“I plan to get my first kiss when I’m thirteen.” A few years pass by. “Make that sixteen.”
“Or eighteen. Eighteen seems appropriate.”
“Twenty-one. This will be the year.”
Look at you. You’re a goal setter. You have it all: the opportunity to go to college, great friends, a job or club you’re passionate about...but there’s still something out there that you think you’re missing. Part of you wonders if it’s okay that you’ve never been kissed.
Yes, it’s a cultural norm to have your first kiss in your teenage years. And if you’ve passed your teenage years without that particular “first,” you may even feel out of place. Fretting about this single experience is pretty trivial in the long run, but when it is so widely promoted today, it’s hard to not think about sometimes. We’ve laid out some reasons for why you shouldn’t stress about not having had your first kiss yet.
It’s not as important as it may seem
People generally idealize a sense of completeness when they think about being in a relationship. The media, to a great extent, is responsible for the importance we place on romance. A lot of movies can create pressure on people who have never been kissed or been in a relationship (i.e. Barely Legal, a movie about three girls who decide to lose their virginities on a their eighteenth birthday). It puts relationships and “firsts” on a pedestal they don’t deserve.
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, author of the new book Should I Stay or Should I Go? (which challenges the myth of "love conquers all"), talked to us about the impact social pressures have on romantic relationships. “Sadly, the mythology of romance in our movies, TV, and stories is that perfect love ‘completes’ us,” she says. “We complete ourselves, and a partner is a complement—not a necessity.”
It’s easy to feel out of place when most of your friends talk about what movie they saw with their beau last night, what gifts he got her for her birthday last week or where they’re planning on going for Valentine’s Day. While everyone else is talking about their experiences over lunch, you’re the one who’s quietly pushing around food with your fork. Perhaps you really wish you had experiences to contribute to the discussion. Or you just really, really want to change the subject. There’s more to life, isn’t there?
You’re perfectly fine the way you are
Nonetheless, sometimes you feel peer pressure, and you know it. You’re not alone. You know societal norms have conditioned you to want something just so you don’t feel as out-of-place. You know there is more to life than relationships, yet you wonder how people can get together so easily and so often. You think you’re missing something. “Do I not do my hair well enough every morning?” “Do I not talk enough?” “Do I talk too much?” If you’re like some, you become especially self-conscious around people who are in relationships. While you shouldn’t feel self-conscious, others can make it excruciatingly hard to resist the feeling.
Don’t listen to people who think you need to change
They may treat you as if you are helpless or even immature. When you admit that you haven’t been kissed, others may try to sympathize with you--as if it’s something to even show sympathy for! You know it and we know it; not having a first kiss is nothing to pity someone about. Too bad others just don’t understand.
People often have lame advice for you. If you had a dollar for every time you heard “You just need to socialize more” or “Why don’t you make the first move?” you’d be able to buy meals for all of your floormates. For a week. It all ends up being worthless advice. Why change yourself to please your friends? Why even consider changing yourself to uphold a value that society promotes?
There’s no rush
The best advice comes from those who can relate to you. When asked about her feelings about having never been kissed, Mackenzie Skinner, a junior at the University of Oklahoma, wowed us with her firm promotion of independence. She laughed and said, “Go read a book. There are gazillions of [boys] and one of them is bound to like you!”
Just give it time. Divya Velury, a sophomore from Washington University in St. Louis, is one of many who is happy to have never been in a relationship. “I'll have my first kiss when I'm good and ready, and if that's when I'm 20...25...30, so be it.”
People have a habit of planning out when they’re going to have their first kiss, fall in love, get married, etc. None of them have considered that falling in love is not something to plan, nor is it a destiny one will face when they reach a so-called “acceptable” age. “One should never fall in love on someone else's schedule,” Dr. Durvasula says.
But many of them will force themselves into romance for the sake of fitting in.
“If I had a dollar for every person who rushed into a relationship or a marriage because everyone else around them was in one, I would no longer need to do therapy and would retire,” says Dr. Durvasula.
We asked her about how happy an individual becomes when they think they fit into some sort of “relationship club.”
“When you are in a relationship and are in the ‘club,’ there can be a release and relaxation and joy that comes from fitting in and not feeling like you are fighting the current (even if the relationship is less than ideal).” Someone may claim to be happy in their relationship, but this happiness may not be attributed entirely to being in a romantic relationship. They may be happy because they feel they are more socially accepted.
It’s okay to think about it sometimes, but don’t let it consume your life. You’re in college with plenty of other cool things to pursue. Haleigh Skinner, a junior from the University of Oklahoma, has other priorities. “There is more to life than a relationship. Go see the world, explore, and have fun! If it's meant to be, it'll happen in time!”
Besides, a first kiss is probably not as magical as the media makes it seem. Give it time and don’t be hard on yourself because you feel a little different from your peers. Different is pretty fierce when accessorized with confidence.