As far as proper, meaningful ones go, I’ve kissed only 19 women in my life. Typically, my mates tell me that this number is somewhat low (you sluts!), but it doesn’t seem like it to me. Nineteen people who would share something as intensely personal and uniquely human as a kiss? Shit, I’d settle for that many people who will talk to me.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately — I’m trying to stop watching so much telly and wasting time on Facebook; what else am I supposed to do? — and I’ve decided that No. 20 is going to have to be special. I’ll be officially out of the teens, and I plan on celebrating the occasion more appropriately than I did No. 10. (I never told Sarah Whatshername she pushed me into double digits; I thought I was too mature for such a thing.)
Confession: You might find me to be a borderline psychopath for doing such a thing, but I do have a list in my head of every woman I’ve ever properly kissed, in chronological order. (By properly, I mean the kisses with real feeling — so the totally random hot Spanish girl in Camden a few weeks ago doesn’t count, though I wish we’d both been sober enough to exchange numbers.) I also have an alphabetical list, but I don’t bring that one out very often. I’ve always kept up these unofficial lists. But only recently have I etched it into stone. This list is very important to me, but maybe I’d have to talk to a psychologist before I try to determine any particular reason why.
Having such a list might seem trivial or even offensive to you but, I swear, this isn’t some kind of notches-on-the-bedpost exercise in self-congratulation; it’s sincere. I look at the names of these 19 women in wonder. Am I one of their more embarrassing partners? If asked if they had ever kissed me, would they admit it? Do they think of me fondly? Do they think of me at all? Considering that I’ve only spoken with two of the 19 in recent times — and I had the feeling one of them would rather be talking with anyone but me at the time — I guess I know the answers to those questions.
When I kissed the first girl, I should have had some kind of warning about the path my life would take. My first kiss was in primary school, behind the washrooms, during the school’s annual sports day events. Ah, school days!
Looking at such a list is a most disconcerting activity. It’s like reading the story of my life in outline form: Met this girl in the youth group, met this one at a friend’s party, met this one at work, met this one on the train, met this one in New York, met this one while recovering from the breakup of that relationship… The list exposes my flaws and excesses. The first time I kissed the first eight had nothing to do with alcohol; seven of the last 10 were during or after drinking.
It’s also fun to do statistical breakdowns of the list. Of the 19, six are now married, two are engaged, eight have children, 16 have graduate degrees, six have postgraduate degrees and one has now decided she’s a lesbian. Did I play a part in that last one? And does it say something that all six married ones got hitched to the guy they met right after me? Three were from my hometown, four from college or uni, 12 from the scary grown-up world. Weirdly, eight on the list are older than I am, including a shocking five in a row. I don’t know what that means, exactly; my only guess is that I reminded them of a little brother they picked on all the time, and they were trying to make amends.
The women also fall into different categories. Some were one-time aberrations, random occurrences that likely would be forgotten if it weren’t for this self-doubting guy with the laptop dredging them up from their rightful home in the subconscious (Stacy, Julianne, Sarah, Kate, Michelle and Sarita: 31 percent).
Then you have the false alarms, the ones I thought were a big deal at the time, but turned out to be, in retrospect, fond footnotes in the sand (Siân, Alison, Ruth and Terri: 21 percent). Like any human, I’ve had my share of the people who would have every right to hate me. (Well, I was probably a bit of an arsehole to them, and they probably do). I either stopped calling them, or didn’t say a proper goodbye, or things simply didn’t work out. Before you lash out at me, dear reader, make your own list, and see how many of these there are on yours (Amanda, Rachel, Nicole, Amy, Donna: an alarming 26 percent). Strangely, I’ve only really had one relationship that started with no expectations, ended with no expectations and had nothing particularly crazy happen in between. Kind of a perpetual dating holding-pattern (sorry, Jo, wherever you are: 5 percent).
Then there are the ones who stick in your head, the ones you never quite get over, the ones who pop up in your dreams every once in a while just to haunt you. They’re the ones most likely to spur one to write a blog to try to come to mental terms with the 19 women one has kissed. These may or may not have ended badly, but what’s most important is that they ended, and a part of me never quite came to terms with it. These women are the ones that if I ran into one of them on the street, I’d probably go and hide under a table, whimpering. They were too beautiful, too smart, too cool, too beloved by all to be wasting their time with me and it was of course inevitable they would eventually move on to bigger, better and less neurotic things (Nadia, Samantha and Laura: 15 percent).
I’ve always thought it might be cool to track down all 19 and find out what they’re up to, try to find some common theme among all of them to help me understand why I do some of the things I do, why I’ve turned out the way I have. After researching all their lives, I’d probably have enough material for a book, though I’m sure it would never work. Seems like such a project would be destined to be titled 19 Restraining Orders.
Which leads us to today. Now, understand, I’m hardly actively searching for No. 20. Good thing: Anyone reading this blog has probably already eagerly dismissed themselves from competition, if they hadn’t done so long before — and I’m in no hurry. In fact, 19 sounds like a good number to end on. It’s about in tune with what I’m used to; right on the precipice of a milestone, a new horizon, but stopping agonisingly short.
Nineteen is probably too many anyway. I have a good friend who has only ever kissed one person, his wife. They have a beautiful child, a happy home and matching retirement plans. They even have one of those cute wall hangings on their wall that says, “God Bless this Mess.” I used to have posters of Woody Allen movies about longing, loss and the absence of God on my wall. I’m sure my friend isn’t haunted by old girlfriends in his dreams. I’m sure he doesn’t have various women across the world who, if they think of him at all, do so with a little giggle or a snort. I think I like his life a little more; less complicated.
But one thing is certain. If there is a No. 20, I’ll have to tell her. Though I have a feeling if I do tell No. 20, I could be on the search for No. 21 pretty soon thereafter. Wish me luck!