From fairy tales to romance novels, from sitcoms to full-length movies, we're taught a first kiss should be romantic, meaningful and emotionally intense.
Real life, however, tends to send a different message.
From junior high dances to clubs, from first loves to blind dates, first kisses are often awkward, nerve-racking and unsettling.
Of course, there are exceptions.
You leave a restaurant or movie theatre. One of you says exactly the right thing. The chemistry is perfect. You both lean in, your lips meet and you've got yourself a scene from the next Julia Roberts movie. Consider yourself lucky.
For some, a different sort of scenario is more familiar.
You're on a dance floor, in a cab or on an old couch in some rez building. You're not sure what you're saying and you can't even remember what chemistry means, how it feels. Still, you both lean in, your lips meet and you've got a make-out session your friends will be talking about for the next few days. Consider yourself drunk.
There isn't a lot of romance found in drunkenness, nor does it exist in awkwardness.
Your date walks you to the door. You both stand there, muttering pleasantries such as "tonight was fun" or "give me a call sometime, we'll have to get together again." You're wondering if there will be a kiss. You're wondering if your date wants a kiss. Should you make the first move? Should you just stand there and see what happens?
Inevitably, you both start shifting your weight from one foot to the other. One of you looks at your keys. The other looks back to the car, engine still running. You wonder what's going to happen. Stealing a glance at each other, you both say, for the third time, "uh, thanks, um, this was nice."
With that, you can't stand the inaction any longer. You decide to lean in for a cautious "good-night hug." Your date misreads you and thinks it's a kiss. His lips wind up in your hair, slightly above your right ear. Any possibility of romance has just hit the floor, along with your keys, dropped in the scuffle. You both bend to pick them up at the same time, knock heads, and silently curse. With a mumbled "see ya later," you head inside. Consider yourself normal.
As an alternative to swimming in beer or embarrassment, there are some people who opt for a straightforward approach. As the night winds down and the potential for clumsy, awkward situations winds up, these people look their date in the eye. With courage and bravery, they say something like "I've had a great time, may I kiss you good night?"
You're shocked. That's no line from Hugh Grant. It's not even a line from "Boy Meets World." Still, you lean in, close your eyes and your lips meet. Not only is this better than knocking heads, it even allows you to reconsider that romance-laden first-kiss stereotype, the one you'd almost given up on.