“How did it go?” my friend Owen asked me over the phone.
I was frantically trying to hail down a cab on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea at 10 p.m. on a Thursday. Trying to get a taxi on Seventh Avenue, whether you’re uptown or downtown, is akin to spotting the elusive snow leopard in the rural mountains of central Asia.
“Hold on!” I screamed, flailing my arms up down wildly, hoping my commitment to over-the-top body movement would magically conjure up a lit up taxi. It worked. The cab screeched up to the side of the road and I slid into the cheap faux-leather seats in one ungraceful swoop, terrified that if I took too long the driver would race away and move on to the next desperate girl teetering in painful heels.
“92nd and Lexington,” I said, breathlessly, as we sped into the night.
“Can you talk now?” Owen asked.
“Yes,” I sunk into my seat and watched the city fly by.
“I can’t tell there’s a ‘but’ coming…”
“Gah. There is.” One can never fool a friend who’s known since you were an acne-ridden teenager with a lip ring.
“Well, I don’t know quite how to say this,” I paused trying to search for a delicate way to put it. “SHE HAD A WEIRD TONGUE!” The words flew out of my mouth like a seagull flying toward a neglected hot dog on the boardwalk of the Jersey Shore.
“What the hell do you mean, she had a ‘weird’ tongue?! Like, she was a bad kisser?” Owen asked. I could hear him lighting a cigarette. I longed for a drag.
“No, she wasn’t a bad kisser. Her rhythm, her technique — all of that was perfect. It was her tongue.”
“GET TO THE POINT, ZARA!” He was clearly getting annoyed with my coy description. After all, it was a Thursday night in New York! He had places to be and boys to have sex with!
“OKAY. LOOK. THE TEXTURE OF HER TONGUE WAS ROUGH LIKE A CAT’S TONGUE! I DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO SAY!” I roared. The taxi driver released a small chuckle from behind the wheel.
“Oh. My. God. I’ve never even heard of that! Are you sure it wasn’t all in your head?”
“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life,” I whimpered.
“What are you going to do?”
We were on Park Avenue now. It was dead quiet with the exception of a few white-gloved doormen standing guard in front of their assigned regal buildings, still as statues.
“I don’t know, Owen. I don’t know.”
The truth is: I didn’t know what the hell to do! I was finally dating someone truly fabulous. She was everything I’d ever claimed to want in a partner. She was ambitious, mature, stylish, hilarious, sophisticated, kind, and smart. She loved the same buzzy Manhattan restaurants I loved, thought Seinfeld was the work of sheer genius, and kept fresh flowers in her clean Soho apartment. She didn’t have roommates. She had that rare, gentle “top energy,” not the aggressive misogynistic “OK, sweetie. Let’s have sex, but I’m not going to listen to a word you say because you’re clearly an idiot with your lipgloss and heels” kind of top energy I’d seemed to be magnetically attracting for the past year. She was a respectful top, a dignified top. She didn’t expect me to act like Paris Hilton just because I occasionally dress like Paris Hilton.
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I huffed and puffed as I trekked up the six flights of stairs to my walk-up apartment. I lived above a laundromat, and the whole building smelled like frat boys’ dirty socks. Every time I took in a whiff of soiled boy socks, I was affirmed in my gayness.
My roommate was sitting on the couch, a towel wrapped around her head like a glamorous turban as she sipped on a glass of blood-red wine. “Did you finally kiss?” she asked me.
“She had a rough tongue,” I murmured flatly as I marched into my bedroom, stripped down naked, and crawled into bed.
I stared at the cracks of the ceiling in my crumbling, pre-war apartment. The angel who lives inside of me, Lola, tapped me on the shoulder. Her face glowed from the streetlights that lit up my bedroom. Sometimes I pretended it was moonlight, but then a car would come honking by and I would be reminded that I lived in a neighborhood with buildings so high they blocked the moon.
“Zara,” Lola purred, hearts beaming out of her sparkly eyes. “You can’t give up on this girl just because she had a differently textured tongue! How shallow? This girl likes you! For you! She’s not toxic! She’ll give you everything you’ve ever wanted in a relationship.”
“You’re right, Lola. I mean, how important is kissing anyway? How important is sexual chemistry? Maybe I’ll get used to the tongue. Maybe this is just my way of resisting things that are actually healthy for me. Maybe her tongue isn’t even all that rough! I could be just acting out because I’m unfamiliar with dating nice people and deep down I don’t feel worthy of a nice person,” I mused, thinking of how much therapy had really paid off. I resisted the urge to text my therapist right then and there! Instead, I texted the girl with the (allegedly) rough tongue.
