days turning away suitors from your door, or ripping up love letters from attractive guys with soft lips, finding a person interested in kissing you can sort of be a challenge. For me, not kissing anyone had a lot to do with no one ever trying (or, in one instance, being so blind to flirting that I didn’t realize what was happening, and we ended up in a political debate instead of making out). And when you get to the point of hoping that the attractive guy on the bus suddenly decides he must kiss the only woman on the bus in his age group (i.e., you), your first kiss can seem like a faraway dream that will never, ever happen.
Could I have played spin the bottle? Lingered pointedly under the mistletoe? Randomly kissed someone on the street? I suppose so, yeah. But running up and kissing a stranger feels a little too close to sexual assault to me, and not something to be encouraged. Besides, who really wants to kiss the next person to walk out of a Walmart?
You can learn a lot about yourself
So far, this list seems one tissue shy of a full-out pity party. But here it is, the one true positive to waiting a quarter of a century to lock lips with anyone: You find out who you really are.
When you spend most of your young adult years not elbow-deep in hormones or relationship issues, it can sometimes be a bit easier to see yourself clearly. Since you will inevitably spend at least some time alone, you get really good at being alone. You develop a sense of fearlessness to doing “couple-y” things on your own (like movies and dinner), and can really focus on what it is you want from life. You can develop new hobbies, learn new languages, or even pack up everything and start somewhere new, knowing you have no baggage to drag along.
Focusing only on yourself during those years of growth can make you take rewarding risks, and let you start building a future you’ve only dreamed of.
You can learn a lot about relationships…from everyone else.
In the same way that being so perpetually single can allow you to find yourself, observing others can allow you to find out what you do (and don’t) want in a relationship.
Love is not a spectator sport; it is something you are either wholly in or wholly out of. But when everyone around you is involved in such a wide variety of relationships, both serious and casual, you might find yourself learning a thing or two. From friends in committed relationships, you can learn what works and what doesn’t, what builds a couple up and what can tear them down. Similarly, from your friends who date casually, you can learn how to have fun, and what mishaps you never want to make yourself.
Truth be told, you can learn a lot about the dating sphere from the outside looking in, and, as always, your friends can be an invaluable resource.
You’re not alone out there
For anyone who’s reading this because you are in a similar situation, let me offer one bit of advice: you are not alone.
First kisses don’t always happen when they’re supposed to; sometimes it can take several years and some hilarious misses before you can mark such a simple thing off your bucket list. And when it finally does happen, you will likely laugh at yourself, (That’s what I was so concerned with??) and feel relieved that all the hoopla is over.. If you are 25 and have never been kissed (or 35! Or 45!), don’t worry. You are not weird, and you are not doomed to be alone forever. It will happen when you absolutely least expect it (like it did for me: at 3 am at a costume party with someone who tasted like cherry Chapstick, with the moon as your only witness). It will be sweet, fantastic, and worth the long wait.
Jammie Howard lives near Louisville, KY, and enjoys journaling her misadventures, shopping at Target, and staring at the moon. She is roughly 10% wrong about song lyrics, and is currently trying to write a novel. Check out her writing Tumblr, or follow her on Instagram @Space.jam21.