My friend Sean thought his date went well — she laughed at his jokes, ordered dessert and even asked him up to her apartment for a midnight makeout session. But it’s been over a week and she hasn’t returned his calls. Sean’s starting to wonder why. Little does he know that the answer’s in his kiss. (I should know. I made the mistake of kissing him once.)
Plenty of people worry about whether they’re date-worthy, but few worry about their skills when it comes to their liplock maneuvers. So people like Sean are often left questioning what went wrong, even though the reason is quite literally under their noses. Sadly, no one wants to tell anyone they have the kiss of death, which means that unless you’ve been praised for your soft lips or tantalizing tongue, someone might be cringing about your not-so-sensual smooches as well. Here’s a cheat sheet of common offenses so you can avoid being thought of as a cringeworthy kisser.
Offense #1: The vampire lip-sucker
When my date Andrew first started biting and sucking on my lower lip, I tried to redirect the kiss by going for his upper lip. But when he kept doing it and my lip began to throb, I pulled away with a not-so subtle, “Ow.” He didn’t take the hint and with each tug, my lip grew rawer. The next day, at a family barbecue, everyone wondered why I had a purple lower lip.
Sure, a soft bite on the lip can be a turn-on, but 10 in a row can leave your date looking like she got punched in the mouth. The first sign of a bad kisser is the inability to respond to feedback (sorry, Andrew; it’s true). If you’re not getting a positive response, don’t be afraid to stray from a move that you thought worked on someone else. Bad kissers often make the mistake of hoping you’ll grow to like whatever weird thing they’re doing. This almost never works and almost always leaves your lover bemoaning your inexperience.
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Offense #2: The speed racer
Another common attribute of a bad kisser is out-of-sync kisses that don’t match the other person’s rhythm. Just as relationships are about finding a happy medium, kissers should try to conform to a mutual speed. The one time I made out with Sean, he threw on a Prodigy album and then proceeded to kiss me faster than the driving techno beat. When he wouldn’t slow down, I politely grooved my way right out his door.
Offense #3: I have a tongue, too, thank you
Tom was a good-looking, smart guy who played guitar and opened every door for me, but he also had a knack for filling my entire mouth with his imperialistic tongue, which completely crushed mine as it recklessly reached for my tonsils. No matter what I did, I couldn’t remove it, mostly because my own tongue seemed to have disappeared.
Lots of offenders’ tongues make the mistake of setting up permanent residence in their dates’ mouths. The tongue should be about playful give and take: tease, then pull back. If that gets a positive response, venture a little further but never leave your date thinking, “What the heck happened to my tongue?” or “Red alert: suffocation setting in!”
Offense #4: Mr. hoover
Mr. Hoover is the opposite of the previous smoocher — he likes to suck your tongue right out of your mouth and hold onto it. If your date’s entire head is unwillingly following yours because you’re holding her tongue hostage, that’s probably not a good thing. Tongue suction is tricky. Unless you know exactly the amount of suction to exert and the duration to hold your partner’s tongue captive (hint: it’s not five minutes), you’re treading into Bad Kisser territory.
Offense #5: The cheek licker
Licking or lapping your date’s cheek will leave him or her either (a) grossed out or (b) laughing. Licking people’s faces isn’t hot. (I don’t care if your girlfriend freshman year loved it; she was one in a million, maybe 100 million.) When it comes to kissing, the tongue should make contact with two (and only two) places above the shoulders besides the mouth: the neck and the ear. But if you shoot for these erogenous zones, don’t overdo it. Wet willies and hickeys are for amateurs.
Offense #6: Ladies, you can be boring, too
From the above, you may get the impression that I think only guys can be bad smoochers. Not at all! Though men get a bad rap for not caring about kissing, many guys like it and expect some creativity… and are disappointed by what the women they date dish out. “I’ve been with women who are repetitive kissers — they kiss with the same motion over and over again,” complained one male friend. “It’s like you’re on a four-second loop but you can’t break it.”
My male friends’ most important piece of advice — kiss like you mean it. “A heartless kiss makes for bad kissing,” explained another guy friend. It feels like she doesn’t want to be kissing you, he said, “and that’s really annoying.”
So, ladies and gentlemen, realize that if your date kisses you once and doesn’t want to continue, it may well be for a reason. And it usually has nothing to do with your SAT scores. Kissing is one of the biggest deal-breakers in early dating, so drop the misguided moves or your dates will drop you. Here’s an added incentive — good kissing can make other faults forgivable. I once went out with a guy who had no car (hey, I live in California; cars matter) and no job, but he had soft lips and the most amazing kiss. We dated happily for a while… until he goosed me. Oh, well. A good kiss can’t compensate for everything.
Nicole Kristal is a freelance writer who has contributed to Newsweek and Premiere, among others.