If men are allowed to admit their fear, then there are three things in movies that I most dread: blood, horror, and kisses. I have long ago abandoned the pretense of manly indifference to the first two– it’s just not worth the hovering eeriness that haunts the late night trip to the fridge downstairs. Who knows what is behind that unlit corner? What if it leap onto me– alas, what if I could not reach the light switch in time?
So I simply decided, or rather, pretended, that there is no shame about joining the kids and the chicks in their melodrama of covered face and muffled scream (a unsolicited sideshow for the fellow movie goers, indeed). But at least they often got someone to hold on to. The girl, especially, has at her disposal a battalion of eager shoulders and arms, her choice of which would send to many minds a message much more haunting than even the horror onscreen. But I– I got nothing, for my genuine need to clutch and hold would look scheming to the girls, and, well, creepy to the dudes. So I am left to fend for myself, to curl up, to bit my knuckles, and to defend against my own imagination too vivid. And against the memory of fainting from excessive blood loss, too.
But isn’t it weird– that last fear? For years I thought it was just the childish fear of the unknown, of the things that parents cryptically refuse to discuss. But it persisted until the point I could no longer explain as such. Until this day, the soon-to-be 20-year-old I still dread the moment when the camera glides into slow motion, when the music suddenly holds its breath– and when the actors stop mid-sentence and exchange that unmistakable look. “Nooooo, oh god, please,” I plead. But the rest of 20-year-olds would disagree, and the actors proceed while I casually divert my eye, lest anyone catch it and see through the guilt and embarrassment.
How can one not get embarrassed, I wonder, while watching an act so private? It is the gateway for two souls to enter their secret chamber– where they (the souls, not the persons) get naked and marry their nakedness, where the rest of the world is uninvited and undone. How can we be so shamelessly nosy? Watching kisses is like peeping through the key holes of that private world. And how can we be so shamelessly public? Kissing in front of probing eyes is like leaving open the door of that sacred room.
I may even have more tolerance towards sex in the open air. I don’t mean to belittle sex (too much), for it has its own urges and fantasies and, some would passionately claim, beauty. Hell, I crave sex myself. But it is not a craving that is much different from or more precious than the cravings I got at midnights when Duy and Tuan Ngoc, cruel bastards as they are, devour wet, voluptuous noodles right under my nose. (Seriously, that unhealthy, fat-loaded, and carb-filled thing Duy buys smells soooo ridiculously good, it’s bad.) Like food, or alcohol, or fun, sex is pleasurable– but that’s already the highest compliment I can afford. It is not about being emotional or spiritual; not always, at least.
But how can you ever kiss without emotions?
And that explains the puzzle: a grown boy that cringes at kisses yet snickers at sex scenes. In fact, if we ever watch such a scene together, and if (this is important) there is not a girl within the audible distance, you would get to see me cracking dirty jokes and faking orgasmic moans. (Yes, you read it right– I am that immature.)
But when the kissing comes, I would yet again casually ask for the popcorn, memorize my seat number, or bend down to untie and retie my tied shoelaces. So long as the rising chill and swollen sensation go by unnoticed. I wonder why I have not stopped pretending like I did with the two other fears.
A few years ago I gladly found someone who shared my thoughts– a prostitute, whose daily life was narrated in one among many forgettable and forgotten magazine articles I read online while procrastinating. Never, ever does she allow her customers to kiss her, even though they would invariably demand so, in search of, as they sickly call, “the girlfriend experience.” No evidence, no argument struck me as forcefully as that. This woman is already resigned to offer her body for service (as we all do in offices)– yet she does not abandon her last remnant of privacy, does not put up for sale the key to her soul.
Because she knows, that if it is lost, then all else, little that she has left, would be forever gone.
If you are in the mood of procrastinating, here is the article that rekindles my simmering desire to write about this. “A Kiss is Still a Kiss,” by Edwin Dobb, Harper’s Magazine, Feb. 1996. A recent addition to my compilation of good reads, it is elegant in style, and personal in message. It talks about the mortality of love and life, too– and I dare you to lie that you don’t care about that.
Procrastinating still? Well, glad to have you with me. After limiting my youtube and teamliquid surfing to 45 minutes a day, I have to find something else, anything that is as far from school as possible. And here it is, “The Best Magazine Articles Ever.” What a gem. (Hint: Some require subscription to access. Fear not– use your school’s library online journal search. Yay universities!)
And bonus: How writing is like kissing, in “The Essay,” by Craig Soffer, my hilarious former teacher in Oxford UK. A man whom I would not regret growing up and becoming alike– all his poetic miseries included.