How to kiss a woman

Never underestimate the power of the perfect kiss. Get it right, and the rest will fall into place.

It has been theorized that a woman decided within five minutes of meeting a man whether or not she will have sex with him. Possibly true, but there is one catch. Most women I know, myself included, may initially decide we'll have sex with a guy, but when we find out he's a bad or a mediocre kisser, we change our minds entirely. We decide we will never have sex with this guy. He won't even get asked for a nightcap, much less for breakfast the next morning. As our lips part while we stand on the doorstep, we will announce that we have an early-morning meeting or (if you were really awful) that we're actually already married to someone else.

What we will never, ever say is, "God, you're a lousy kisser. I was going to have sex with you until just this moment." This is one of the ways in which men and women differ. If a man is very attracted to a woman but discovers she's a bad or mediocre kisser, he'll probably have sex with her anyway if presented with the opportunity. A woman can't get past a bad kiss. (Unless, of course, she's a horrible kisser herself, but we're not talking about those women here.) Experience has shown most women that a bad kiss only spells trouble down the road, so to speak. After all, if he hasn't mastered kissing and fails to see its sensual possibilities, what hope is there for, ahem, anything else?

The disappointment of a bad kiss is a recurring topic of discussion among a group of single women I run with in the park several times a week. "It tuens into a fabric softener thing," says Nora, a blond from Dallas, when describing the previous night's date. "You know, where the guy kisses you and it's so bad but you've got to finish it up so your mind wanders and you start wondering if you have enough fabric softener to do two loads of laundry the next day?" She laughs. "So I'm thinking about that, and the guy says, "Wow! You're very passionate."

Oh, the egos we would crush if men could hear the post-mortems. If any guys happen to be running with us, they immediately demand to know what exactly constitutes a bad or good kisser. So we tell them about the all-purpose litmus test: A bad kisser, reguardless of whether he likes to secrete a gallon of drool or waggle his head like a dog menacing a bone, seems to be simultaneously thinking: " When can we get to step two? And three and four? Is she aroused yet? can I put my hand on her breast now?" He sees kissing as the next step on a carnal quest. The good kisser, however, sees the kiss as the destination itself. He kisses as if he will never do anything else with this woman, as if he never wants to do anything else with this woman. He kisses as if this is what he's been dying to do for years and he wants to savor every moment. I guarentee you that this is when the woman decides there will be other activities on the agenda.

The first thing to remember: When in Doubt, Go Slowly. make that first kiss slow and gentle and easy. While you may want to demonstrate that you're a cauldron of seething desire, save that for later, when you're both sufficiently warmed up. In the meantime, resist the urge to mash your face against hers so hard your teeth collide and she ends up with brush burns from your stubble. One woman in our running group actually passed out during a particularly bad kiss of this sort, when the man pressed his face to hers so tightly he blocked off her nose with his cheek, mistook her thrshing for passion, and suddenly felt her body go limp. "i was out for maybe thrity seconds," she says. "Fortunately, he had me in a bear hug, so I didn't hit the group. Of course, he thought I passed out because the kiss was so good." This is what's known as the Harrison Ford School of Making Out. Watch him in the movies,a nd watch his costar's face get twisted out of shape from the sheer force. this is also why they're panting afterward. It's not from desire, it's oxygen deprivation. So the second thing to remember while kissing is to make sure she can still breathe through her nose.

There are other movie stars who perpetuate bad kissing styles. There's the Tom Cruise Method (as seen in Top Gun), whereby his tongue is already slithering out before he's met her lips. This is also referred to as the Lizard-King Style, and once lip-locked, it may also feature the rather grotesque tongue-insterted-rapidly-in-and-out. Most women do not cherish the idea of kissing a large anaconda, which is what this must be similar to. Equally unappealing is when the guy's tongue seems to be on a thorough search for any food trapped between the woman's molars. This is her tongue's job, not yours. The only response possible is for the woman to open her mouth wide and remain motionless while he finishes his routing, a posture that calls to mind trips to the dentist.

Like good sex and great dancing, any tongue action should involve a give-and-take, with both parties allowed the opportunity for interaction in a saliva-laden minuet. Get into a groove with this, and every now and then you may want to stop for a short time while still joined at thelips. Like being on a dance floor and suddenly holding your partner motionless, it can have the galvanizing effect of heightening the sensation. this is ideally practiced in places like a dark booth in a dive bar with a great jukebox. Just make sure your sleeve doesn't catch fire from the candle on the table.

So although no one wants a tongue completely jammed down her throat, neither do we want its exact opposite, as favored by Woody Allen, one of the screen's all-time-worst kissers. Check out the last scene in Hannah and Her Sisters, and you'll see him pecking away at Dianne Wiest. This Road-runner-eats-birdseed style of dry, repeated kisses accompanied by inordinately loud smacky sounds is not what any woman fantasizes about--even if she's weird enough to fantasize about kissing Woody Allen. The occasional smacky sound is inevitable and can exciting, but go easy on the moaning and groaning. Its sounds fake at best and, at worst, like an unconscious habit, like tuneless whistling.

Daniel Day-Lewis belongs in the kissing hall of fame for Best Use of Hands. He gently caresses his costar's face and touches her hair, a model of how hands can increase the erotic pleasure of the moment. Bear in mind the hands should not be used to prevent the woman from going anywhere or to clamp her head into one uncomfortable position. Remember most women like men to toy gently with their hair. After decades of bad press about sticky hairsprays and helmet hair, most of us have been using products to enhance "touchability" and are favoring hairstyles that look good a bit tousled. So go ahead and touch hair. And quit using all that sticky hairspray and goo so we can go back to touching yours.

Finally, I offer this suggestion: Try opening your eyes. I once cautiously opened my eyes while kissing and saw a pair of brown eyes staring back at me, which made the kiss even better because it became more intimate. Some people find this to be an impossible task (like sneezing with your eyes open), but while the prevailing belief is that we must try to block out all other sensations, you may find that kissing with your eyes open is the sensual equivalent of making love with the lights on. And if you're going to be kissing for several hours in a make-out bar, it's a good idea to peek periodically at the where-abouts of your drinks, her purse, and your wallet.

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