Betty Everett once sang, “If you want to know, if he loves you so, it’s in his kiss.” Granted, it’s a pretty heteronormative song (hello, 1960s) that I mostly only remember because of Cher and a karaoke episode of Tiny Toon Adventures (hello, 1990s), but it kind of rings true, right? If you kiss on the first date, it’s because you want to know…well, maybe “if they love you so” is a little too much pressure. But what can a first kiss reveal about someone?
That’s a question best suited for Andréa Demirjian, who goes by the Kissing Expert, and is the author of Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures. She’s a big proponent of “carpe kiss’em.” That is, if a spark of courage and chemistry encourages a smooch, you should trust your instincts and lean into it. After all, kissing as a dating vetting process has been around forever.
“It’s believed cavemen sought a mate to procreate by smelling and tasting the saliva of young cavewomen,” Demirjian says. “There is an immunoglobulin (or antibody) in our saliva that indicates good health, and cavemen instinctually relied on kissing to determine [who] was best suited. Think of it as a prehistoric version of The Bachelor without the rose ceremony.”
“If there’s no ‘kiss me!’ vibe, then the kiss should be pushed to the back burner. Sometimes people feel a tad shy or may be more reserved, so best not to rush the moment.” —Andréa Demirjian, the Kissing Expert
So while the practice of an early-on peck is pretty ancient, Demirjian clarifies there’s no set-in-stone rule for leaning in for a kiss on a first date. Generally, she says, it’s best to just trust your judgment. “As for when you shouldn’t kiss on the first date, if there’s no ‘kiss me!’ vibe, then the kiss should be pushed to the back burner. Sometimes people feel a tad shy or may be more reserved, so best not to rush the moment.”
Remember, consent and comfort are the name of the game with kissing and all other contact. But if you’re willing to seize the kiss and suss out if your Tinder match might be mate-worthy, Demirjian has some intel about what, exactly, you stand to learn from a kiss on first date situation.
Hygiene: Let’s start with the obvious one: You should be able to get a sense about someone’s attention to grooming from a kiss on a first date. “Dry, chapped lips and dodgy breath are giveaways for someone less than fastidious about their hygiene,” Demirjian says.
Diet and hydration: Rich, fried, and spicy foods tend to leave an aftertaste, whereas plant-based, healthier-leaning eats linger less obviously and more neutrally. Demirjian suggests considering how this coincides with your eating habits. Also, dry mouth = needs more water.
State of mind: A stale odor on the breath could betray someone’s current state of mind, whether they’re a little insecure or not looking after their well-being. “It’s the smell of nerves coming up from their belly,” Demirjian says. “Maybe they are not getting enough sleep. Or feel stress or anxiety. Whatever it may be, mental well-being and a desirable mouth are linked.”
Generosity: If their kiss feels tender, warm, playful, and exciting, that’s a sign of someone who cares about your enjoyment. More good news: All signs point to this generosity translating to the bedroom.
Appreciation: You actually can see if affection is in someone’s eyes, despite what Betty Everett says. If you catch their gaze, and their eyes and smile are both bright, they’re happy to be in that moment with you.
Tuned-in: Someone who is actively participating in and around your first make-out sesh, whether it’s a kiss on a first date or fifth, cares about being involved in the relationship. “They may be following your lead on pace or may engage in a little side chat to see how you are enjoying yourself,” Demirjian says.
Self-involved: It’s a red flag if there’s an “air of aloofness” with the kisser in question. If they give off the energy of wanting to be somewhere else instead of enjoying the moment with you, you may not be a priority to them.
Stingy: “If their kisses are stiff and swift, if they’re not taking the time to enjoy you or ensure your enjoyment, or they make you feel rushed, don’t expect them to give you a bite of their dessert or their last piece of gum,” Demirjian says. “They may also not be dedicated to your pleasure. It may leave you feeling undervalued and frustrated.” And in that case, in the immortal words of Ariana Grande, thank u, next.
Chemistry: Kissing is really one of the first barometers for physical compatibility in a new relationship, and usually a combustible kiss means you’ll be sparking…elsewhere. So if you kiss someone and really feel those sparks flying, keep leaning in. “Chemistry is really that intangible indication of something more primal as it relates to how individuals’ pheromones mix in the chemistry of attraction (how your tastes, scents, and smells come together to make a perfect mix, like a unique house cocktail),” Demirjian says.
Passion: “If their kiss is more of a peck, they may not be into kissing or may not have a very lusty appetite. And it’s hard to get someone who prefers pudding cups to appreciate freshly made chocolate mousse,” says Demirjian. “But if they kiss you deeply, and playfully pull you close, then you’ve found someone whose passion thermometer is high.”
So while you can certainly learn a lot from a kiss on a first date (or a first kiss at any other time), to find out if it means they love you so? Maybe wait until a few more kisses in.