I Kissed a Stranger (and I liked it)

Dear Reader:

It was the kind of meet-cute you expect in romantic comedies, the kind that occurs in those old-school black-and-white films about an old-school-kind-of-love that we just don’t see anymore. Remember Casablanca when Humphrey Bogart’s character talks about meeting Ingrid Bergman’s, he says, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” But those meet-cute in-person meet-ups just don’t happen all too often and those kind of films just don’t get made anymore.

Nowadays people meet online. I’ve even heard about relationships starting by someone ‘liking’ or ‘favoriting’ someone’s pictures on instagram. There’s nothing wrong with that. We are all (at some level) looking for love.

But what places are we looking for love in and where? It seems like the search used to be more than a simple click on someone’s profile, pic, or scrolling through image after image in the latest dating app. Is it now old school to remember when it seemed like finding love was more of an act of fate, a conscious effort to engage in conversation in the moment? Say you missed your bus, the one you took every day for the past 10 years to work, but that day… that day you overslept spilled coffee on your shirt had to change and were forced to take the next one. The only seat on that bus was next to someone you couldn’t help but converse with as if you felt compelled by a greater force to engage in a conversation with that person. Immediately you connect with someone you would’ve never met if it hadn’t been for being late. Enter Fate.

Perhaps these two examples of an online and in-person meeting aren’t all that different. After all, the online relationship usually leads to meeting in person. We adapt to the times; we evolve in love. But oh Dear Reader, I long(ed) for those old school acts of love & fate.

Nearly two weeks ago I kissed a stranger.

Two weeks prior, I’d been reading and teaching about love. My students read theory and essays from bell hooks. Students were most moved by bell’s essay “The Practice of Love.” They’d never read or learned that love existed in this way, as a means of humanizing or creating social change. Love existed in the “ing” in the act. It was process. They responded that the media seeks to primarily promote a hallmark version of love signed, sealed, and delivered with messages of lust / physicality / materialistic and a selfish emotional side of love. LOVE is so much more. Love is a vehicle for change. Love promotes self-care, self-worth, self-love. Love for others. Love is all encompassing.

I choose to teach “The Practice of Love” because love is (and should be) just that, a practice. It takes work. You make mistakes. You learn from them. You grow. You employ and practice it daily because it doesn’t just come to you. Commitment. Acknowledgement of the time and effort needed to put into it. It is ironic and beautiful and crazy and crazy-beautiful that in my own practice of love, I encountered it in a most unexpected place – up in the air.

I hopped on a plane to Boston to participate in an event called Rise-Up: A Celebration. I was flying to support a friend who put together the event out of love for community, health, and self. I was flying out of and for love.

I fly all the time. Lately, I fly more than one person should. On this flight in particular I thought I definitely wasn’t looking my best. My wild curly hair. No make-up. Probably bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. I always sit next to the window. I like to watch the ascent, descent, watch the ground as we jerk in the landing. Falling asleep leaning against the window posed a likely possibility. A not-so-nice lady sat in the aisle. Frustrated, she angrily threw her items into the middle seat complaining about no overhead space. I hoped someone would sit between us. I didn’t need the negative energy. As the plane began to fill up in true Southwest fashion, the middle seats were all that was left.

I looked up to see one of the most handsome and beautiful men I’ve ever seen. I smiled, blushed, and then looked away. To my surprise he sat between the not-so-nice lady and myself. In my true fashion Dear Reader, I fell asleep. Thankfully I woke up during the free beverage service. Not-so-nice lady went to the restroom at which point I thanked the handsome & beautiful man for sitting between us. Connection.

From the moment our mouths opened we never stopped talking the entire 2.5 hours flight. It was one of the most invigorating conversations I’ve ever had. I won’t go into details about the conversation but I will say it made me believe in love. It – him – the situation – the stories & beliefs shared – all of it. I thought like Cinderella “so this is love,” at least part of it in that energy exchange that I’ve only had once before in my lifetime. It was a moment of soul. In that moment I felt compelled to rest my head on his shoulder. He grabbed my hand and we existed like that into the descent. As he walked me to my gate carrying my luggage like a gentleman, we both agreed. Best.Plane.Ride.Ever. We hugged each other and I looked up at him. “Don’t look at me like that…it makes me want to kiss you,” as he stared into my eyes. I still can’t believe I responded, “Maybe I want you to.” And he did. We gently kissed twice before he left me smiling at my gate.

Now if you know me, Dear Reader as I expect you must by now, you know that this is totally out of character for me. But in that moment I thought “maybe I met the man I’m going to marry” or at least a version of him. I felt in my gut that no matter how it ends, even if I never hear from him again, even if our connection was destined to last only those brief hours experiences like that happen once in a blue moon, experiences like that should end in a kiss. I’d also taught Chela Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed in his chapter “Love as a Hermeneutics of Social Change” Sandoval writes: “the language of lovers can puncture through everyday narratives that tie us to social time and space…” I was existing in the drift.

Two weeks ago I kissed a person I’d only known a matter of hours. Two weeks ago I once again believed in the power of love(ing). A little more than a week ago TIME released a video “20 Strangers Were Asked to Kiss for the First Time and It Was Strangely Beautiful.” They wrote that a first kiss could be magical. I agree. I believe all connections are magic. Tonight during my most recent flight I watched two strangers across the aisle from me immediately engage in conversation. I drifted into sleep and woke in the descent just as the man said to the woman, “You know, I don’t even know your name. Hi, I’m ….” and she said “I’m …….nice to meet you.” It was nice to witness. Each day, whenever I log onto Facebook it asks me “what is your relationship status?” I don’t select an option. I never feel single or alone. I am always surrounded by love. Love is one’s existence, action, belief, hope. I believe in and aspire to incorporate love into my life daily.

It was fate – me flying to Boston to perform at an event, him looking for houses in the state I was flying from; him not knowing a single person there. It was just like a movie – a remake of An Affair to Remember. Of all seats in all the planes in all the airports in all the destinations in the world – he sat next to me.

1 Comment

  1. Love, captivation….. lives on in the lives of others as yourself, thank you for sharing and encouraging me to live for one never knows what lies within the day.

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