Was your first kiss bliss (or a miss) ?
Forget the twinkle in his eye, his smile or even the size of his wallet – the way a woman determines if a man is good relationship material is in the first kiss.
As the Mail reported yesterday, scientists this week claimed that women have learned to use kissing as an evolutionary tool to find the right father for their children.
So, how memorable are first kisses – and were they glorious, or gruesome?
I WAS 13 and at convent school; he was 17 and a sixth-former at a trendy school nearby who wore socks and sandals.
How we met, I can’t remember. His name was Adrian and he seemed very tall and rather scary. I can’t imagine why I agreed to go to the cinema with him.
It was 1963 and The Beatles had just released I Want To Hold Your Hand, but I was terrified when Adrian held mine as we strolled down to the local flicks.
Halfway through the film his rather clammy arm reached around my shoulders. I sat rigidly staring at the screen.
The walk home, by moonlight, is seared into my memory. All the way, I could think only of the dreadful prospect of what would happen when we said goodbye.
As we reached my house and he wrapped his arms around me, his face got ever closer and then his mouth locked on to mine.
I puckered up and thought it would soon be over but, to my pubescent horror, his tongue lurched into my mouth and started twisting about as if it was caught in a washing machine.
I thought Adrian had taken leave of his senses. As soon as his tongue had been returned to its rightful owner, I raced inside and shut myself in my bedroom.
Is this what kissing was all about, I wondered? I tried kissing myself in the mirror, just as he had kissed me – and it seemed a ludicrous manoeuvre. I vowed there and then never to do it again.
The sexiest, most romantic and bittersweet first kiss I ever had was on Christmas Eve, 1989. Although I was in my late 20s, this was only the third time I had ever been snogged.
The man in question was a photographer called Kevin. He looked like a surfer, with long, blond hair and blue eyes, and I had worshipped him from afar for quite a long time.
He had turned up at my office Christmas party and became so drunk his green bobbly cardigan was soon sopping wet with beer. Much to my shock, he asked me to leave with him; I was so excited I didn’t even bother to get my coat.
We walked along the Mall, and on the corner of Trafalgar Square, right outside the National Portrait Gallery, he pulled me to him, wrapped me in his wet cardi, closed his eyes, placed his beautiful fingers on my face and kissed me.
Despite the fact he tasted of beer and I think at one point burped, I fell in love with him. I thought, hurrah, I am normal! Men actually fancy me.
He then asked if he could come home with me, but as I had never had sex before and – far more crucially – hadn’t waxed my legs (not thinking my almost-three-decade-long man drought was about to end), I said no, a decision I regret to this day.
Even though almost 20 years have passed, I am still bitter that Kevin never called me, or even glanced my way when he came into the office to drop off pictures.
I was convinced I hadn’t done the kissing bit right, which I have to say set me back for about another decade.
My very first kiss was a horrible ordeal, like a close encounter with a vacuum cleaner. The memory of it makes me shudder even now, nearly half-a-century later.
It happened at a time when wellbrought up teenagers were expected to express their passion vertically and fully-clothed, safely outside the front door, or in the back row of the cinema.
I had expected something more delicate and seductive, and suddenly finding an uninvited extra tongue in my mouth was not attractive.
My first romantic kiss was completely different. I was plump, naive and 18. He was 20, and gorgeous.
The kiss was gentle, and slow, our lips met and stayed lightly together, we breathed as one, and stood for long minutes quite still.
But it was at the end of a good party, and I’m not sure he knew who he was kissing, or else he just instantly forgot me.
Certainly, I have to face the embarrassing fact that I fancied him much more than he fancied me, because although the memory of that kiss filled my dreams for weeks, he quickly married someone else.
I have seen him since, though. He’s bald now and stout, with a small moustache and lots of nasal hair. So although we’re both single again, I haven’t invited him to repeat the experience.
Kissing is better than sex, in my view – leaving aside my first foray into the realm.
For this honour, I picked a gorgeous boy with long curly hair and platform boots – a proper Seventies dreamboat, except for one thing: he was spectacularly drunk.
This meant that the very moment after we’d snogged, as the activity was known in those days, in front of all my school pals, he jumped up, ran out of the room and vomited everywhere.
It took a long time to shake off the idea that kissing me made a guy sick.
However, nothing, absolutely nothing, measures up to the electrifying thrill of that first kiss from someone with whom you’ve been doing that ohsofamiliar “will we, won’t we?” dance.
But, it’s all downhill from there. Since that first kiss is all about affirming your mutual sexual interest, as distinct from being a couple of people who just really hit it off, it stands to reason that it can never be as exciting again.
Sure you can fall in love, get married, have babies, but you know they’ll kiss you now. The anticipation, the not-knowing, the longing looks, the saucy smiles, all the preludes to that first kiss are gone for ever and they are the most piquant, most life-affirming sensations on earth.
My first kiss was under an old mulberry tree in the grounds of Merton College in Oxford. It was in the mid-1950s, and I was 17-and-a-half and studying at a local crammer.
I had persuaded my parents I was going into academic decline because I was so fed up with school, so they sent me to a crammer in Oxford.
Oxford had a ratio of eight men to one woman at this time and it was absolutely gilded. I was completely obsessed with men; I never thought about anything else.
