Deconstructing the Kiss

[an analysis by Nicole Sundstrom]

Think of your first kiss. Now think of your best kiss. Your worst. There are many ways to describe a kiss—wet, transcendent, regrettable. Kissing can be the beginning, or it can be the end. We have been taught many things about kissing. Tutorials on how to kiss are a dime a dozen in magazines or actors who model perfect kissing in movies or on TV, but you never truly grasp what kissing is until you do it. No kiss is the same. No pair of lips is the same. One kiss leads to another, and as Anthony Farrington portrays, kissing only gets more complicated from there. In his short story, “Kissing,” Farrington describes his experiences with kissing and the lessons he learned. Through the masterful use of descriptive language and symbolic structure, Farrington verbalizes that which others can only fondly reminisce.

Farrington’s honest and multi-faceted story depicts the many types of kissing and the ways in which we are affected by them. It took six women and his two children for Anthony to find out what kissing meant to him. Some kisses were mistakes, one was the love of his life and the mother of his children, and some were stepping stones like Lulu. Lulu was the first girl he ever kissed. She was the beginning of it all. Then there was Deanne the teenage crush, Jenny the real thing, Robin the one that got away, April the mistake, and Carolyn the regrettable one. His self-proclaimed most intimate kiss was when his daughter clung to him after their first Halloween apart from one another (p. 118). He ends “Kissing” with a goodnight kiss from his son.

In the opening line, Farrington summarizes the main point of the piece: “this is story about the mouth and the tongue, about conversations of one kind and another” (p. 176). Farrington uses varied structure, including interviews, lists, and quotes from multiple sources all related to kissing. I would argue that he chose this structure to symbolize the act of kissing itself. He includes various sources, the words of others, to show the collaborative nature of kissing. In the same way, he uses the sporadic interviews and an “invented advice column” to symbolize an exchange between two people, which is similar to sharing a kiss with another person (p .177). He ends the piece with a more serious interview, which demonstrates the vulnerability of opening up to another person through a kiss.

Similarly, the sentence structure symbolizes kissing. Farrington uses staccato passages, such as “April kissed me and I kiss her. In that order. And I nearly broke down. Wondering where my wife was,” which seem to mimic a quick peck on the lips, a meaningless kiss (p. 180). In other places, he uses long, fluid syntax such as his description of kissing his high school girlfriend:

With Deanne, who kissed me second, it was bubble gum pop and Air Supply—‘lost in love’ and ‘every woman in the world’—the music filling the small space of my car while we drove in the early evenings—her body against mine—fifteen years old (me seventeen) and lovely—her head on my shoulder and the windows open, the wind and her long yellow hair blowing up and against my face (p. 177-178).

Here, Farrington’s syntax symbolizes the innocent rush of young love, the way in which everything feels like it runs together, melting into one another. It mimics those long kisses, the kisses you share just because you can.

Farrington depicts many types of kisses—hard ones, soft ones, drunken ones—but the most effective descriptions come from stories surrounding each kiss. He describes the action behind each kiss, the story as to why it happened and what happened next. This is what sets Farrington’s narrative apart. By including the time, the place, the circumstances, he includes the reader in that intimate moment. By doing so, you are taken back to similar moments that you may have experienced with kissing, reminding you of your first, best, and worst kisses. The descriptive language evokes memories from your past that makes this narrative real and relevant, and by the end of the story, it is as if you have shared his vulnerability, you have exchanged a personal conversation through the piece.

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