An American Girl's Guide to Kissing

Greeting with a kiss is a common cultural practice around the world. But how do you kiss on the cheek without being completely awkward? Here's the "official" American Girl's Guide to Kissing on A Life with Subtitles

Kissing. It's a relatively simple aspect of Latino cultures. When you say hello or good-bye, it's customary to include a quick peck on the cheek.

Naturally, this practice sends me into a spiral of what ifs, internal dialogues, and a general state of panic. Billy is constantly shaking his head at my ridiculousness. But the struggle is real, and I've put together a short list of the kisses I've experienced in my quest to not be awkward.

The Air Kiss: a cheek kiss like throwing love to the wind. || An American Girl's Guide to Kissing

This is probably the one I execute most often. Cheek-to-cheek, the other person may kiss me or not, but I am smacking into the air near their ear so they know I tried. But no kiss ever actually occurred. I find this to be the least awkward physically, but I typically walk away feeling like I did something wrong.

The Smoosh Kiss: a cheek kiss like the opposite of "Chubby Bunny." || An American Girl's Guide to Kissing

The Smoosh Face includes full-on simultaneous cheek kissing from both parties. In my mind, this is what is "supposed" to happen, but it's challenging to perfect. You gotta really move those lips sideways to keep your own cheek available for kissing, while also kissing them at a parallel angle. Get carried away, and this one can easily turn into a kiss on the lips, which is what always happens when my 4-year old and I try to kiss good-night.

Follow the Leader: It's polite to wait for a cheek kiss, right? || An American Girl's Guide to Kissing
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

You kiss me. Then I'll kiss you. To me, this one makes the most sense, but it's risky. It requires a little bit of extra time and organization. There's always the real possibility the other person will pull away after they kiss me. Then, I'm left standing like a prima dona, all, "Yes, I'm currently accepting kisses."

The Hair Stroke: more than a cheek kiss it's a commitment. || An American Girl's Guide to Kissing

Hands down, my least favorite kiss. Mainly because it involves arms wrapped around my head and hair rubbing. My personal-space-o-meter just shattered!

Billy says I am the only one who makes this exchange awkward, but I say that's because he doesn't kiss the preteen boys. Preteen boys are my kissing nemesis. There's that moment, after their parents have kissed me, that we are looking at each other. I'm used to letting others take the lead on the lip smacking, but these boys are shifting back-and-forth in similar uncertainty to my own. They are bicultural enough to know this situation is not in my swing zone, and they're kinda okay to let it slide, but everyone around us is still kissing, and peer pressure is real.

That's when I hear a voice in my head say, "Sarah, you are the grown up. Make this happen in the least awkward way possible. The faster the better." And that's how I end up over-aggressively kissing teenage boys.

The Over Eager: sometimes a cheek kiss is just too intense. || An American Girl's Guide to Kissing

This kiss happens when you get too much into the greeting groove. You are passing that peace and lip gloss like a boss when you suddenly realize you just kissed someone unnecessarily. Maybe you've already greeted each other, maybe they were talking to someone else and you kind "surprise kissed" them, whatever. It happens.

The Pull Back: sometimes you start a cheek kiss and realize you're wrong. || An American Girl's Guide to Kissing

This is my favorite face palm. This is what happens to me when I hang out with non-Latinos soon after being in a group of Latinos. It's the kissing equivalent of trying to give someone a high five and then using that raised hand to smooth your hair once you realize that's not going to happen. Although, it's a little harder to play it cool when you've accidentally gotten too close to someone's cheek for no apparent reason...

So there you go. Seven examples of kissing. I'm sure Billy will be all, "What on earth?!" But can you feel me? Are there examples that I've missed?


  1. Oh, I have a story about this one too! ;) While I was at Bible school in Costa Rica there was a Cuban student there who was about 6 years older. For the first month during language school most of the previous semester students weren't there yet so I was one of only 3 students he could communicate significantly with. I enjoyed talking to him and learning about his life.
    Well, apparently he took that interest quite personally so towards the end of the semester we were chatting one evening and he tried to kiss me. Except it wasn't supposed to be a cheek kiss and I managed to avoid it at the last minute and turn it into a hard cheek kiss. That made the last few weeks rather awkward. He was a nice guy but his cultural heritage would have me barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and that wasn't my idea of a good life. ;)

  2. Francisco1:09 AM

    Wow! I agree that he was out of line confusing friendliness with romantic interest. But that last comment about having u barefoot and pregnant as a cultural heritage is the most obtuse, and clearly ignorant, not to mention racist statement. I am latino, and also studied and lived in the US for over 20 yrs. I could spew a couple of choice comments about hillbilly attitudes, and/or white trash cultural heritage, but I would generalize. Please check your white sheets at the door, and be a bit less insentitive.

  3. I'm sorry, but you don't know me from Adam and that was rude. Yes, I am white, but I grew up in an area that was 35% Hispanic and I have lots of Hispanic friends. I spent a semester being very good friends with this man and I knew from plenty of comments he made that was how he saw a future wife.
    I didn't intend for it to come across as a stereotype and so I'm sorry if you saw it that way. I meant it exactly as I just said, this is what he saw as the place for a wife and I knew that wasn't for me. Certainly you have to agree that in many cultures the position of a wife changes significantly after they are married.

  4. Susann Shultz7:05 AM

    In Spain, you give besos to both cheeks....you kiss the person's right cheek first, then their left. After having spent a semester in Spain, I then traveled around Europe. Aparently in Italy where they also do 2 besos, you kiss the person's left cheek first (or that's what the nice Italian man I had just met was trying to do) because we almost locked lips! And don't get me started on the French...3 kisses!

  5. You say that is how "he saw a future wife" then certainly you have to agree that it wasn't necessarily he "cultural heritage" maybe just his own personal attitude towards women. As someone who shares this cultural heritage that you seem to think you are such an expert in, you do come across as stereotyping all Latinos. And, yes you are still ignorant if you don't see that as offensive.

  6. Karlina2:59 PM

    I went on a date friday night with a guy that is latino. It was our first meeting and so it totally threw me when He kissed me on the cheek hello. I was way more prepared for the kiss on the cheek when saying goodbye. I thought of this blog post on my way home and laughed.

  7. Bahaha. I love this real-life example. Fabulous!


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