The man I had my eye on was called Colin and it was our first date. I was 17-and-a-half years old and wearing a £25 black dress which today would be worth thousands of pounds.
We kissed from one o’clock in the morning until dawn. He was a very good kisser and I was absolutely useless. By the end of the kiss I had a face like garlic sausage from his stubble, but I didn’t regret it for a minute.
My first kiss? I wish it had been with Ian Ogilvy – yes, the Saint – who had cheek-to-cheeked with me at a party, when we were both 15, and then asked me on a date.
He arrived in his father’s chauffeur-driven car and took me to an expensive Chelsea restaurant. I think both our feet dangled off our chairs, barely touching the floor.
Did he kiss me in the car coming back? I like to think so – he was smooth and dishy, even though his voice must have barely broken.
But I suspect it was Reginald Bosanquet who first kissed me properly.
Although he often appeared to be sozzled when he read the news on TV in later life, when he was young he was devastating.
At the time we met, he was 30 or so, and I was only about 16. My father was horrified when Reggie picked me up to take me to lunch at his house.
I remember him kissing me quite clearly. He had soft skin, a soft mouth and a very distinctive aftershave which I still smell when I pass the cottage on the Chelsea Embankment where he used to live.
I didn’t see him again after our innocent snogging session, but he was kind and sexy. I could have done worse.
IMOGEN LLOYD WEBBER
You certainly can kiss and tell. Kissing tells a great deal. The best, most beautiful kiss I’ve ever had was with the love of my life. I was 25.
He waited until our third date, where I attempted to turn my oven on and whip up a romantic meal, and when he first kissed me I knew I wanted to be the mother of his children. Sadly, not all kisses are as memorable for the right reasons.
An early boyfriend was so bad at kissing it put me off blond men for life.
The first kiss never fails to indicate what a man will be like as a lover and whether he will love you and leave you.
All the women I’ve spoken to agree that if the first kiss is naughty, the sex will be also.
If he’s overly aggressive, he won’t be in your bed much past midnight; if the kiss is limp and pathetic, so will his activities be in the bedroom. I guarantee it.
There’s no point in persevering with a bad kisser. The relationship is doomed from the start. Yes, the first kiss says a thousand words.
MARCELLE D’ARGY SMITH
Nobody can turn her face sideways faster than me when a possible first kiss on the lips is involved. It’s an involuntary reaction. I’m not proud of it, it’s simply how I behave.
Sometimes it’s months into a relationship before I trust myself with the romance of a kiss. You see, I know when I find a man utterly desirable. I don’t have to kiss him to find out.
I plunge in at the deep end with a lot more than a kiss. For me, sex leads to kissing. Yes, I remember confident kisses by men who’d perfected their technique, convinced that kissing led to the bedroom.
Mostly it didn’t. But with Tommy in his tight jeans, and I-know-allaboutsex grin, kisses led to a sweet affair – even if it was never going anywhere.
The worst kiss I’ve ever had was in my teens with someone called Morris. Don’t ask me what I was doing kissing someone called Morris, but worse still was his garlic breath. It was hell.
The best first kiss with a new man was the delicious Mediterranean taste of Robert, my first love affair in the South of France. But I didn’t need to kiss him. I’d decided during dinner he was perfect.
There was really nothing remarkable about my primary school in the Berkshire village of Compton, until a new art master arrived with his son Michael.
Suddenly, the girls were no longer chucking sickies to avoid maths and early morning hockey practice.
Any day you might catch a glimpse of the gorgeous Michael Green was a day to cherish. As a fairly swot-like creature it hadn’t even occurred to me that he had even noticed me. But he had.
And one day, during a game of kiss-chase, he ran after me.
At first I thought I was hallucinating. But no, there he was, blond hair flying in the wind, heading firmly in my direction. Naturally I stopped dead in my tracks.
Michael Green approached and took me in his arms. I tried to purse my lips like I’d seen Scarlett O’Hara do in Gone With The Wind. Then his lips touched mine.
It was a tender, delicate kiss, one of the most memorable of my life. I remember being terrified of breathing in case I broke the magic bond between us.
Afterwards I stood elated, frozen with joy, as I watched him run off, chase another girl and kiss her as well. I should have learned my lesson and stopped then, aged ten.
My first kiss – or at least the first I can remember – was when I was 13 and being escorted to a pony-club ball.
It was my first dance, first proper date and a mystery to me how I came to be asked since the one time my horse-riding mother had tried to sit me on a saddle I’d apparently disgraced her and screamed nonstop.
There I was, in a darkish passage off the hall where the dance was being held, and too covered in embarrassment to enjoy the rather flustered kiss. It certainly had no deep significance or gave any lasting, lingering pointers to the future.
But then the poor boy had got off to a rotten start. The whole evening had been an acute embarrassment.
The trouble was his name was Simon Watt. During the evening, friends’ fathers, fierce and bristly-looking, had come up and said: ‘What’s your name, boy?’
“Watt,” my helpless escort had answered.
They had kept asking: “I said what’s your name?”
“Watt, Sir,” he replied endlessly. I couldn’t wait to get home. It wasn’t a perfect introduction to kissing, but it didn’t put me off for life.
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor in chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. Helena is also working on a thriller called Thin Ice that will be published in spring 2021 as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
Her latest non-fiction work Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles came out in hardback in 2016 and in paperback in April 2018.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019