Sucking a face like an orange


Sucking a face like an orange

DEBORAH STEINMAIR tries to plumb the depths of love and life, to no avail.


“WHAT do you get when you kiss a guy", asks the old song, and replies, “you get enough germs to catch pneumonia". The human mouth is believed to be full of germs because we have these units called fingers that touch every surface and that we then put in our mouths. Even a dog's mouth (I don't like the word “snout"), licking its own behind, has fewer germs.

I grew up watching projector movies in a school hall where all the children started whistling and stomping feet when the hero and heroine's faces slowly but surely moved closer together, until there was no moonlight visible between them. I formed the impression that it was more than a peck, that it was long and intensely lingering. Cheeks were sunken and there was a degree of head movement.

You hear older children using words like “tongue kiss" or “French kiss", but …

  • if you are a child who feels as if she has been dropped on Earth from another planet without a manual and has to learn and acquire human customs;


  • if you are a gay child trying to convince yourself and the rest of the world that you are “normal";

 then nothing, but nothing prepares you for your first deep kiss.

Mine was at a school function — how different the hallways and classrooms looked at night, like a movie set — in front of the biology class, in the dark. I attended the function with a tall, sinewy boy with sandy hair and big ears.

Hollow feeling

First some background: if you're a baby lesbian, you don't lie endlessly fantasising about your first kiss. Never, ever do you imagine that you will kiss a girl, because the thought has been rendered so suspect and shabby by people like your mother, and society in general, that you want no part in it. You don't fantasise about a kiss with a boy either; you see it as a hurdle you have to clear, a necessary next step in the life of a normal girl. You think about it briefly with a slightly hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach and a sense of inevitability, as if it's a maths test. That's all.

It's night in front of the biology class and you realise the moment has come. You close your eyes like they do in the movies and try to relax your lips. Then something smooth, slimy and very determined penetrates your mouth. Goodness, no, this simply cannot be! You endure the slippery affair for a few counts, then you step back. You wish you could say it left you cold. It creeped you out to the ends of your toes and you know you never, ever want to do it again. You gaze at the kisser with new eyes. Suddenly, he looks like a serial rapist. And like someone with nasal drip. You shudder.

You do this many more times in your life until you embrace your true self. Your first real boyfriend is a kisser. He borrows his dad's bakkie and you go to the drive-in every weekend, but you don't see any movies. You don't chat either, because all he wants to do is kiss. The inside of your mouth gets blisters and you simply can't endure it any more. You end the relationship without explanation.

I advocate sympathy for the poor non-binary, non-heteronormative children who pretend to prove to society and themselves that they are no different. And do this while every cell in their body grunts.


Sex was easier. It's less personal. That's what my brilliant, eccentric uncle told me when I was in school. We were chums, even though I was a child, because he hated the entire world and suffered from shell shock and paranoia. He related that in his wanderings he often slept with prostitutes but never kissed them because it was too intimate. He also said he could teach me to tongue-kiss, an offer I politely declined. No hard feelings. He said Japanese girls taught him when he was young. It's apparently like sucking an orange. Enough said.

There are many surveys where married people or people in long-term relationships are asked  how many times a week they have sex. What I'm more interested in is how often they tongue-kiss, slowly and with a sense of exploration. And do they do it after brushing their teeth or with morning breath? It would be interesting to know.

I wonder if lesbians indulge in less tongue-kissing than straight people — because isn't it really a symbolic prelude to the other, deeper penetration and exploration? And I wonder how important it is to gay men. My partner had a brief fling in her youth with someone whose tongue shot in and out like a salamander's while kissing, or like a sewing machine needle. She gets angry when I refer to this and I'm sure she regrets ever telling me. We've all encountered someone whose whole tongue takes possession of your mouth like a leech slug and tickles your tonsils. Deep throat. Dry retch.

For me, an embrace lasting several minutes is one of the most meaningful gestures in a relationship. In the kitchen, horizontally. I miss it intensely because I have been on crutches for five weeks. For a hug, you need arms.

Tongue kiss? It sucks face, if you ask me. Call me prudish and a germophobe, but I like to keep a civil tongue in my head.

♦ VWB ♦

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION: Go to the bottom of this page to share your opinion. We look forward to hearing from you!

Speech Bubbles

To comment on this article, register (it's fast and free) or log in.

First read Vrye Weekblad's Comment Policy before commenting.