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Pucker Up Y’all, Today Is National Kissing Day.

What makes or breaks a kiss? Let's start here.

Love & Relationships

I remember when I had my first kiss. Technically, it was when I was in the first grade. A cute and popular—as popular as you can be when you're no older than 7—blonde cutie pie named Michael lined all of the girls along the fence on our playground and smooched us. Hmph. When I think back on that now, it's a little weird. Anyway, that was the first time a little boy put his lips on mine. Now my first kiss with tongue? That was around 12-13. His name was Loren. It was while we were in New Orleans for a church conference. That kiss was so…I guess, "moving" is the appropriate word that we talked off and on until our freshman year in college.

Moral to the story? No matter what age you are, kissing is pretty powerful because, be honest, you can probably recall your first kiss too! And because swapping spit (relatively speaking) is such a profound experience, it makes perfect sense that there would be an entire day that's entirely dedicated to it.

As far as kissing from a scientific standpoint, I already penned a piece on 15 random kissing facts a while ago. Today, I want to approach kissing from an entirely different angle. Where did French kissing come from? I'm about to tell you. What makes or breaks a kiss? We're gonna touch on that as well. Is there an actual kissing etiquette? Let's look and see.

Hopefully, by the time you're done reading—or at least skimming—all of this, you'll have a new appreciation for kissing and, more importantly, who kisses you.

Let’s Look at Some Different Kinds of Kisses

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Is a kiss just a kiss? Not really. I did some research—including a little asking around—and found out that there are at least a dozen different kinds to choose from. Kisses like ones that are planted on the forehead and cheeks, along with the oh-so-cute (at least I think so) Eskimo kiss (you know, rubbing noses) is about expressing heartfelt affection. When a man kisses a woman on her hands or eyelids, supposedly that shows that he is quite smitten. Earlobe and neck kisses are acts of foreplay (by the way, if you wonder where hickeys came from, we got it from animals. You can read more about that here).

Then there's the French kiss. Where did that term originate? From what I've read, the word "galocher", until very recently, was a slang French word that meant "kissing with tongues". But this kind of kissing didn't actually start in France. The original term was the Florentine kiss; it's what American and British soldiers did when they greeted their significant others when they returned home from World War I. But because we naturally associate the French with being passionate, they get the reputation for coming up with this kind of kissing when, in all actuality, it was us. Salute.

What Makes a Kiss Hot?

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Now that we've broken a few kisses down, let's talk about what makes for an amazing kiss. To me, a kiss where a man holds my face, starts off slow and eventually becomes more intense is hot. A little lip and tongue sucking is great too, so long as he's not trying to remove it from my mouth. Oh, and soft moans. Those too are appreciated. But that's just me. From the unofficial polling that I did, with both men and women, the kind of kisses that feel like a conversation (you know, where both people are paying attention to one another) is pretty amazin'. Saliva needs to be kept down to a minimum. Caressing (even if it's just hand holding) needs to be happening simultaneously. Slight nibbling and sucking are appreciated. Oh, and everyone I talked to described the importance of staying in the moment during a kiss.

By the way, no matter how great a kiss may be, some official polling revealed that half of all men would have sex without kissing (I've asked around about this too and, a lot of men find kissing to be a whole lot more intimate than intercourse); men prefer wetter kisses than we do (I'm thinking that has something to do with, umm, our other lips getting/being wet as well); overall, kissing is preferred before sex rather than after and, the average amount of kissing partners between men and women is approximately the same—14. Hmph.

What Makes a Kiss…Not?

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I don't know about y'all, but the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of a bad kisser isn't bad breath (I'm thinking that's a given). It's poor aim. You know, those guys who are either French kissing your nostrils or your chin. Yuck. Some more of my unofficial polling (again, of both men and women) revealed that an overly-eager or lazy tongue (who wants something reminiscent of a dead fish being in their mouth?!), someone who wants to give you as much of their spit as possible, someone who's rhythm is totally off, a hard biter, a tooth-bumper or someone who wants to talk a lot in between kisses are all no-nos.

But out of everything that I heard, what seemed to top the list was a kiss with someone when there was no real connection; that is the epitome of a bad. Like the expected kiss after a date when you're just not that into the person or when you're currently irritated by your partner and they want to "fix things" with a kiss instead of giving you a little time and space to process.

Oh! There was one more thing that a few folks told me makes for a bad kiss. Atmosphere. Kissing in the rain doesn't work if you hate getting your wet. Kissing in public isn't cool if you hate PDA. Kissing on the couch isn't always welcoming if that is constantly a precursor for sex (meaning, don't get into the habit of leaning in for a kiss if it's ONLY so that you can get some). The right setting, the right lighting and the right time can make for a kiss that's very hot—or totally not.

How Long Should You Wait to Kiss Someone?

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Some of y'all probably read this point and was like, "I don't want to think too hard about this because it could ruin the romance." Uh-huh. I hear you. But remember those 15 facts about kissing that I referenced earlier? One of them is that you can get an STD from kissing someone. Plus, kissing exchanges oxytocin between two people; that basically means that it bonds them. What all of this boils down to is, no matter how "casual" kissing may seem on the surface, it actually isn't. That's why you should put some thought into when you should kiss someone new. Oh, and why.

There's no real steadfast rule to this particular point. Just, before locking lips with someone, ask yourself if you want to get closer to them and if they are deserving of being that close to you. One of my high school teachers used to say that kissing is sex with your mouth. I mean, stuff is going into other stuff and there is a chance that you could contract something so, not to ruin the mood or anything but, they kinda have a point there.

You're a big girl and it is your mouth. But just like every other part of you, your mouth is precious. Just make sure to choose wisely, OK?

How to Make Your Lips Unbelievably Soft

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With all of the technical stuff out of the way, I want to end this with just one more point. Personally, I don't care how good of a kisser someone is, I ain't interested if 1) their breath stinks and/or 2) their lips aren't soft. If chapped lips are something that you constantly struggle with, it could be due to too much exposure to the sun (which means you should get a lip balm that has sunscreen in it), constantly licking your lips (the bacteria and saliva combo can dry them out) or being dehydrated.

If you happen to have a handle on these things, but you still want your lips to feel unbelievably soft the next time that you pucker up, start with applying a DIY brown sugar lip scrub (it will gently exfoliate your lips). Then apply some sweet almond oil (you can even add a little honey to it for taste's sake). Or, if you want to give your lips a little extra pampering, apply a mixture of one teaspoon of honey, one teaspoon of mashed-up avocado and one teaspoon of muddled cucumber that's been thoroughly blended. Apply the combo to your damp lips, let it sit for 10 minutes, rinse with cool water and then apply some shea butter onto your kissers for the night.

You'll have the best feeling lips ever. Just in time to thoroughly observe National Kissing Day!

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Article originally published on July 6, 2019

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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