“Want to get a drink at The King Cole Bar tomorrow?” I asked. The King Cole Bar is an old-school Manhattan bar inside the St. Regis hotel. I’d been dreaming of going on a date there since I was a kid, tearing through the society pages from my childhood bedroom in the suburbs.
“Sure!” She wrote back right away. “I’ll send an Uber to pick you up from work at six.”
Someone offering to send me an Uber is the way to my ever-vapid heart. Some people say the way to the heart is through the kitchen, through food. For me, it’s through chauffeured cars.
What had I been thinking? She was my Woman In Shining Armor! All I’d ever dreamed of! I wasn’t going to let a rough tongue get in the way of my future! No way.
Our date the following night at the King Cole Bar was nothing short of perfection. Over two bottles of wine, we’d passionately engaged in stimulating conversation about everything from the nuances of strap-on sex to our shared love of Sylvia Plath.
“I hathe when people callth Sylvia Plath sthelf-absorbed. It’s stho sexist!” I slurred. I had guzzled back my wine quickly in hopes of forgetting about the textured tongue I’d inevitably have to confront once our date concluded.
“I agree,” she whispered, her hazel eyes shining. I could feel her face veering closer and closer to my face. I felt her hot breath on my neck. I braced myself. It was happening.
I swear to my higher power Lana Del Rey that I did my best not to physically wretch as her tongue made its way into my mouth. I squeezed my eyes shut as her strange, sandpaper tongue scraped against my slippery tongue. The devil who lives inside of me (her name is Nicole) whispered into my ear. “If you can’t stand kissing someone, it doesn’t matter how great they are, babe.” I could feel Nicole’s long, diabolical nails seductively scratching my back.
Finally, I pulled away. “I have to go! I have work in the morning! Big deadline!” I stretched my horrified lips into a smile so big I could feel my eyes bulging out of my head. “I’ll pay the bill!” I chipperly sing-songed, as I flagged down the bartender and shoved my debit card in his hands.
Lana Del Rey, please let this go through. I can’t break up with a nice girl for having a rough tongue that she can not help and then leave her with the exorbitant bill.
Alas, the Patron Saint Lana Del Rey did not listen to my frenetic prayer. “Sorry, your card has been declined,” the bartender said loudly, his New York accent booming like a foghorn. “It said there are insufficient funds,” he added. I shot him a death look. Why add the “insufficient funds” antidote? Jerk.
“I’ve got it! Don’t worry! Go to bed and get an early start tomorrow! I’m going to stay a little longer anyway,” rough tongue offered. The fact that she was so sweet and so supportive of my career sent a flood of guilt crashing over my limbs.
“Thank you,” I squeaked. “There must be, like, fraud on my card or something.”
“Happens to me all the time,” she smiled warmly.
I skulked away dripping with shame. I was ashamed for my card declining at the most glamorous bar in New York. I was ashamed for rushing away from a fabulous date just because the kiss had been vile. I was ashamed that my body was rejecting someone so perfect. Was I doomed to be only attracted to fuckgirls?
I had to walk home that night because I didn’t have enough money for a subway ticket, let alone a taxi. Christmas lights twinkled in the dark storefronts. White-haired women with long fur coats and stacks of pearls, reeking of Chanel number five, breezed by me, walking their King Charles Cavalier Spaniels in one hand, clutching their quilted leather purses in the other. It was the perfect Upper East Side night.
As I shivered down 5th avenue in my Dr. Martin boots and flimsy leather jacket, I realized something pretty epic. You can meet someone who is perfect on paper, but if you can’t dreamily get lost in their kiss, it’s not meant to be.
In fact, maybe it’s the great divine protecting you! Maybe the great divine knows something you don’t know. Like, maybe this woman is, deep down, intrinsically bad for you. And if you had liked her kiss, you would’ve stayed, because a good kiss can keep you in a toxic relationship. Maybe her tongue felt like magic to other girls! Maybe the universe was protecting her from you.
Maybe life is just cruel and unfair sometimes. Maybe love and lust and chemistry are wicked, fickle little bitches that tamper with your destiny and prevent you from creating a wonderful life with a wonderful person. Who the hell knows? But this time, the devil inside of me was right. If I can’t stand kissing you, I no way in hell can date you.
Now, I always kiss on the first date. Just to make sure I don’t fall for another rough tongue.