First kisses are a right of passage.

As a middle school girl, slumber parties were where the true education began. In my experience, every middle school slumber party consisted of popcorn, cookie dough, staying up way too late, and talking about smooch tactics.

I had my first kiss junior year of high school. Yes, it was homecoming. Yes, it was in the rain (shout out to The Notebook). Yes, it lasted less than a second but I dreamt of it for days. Yes, the boy in question did tell me two days later that we couldn’t ever be together because he’d rather have a good friendship with my brother (who had already graduated and was living in France). Yes, I believed my lackluster kissing credentials were foundational in the dumping.

From this point I digress from personal kissing stories. Too many members of my family read this blog and, well, that explains enough.

I grew up in a Christian world that did not discuss kissing. Sex before marriage was definitively labeled sin, sex in marriage was rumored to be okay—God ordained at least—but not discussed openly, and anything between those absolutes was murky.

In an overly bright classroom plastered with Bible verses, I was taught that my body was a temple and, since everyone else in the room was nodding their heads in understanding, I acquiesced. What I wasn’t taught was what the hell that meant. Can temples wear make up? Can temples go on dates? Can temples flirt, hold hands, kiss…? The church taught me the NOs with none of the YESs while my public school showered me with the YESs and none of the NOs. Yet, I couldn’t believe that humans were made for these absolutes.

I was not the first among my friend group to have my first kiss, nor was I the last. Some of my friends were kissing commanders before I was even a private and some friends have yet to enlist. The point of my macking-musings are not to determine which timeline is best. I do not proclaim a right or wrong time or manner in which to encounter a first kiss. I merely ask for the language with which to open the discussion.

The problem is that both sides are shamed. The friends who kissed early were given the eyebrows at youth group and the girls who hadn’t kissed by college were insecure.

Our churches didn’t give us the words to discuss physicality. The outside world, unfortunately, had plenty of prepackaged labels our adolescent tongues too readily acquired—slut and prude to name the extremes. As teens we needed words for that dimension of relationships craved. Why were we left empty-handed?

I do not write with the purpose to slander. I have never facilitated a youth group or given words to a congregation desperate for jargon. Yet, I have been left desperate for vernacular by both. I felt ashamed if I kissed or didn’t but wanted to or didn’t at all. The lack of words given by the church made us feel shameful for even desiring the words.

I believe there can be space for the questions and discussions in the church, if only the doors would open.

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