To Kiss or Not to Kiss
by Kat Richter

Lego girl trying to avoid a kiss goodnight

Let's imagine for a moment that you're out with your dream girl and things are going perfectly. It's just a first date but she's laughing at all your jokes and your plan to grab "a quick drink" has spilled into dinner and dessert. It's the end of the night and now you're faced with the ultimate question: do you plant one on her or not?

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules to guide you. At the start of my Great Date Experiment (during which I registered on three online dating sites simultaneously and set out to date 30 men in three months), I decided I wasn't going to kiss anyone on a first date. Then again, I was going on as many as five first dates per week, sometimes twice in one day, so I felt the need to exercise some restraint. My no-kissing rule, however, flew right out the window when I met Date #9 and after that all bets were off.

As such I know how difficult it can be to figure out what to do at the end of your date. Do you go for a hug? A kiss? And if so, on the cheek or on the lips? Read on for some helpful hints that will aid you in making your decision.

Figure Out What You Want

If the date is going well and you know you'd like to schedule another rendezvous, then go for it. But if you've decided to say goodbye instead of goodnight you don't want to give your date mixed signals by locking lips. It's not fair to them, and chances are you won't even enjoy the experience.

If you're undecided, however, a kiss may help you to make up your mind. For some people, physical contact can be more important than conversation when it comes to chemistry. So if your evening together felt a bit lackluster, a goodnight kiss may be just the spark you need to ignite your passion.

Figure Out What They Want

This is one of those times when body language says it all. Before you go in for the kill (by which we mean the kiss of course) take some time to experiment. If you touch your date's hand, does he or she or recoil or do they lean in closer? If you "accidentally" brush their thigh or forearm, do they smile or raise their eyebrows?

If they react positively to physical contact, you're in. But if they don't, you may need to rethink your plans.

It's not just a matter of trying to determine whether or not your date is going to kiss you back - chances are, they're not going to leave you hanging once you pucker up - but you do want to try to gauge their comfort level so you can avoid making your move before they're ready.

Prepare

Once you've decided that you'd like to kiss your date (and have determined that they'd actually like you to kiss them), it's time to get ready. No need for any major preparations but if you've just had dinner, you'll want to pop a breath mint. If you're drinking beer, ask for a glass of water to cleanse your palette.   This will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

Play Nice

Remember: it's just a first kiss. As such, we recommend that you hold off on anything too fancy (i.e. tongue) and keep it clean. At this point in your dating career, you might be able to pick up on the subtle clues that your date is open to more; if this is the case, trust yourself to make the right decisions (after all, kissing isn't an exact science).

But if you're just getting started and aren't sure what your date wants, err on the side of caution. You can always initiate a second, more passionate kiss later on - heck, your date might even do it for you - but if you come on too strong right out of the gate, you might never get that chance.

Be Sensitive

For some people, kissing on a first date is a big no-no, not because they're playing the field like I was but because of their religious or cultural values. As such, you need to respect their wishes and act accordingly.

If you're not sure about your date's feelings towards public displays of affection, don't assume they're not interested in you simply because they're not interested in kissing you at this particular point in time. There may be other factors at play but as a reformed serial dater with a graduate degree in anthropology, I can assure you that kissing can mean very different things to different people. Don't take it personally and if you're not sure where your date stands, ask.

Relax

You can analyze the situation from every possible angle and although we encourage you to think before you act, you don't want to get stuck with a case of analysis paralysis. If you want to kiss your date but don't know if they want you to do so, there's nothing saying you can't simply ask them. It may sound cheesy but asking someone's permission to kiss them can be romantic as long as you manage to do it with confidence.

Also, keep in mind that a first kiss is just that: a first kiss. It might knock your socks off, then again it might not so don't put too much stock in it and don't stress. Just go with the flow and enjoy.

Homework

  • The next time you're on a date, take some time to observe how your date reacts to physical contact. Rein it in if they seem put off.
  • If you have the opposite problem (i.e. you never have the courage the initiate a kiss on your first date) ask your date if they're comfortable with being kissed, then go for it.
  • If you have friends or colleagues whose backgrounds or religious views differ from yours, talk to them about dating. Find out what constitutes proper behavior in their culture so that you'll be prepared the next time you encounter someone who might not feel the same way about public displays of affection as you do.
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