Remember This: A First Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss

I have been six years without one serious relationship, and I am so not bothered by it. My clock’s not ticking, I have two beautiful daughters, and I’m as free as the breeze. The very best part, though-and the one that elicits the most jealousy from my married friends-is that I get to experience first kisses, over and over again. First kisses bring to mind Rhett and Scarlett, courtship and chivalry, romantic notions of a time gone by. In an age of high-speed everything, they are moments to be savored. “What was it like? Tell us everything,” my girlfriends say, and I happily oblige. My first kisses take on epic proportions as their thrills are vicariously shared by those deprived of romance. Subsequent kisses are irrelevant, no longer a mystery imagined.

I am not indiscriminate. I date very little, but I kiss even less. Kissing should be special, and one thing I’ve learned is that if the person isn’t right, neither is the kiss.

I was woefully out of practice after my divorce and nervous about the concept of dating. I love to kiss, but it had been 10 years since I had done so for the first time. I believe that if you enjoy doing something enough, you will do it well-but still, I was worried. What if I didn’t fare well as a kisser? Would they kiss me once and send me on my way?

First kisses transform a date into something more-not quite a relationship, but more than a date. After my divorce, Jeff was my first first kiss, and he literally took my breath away.

“Want a mint?” he asked, as he popped one into his mouth and kissed me just outside the ladies’ room of the Monkey Bar. I had forgotten that kissing could be so good, and I remember thinking, “Divorce rocks!”

Living in Manhattan makes kissing tricky, though. Doormen stand guard outside my building-a bastion of father figures waiting for me to arrive home. When I return with a date, Miguel pretends to sweep the spotless lobby floor, while Andres’ tack is to turn his back to us and gaze vacantly toward Central Park. Danny scrawls nervously on a legal pad at the desk, while Rene stares straight at us and smiles.

Cab-kissing is an excellent solution. When given the choice of where to meet, I’ve been known to opt for a restaurant far from my apartment. “My neighborhood’s so boring,” I say, but I’m really thinking of the cab ride home-lengthy rides make for lengthy kisses. This plot is far too risky for a blind date. I choose my victims wisely, reserving it for those I long to kiss.

I do worry about embarrassing the cab driver. But time and again, I close my eyes and kiss, thinking, “If I can’t see him, he can’t see me.” Mission accomplished, I arrive at my door, thank my date for a lovely evening and politely shake his hand.

Plotting is not always essential. Some kisses occur spontaneously, the element of surprise compensating for the lack of anticipation. Jonathan kissed me on a piano bench in his apartment after serenading me with Chopin. I kissed Keith on roller blades after skating out of control and into his arms in Central Park. My first kiss with Jack was in Greenwich, Conn. on the Fourth of July with fireworks in the background.

I am impatient at times. No kiss by the second date is a pardonable offense, but by the third date it’s a crime. “Are you going to kiss me or not?” I asked Robert at a summer party in East Hampton. He promptly swept me up and carried me to the pool house, the gallantry of the gesture intensifying the beauty of the kiss. I was shocked by my own bravado. Never did I expect such passion from an investment banker.

Dean was an interesting challenge. He was shy, I was told by the friend who’d set us up. I kept this in mind after he’d driven me home, as I sat in his car waiting for my kiss. I listened as he prattled on and on about the latest developments in molecular biology. “Shut up and kiss me,” I finally said. I suppose I had frightened him into action, but his kiss was a terrible bore. “Damn!” I thought. “All that time for that.” No kisses are better than bad kisses.

Kisses communicate, telling much more than words. There is the I-am-terrified kiss, which is brief and unimaginative, and the I-have-issues kiss, which is frenetic and overly imaginative. The noncommittal kiss lacks luster and zeal, and the unaware kiss is just plain wet. The open and self-assured kiss, though, is the best: soft yet sure, slow yet measured-the kind of kiss that makes you happy you’re alive.

David was my most recent first kiss, on a warm spring night in the city. He was my one and only date from the slew of lunatics that had contacted me via an Internet dating service. For weeks I had refused to meet him, fearing he was too good to be true. Instead, I printed out his picture and carried it around with me, delighted with the simplicity of our relationship.

David wasn’t quite as pleased with the arrangement, though. “How can you be happy with that?” he asked. “Is it really enough for you?” Sensing that yes would have been a bad answer, at last I agreed to a date.

The anticipation was unbearable; I had dreamt of his kiss for a month. “I guess this is as good a place as any to do this,” he said, as he spun me on my heel and kissed me in front of the fountains at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. David was to kissing what Michelangelo was to sculpture-sheer, beautiful, blessed perfection. I was crazy about David, but our relationship was long-distance and too complicated to maintain. Our kiss, though, will live in perpetuity.

It would be nice to meet someone. When I got divorced, though, I vowed to never again live a life of compromise. Until I find exactly what I’m looking for, I am perfectly content to wait. Besides, I’ve never kissed for the first time on top of the Empire State Building. I don’t intend to commit to a serious relationship until I do.