I’m sure if the band ‘KISS’ had played in 80’s India, they would’ve moderated their name down to ‘HUG’. That’s the culture in which I outgrew my boyhood. Having grown up in boarding schools, I’ve learnt most everything from Bollywood movies; friendship, respecting parents, singing songs, whistling through life and romancing.
When the hero and heroine were about to kiss in Indian movies the camera would cut to a shot of two flowers touching each other and we knew a kiss has taken place. Alternately the heroine lifting her leg in the air confirmed that the hero has successfully planted his lips on hers. I would stop chewing the popcorn in my mouth, my jaw would drop. I couldn’t risk blinking or I’d miss it. And God forbid, if the camera showed birds fly out of trees, my pre-teen mind had to imagine that a carnal sin had taken place. The heroine was no longer a virgin. Ohhhh Noooooo.
A few years later, un-kissed by a soul (barring a rare shining moment of glory that my mother deemed was kiss-worthy) I was pushed into the world of dating. My father’s friend’s bumbling sixteen-year-old daughter seemed like an easy-enough start.
“You can have all my Sidney Sheldon novels.” I slid the stack toward her.
She threw her arms over my shoulder. “You’re such a sweetheart.”
The smell of Listerine lingered between us. Inder, that’s one strong mouthwash. Either she’s giving you the ‘go ahead and kiss’ signal or she has serious oral health issues because that mouthwash is one pH away from being classified as an acid. Come on man, your friends asked you to lookout for clear hints. Slam dunk– I closed my eyes and opened my mouth slightly, cocking my head to my right I leaned in.
Her body stiffened. She arched away. “What are you doing?”
“I’m umm…err…uh… nothing. I was just… I thought–”
She struggled out of my arms. “I knew it. My friends say all boys want the same thing.”
I punched my open fist when she walked away. What’s this ‘same thing’ that girls keep on talking about? Kissing is the biggest deal. Six months of exchanging gifts and notes and holding hands. When’s the right time for moving on to the mouth to mouth handshake?
Ten years, several girlfriends, many pull-backs and an occasional slap later, I had taught myself to just ask first. To kiss or not to kiss- that, my friend, is the question.
At age 24, I immigrated to the US. My first date here was a fellow-intern. After failing miserably within my own community I was now venturing into cross cultural dating.
I downed the fifth refill of diet soda and suppressed the thirteenth burp. “Why do they keep refilling my glass?
She leveled her palm and waived. “–Because you keep finishing it. You stop- they stop.”
She held a cookie in her hands and used her thumbs to crack it open. She pulled out a small piece of paper from a secret compartment within. “Man who scratches ass should not bite fingernails.” She read aloud the profound wisdom in the paper. “What did your fortune cookie say?”
Gulp. “Mine didn’t have anything in it.” I picked up another one. No wonder that cookie tasted so darn horrible. Chinese restaurants in India do not have these–
“–Well what does this one say?” She chuckled.
I pulled out the paper. Fuckgoshdarnit. I held it up in two fingers for her. Passionate kiss like spider’s web, soon lead to undoing of fly.
She guffawed and winked.
Wow. I mean wow. “Girls here are easy.” My Indian roommates had preached earlier that day. “Just make sure you take protection with you.”
“It’s the first date, guys.” I’d stated.
“Yeah, but it’s best to be prepared. If she gives you a lead in, invites you in for coffee, talks about making out or ahem ahem…. chitty-chitty, bang-bang… you know.”
I had run into the Walgreens just before picking her up and purchased a packet of ‘To Maximize Her Pleasure’. The best place to hide them was under the passenger seat because she might open the glove box for any reason.
The waiter nudging me with the check brought my thoughts back to the date. What? 4378 There goes 5 post tax internship hours. “Per November’s Cosmo, if the bill is more than 40 bucks, you have a 33.3 % chance of getting laid.” My software engineer roommate had clarified while he primped my tie.
I pulled back her chair and draped her jacket over her delicate shoulders. The indicators were clear as day.
“You’re such a gentleman.” She crooned.
Fuck. There go 50 dollars down the toilet.
I opened the passenger door to my hooptie and adjusted the second seat-cover over her seat so that her dress wouldn’t get torn by the multiple springs poking through the foam.
When I spun on my heel she was breathing down my throat. “Thank you for the date, Inder.” Her silver polished nail traced the side of my mouth and slid off my chin.
Listerine? Darnit. I stared deep into her eyes. “Would you like to kiss now?”
She straightened her head. “What? Why would you ask me that?”
I tried putting my arm around her back but she put her palm on my chest. “I thought it’s better to ask–”
“That’s such a momentum killer, Inder.” She straightened her elbow.
“No No…we have momentum.” I reached out for her waist.
We drove silently for a few minutes. You almost had her, you bumbling moron. If only you could’ve kept your pie-hole shut for three more seconds–
She placed her sweaty palm on mine. “I understand the cultural differences, Inder. Kissing and sex is such a big step for–.”
No No it’s not. How do you think we became the second most populous country in the world. It’s just that–
Her voice became crisper “–Your society is very conservative. In the US it is acceptable for people who are dating to be intimate.”
I turned to face her. Her eyes became wider. She clasped my hand. A tinge of red light fell on her face. My instincts made me hit the brakes as hard as I could.
Her head almost hit the dashboard. She lurched back.
“Phew, that was close.” She straightened back up. “Hey what is that–?” She pointed to something between her feet.
I looked over. Her immaculately painted toes were inches away from a small box. It said in bold letters. Ribbed, for her pleasure.
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