With 2020 putting physical contact on hold, writer Emma Firth has created an editorial platform to what she misses most about pre-pandemic dating: a good snog.
What do you miss most about life before the pandemic? Is it being surrounded by sweaty strangers in a club? Dropping in to see your family without worrying about social distancing rules? Or hopping on a flight to wherever the wind takes you? Or are you like writer and editor Emma Firth, who had the deepest longing for the allure of a good kiss?
Emma’s yearning was so great that she’s not only written about it but launched her own editorial platform, Kissing & Other Stories (KAOS), devoted to the subject. Having already signed up the likes of fashion designer Henry Holland and model Emma Breschi to tell their snogging tales, Emma gives us the lowdown on her most memorable kiss, the immortal lip-locking scene in 10 Things I Hate About You and providing some much-needed romance during these “strange and unprecedented times”.
Good to speak to you, Emma. Tell us a bit about yourself?
I bought some reading glasses the other day and the shop assistant asked me what I do. “I’m a writer,” I said. “What do you write about?” Fashion and feelings mostly is the short answer. Currently, I’m an editor at BURO. and a contributing writer for the likes of British VOGUE and Evening Standard magazine. Sometimes I’ll draw on aspects of my own romantic life – or lack off, which has sometimes been the case – exploring intimacies and sensations that I feel don’t get enough attention. Be it the bittersweet pill of a crush, the art of self-pleasure, the nature of desire, of erotica, or the complex language of a kiss.
The confessional aspect can be a little tricky when you’re dating someone and trying hard to project a cool and calm version of self who doesn’t read into things. In the past, I’ve been bullish in my pursuit to try and hide my internal neurosis. But that shit gets harder to conceal as you get older. It’s also incredibly exhausting having to pretend to be someone you’re not. So, yeah. I guess if I really look at myself – and, who hasn’t, the last year? – I’m a hopeful (sounds less tragic than hopeless) romantic, over-thinker and forever seeking a good story.
What’s the story behind Kissing & Other Stories?
In September I was having a conversation with a friend about how I missed snogging more than sex. That rush you get when you meet someone for the first time and just looking at their mouth is a turn on. That WhatsApp exchange turned into a personal essay I wrote on the intoxicating high of a good kiss (as well as revisiting bad ones…the ones that are so polite they almost feel incestual. Gross). I received so many messages about that piece from friends and strangers, saying it made them feel hopeful about their next kiss. As well as sharing their own past kiss stories. Some very romantic, some very funny. The best, a combination of both. So, I wanted to create KAOS. A joyful slice of the internet – a real-life romantic comedy, of sorts – to celebrate that human connection. That desire to want to be touched. That mysterious thing that draws us towards another person. And truth, I’ve found, can be far lovelier than fiction.
Could you share some of the standout stories from the platform so far?
Honestly, I love them all. For totally different reasons. For Volume I, Henry Holland revisits his first kiss with his husband. My friend, Emma Breschi makes me snort with laughter with her life in kisses. As does comedian Caleb Hearon’s story about his first perfect post-pandemic kiss…It’s completely over the top, in the best possible way. Liz Montague, a supremely talented cartoonist for The New Yorker, writes about her first kiss with her boyfriend, who she had had a crush on for 12 years. It’s super sweet and I think speaks to anyone who is scared about letting anyone in. I mean, this act can be fucking terrifying. It’s almost peculiar how our eyes are oft closed when we kiss someone, and yet it’s when we can feel the most naked. Vulnerable. Stripped of anonymity.
What’s one kiss that you will remember forever?
Actually, as timing would have it, the day I finished writing that kissing article, I met someone. In a pottery class, of all places (pre-lockdown part two). Fast forward to the bit where we go on a pub date. “Oh god. Really like him,” I hastily text my best friend one hour and fifteen minutes into said date. Post-dinner we amble, tipsily, to Hampstead Heath. I cannot remember where the first kiss took place. Was it walking up the hill? Or down the hill? Or wait, maybe it was on the bench? And yet, what I do remember was the feeling of the kiss or, more accurately, the many kisses that evening. I remember I wanted to lean into him a lot. I remember him telling me he thought I was curious and me wanting to kiss him then because I think that’s the nicest compliment you can give a person. This was intoxicating snog territory, like being both lost and found.
Do you have a favourite kiss in film, literature or art?
Oh, tons! Film-wise: My teenage self says Some Kind of Wonderful. A 1980s classic. There’s a scene where the Watts suggests her best friend practice kissing her to prepare for a date (YouTube it if you haven’t seen it!). And also 10 Things I Hate About You, when Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles kiss in the haystacks, covered in paint. Both are so far removed from my own – comparably pretty mediocre – teenage kissing experiences. In terms of literature, this Carol Ann Duffy poem, ‘Syntax,’ is a great ‘love kiss’ poem:
I want to call you thou, the sound
of the shape of the start
of a kiss — like this — thou –
and to say, after, I love,
thou, I love, thou I love, not
I love you.
Because I so do ―
as we say now — I want to say
thee, I adore, I adore thee
and to know in my lips
the syntax of love resides,
and to gaze in thine eyes.
Love’s language starts, stops, starts;
the right words flowing or clotting in the heart.
What do you hope you can offer people with KAOS?
Hope, humour, connection, romance.
8 December 2020