On the Lips

Jennifer Savage essays

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They are obsessed. “Mama, are they boyfriend and girlfriend?” they’ll ask about strangers in the store.

“Maybe,” I say.

“Do you think they kiss on the lips?” Giggling usually follows this exchange then it starts over again and again.

“Mama, did you and Daddy kiss at your wedding?” Giggle.

“Yes,” I say.

“On the lips?” More giggling.

“Where do you think Luke and Mina will kiss at their wedding?”

“In the pasture?” I say half teasing because this is not the answer they want.

“No, where where?” they say.

“On the lips?” I say.

And it goes on. I’m not sure where this lip sugar business started but it has taken over our house, as have whispers and little-girl giggles that end in…on the lips.

Lucille has even taken to kissing me on the lips and putting her chin to her chest and smiling before coming in for another. She purses her little lips into a tight pucker and practices her MWAH! on delivery. She puts her tiny hands, with fading red fingernail polish, to her lips and runs off giggling.

It is new, uncharted territory, this kissing on the lips. It’s a little bit tantalizing, a little bit charged like drinking soda or a double scoop of ice cream. They are too young, yet, to understand any of it, they just know they have discovered something that is relegated to the grown up world or, even better, the teenage one. And they are asking questions all around the subject trying to make sense of it.

In all of this kissing discussion, Eliza found a book on the shelf that was, evidently fascinating. It wasn’t just any book, it was that book. Where I Come From. I’m not sure how we got a copy of this 1970s classic but there it was on the bookshelf and the minute Eliza opened it to drawings of two naked cartoonish people, the questions flowed like a spring river.

Eliza really wanted us to read this book to her and we promised we would when the time was right. And every time (read every day) when it came time to read a book she’d go straight to this one and ask, “Is now the right time?” Finally, Seth said yes.

We all sat on our aptly named love seat and read all about how babies are made. I’m pretty sure I turned 4,098 shades of red. When the story got to, let’s say, the heart of the matter Eliza looked at me in disbelief.

“Did you and Daddy do that?” she asked.

“Um, yeah,” I said.

“Do you still do that,” she said.

I nearly had to leave the room.

“What do you mean he puts his penis in the vagina,” Eliza asked. “How? In the hole?”

Good. God.

Deep. Breaths. 

Just for the record I was never going to be this mom. I used to work at a women’s clinic and I have pretty much seen it all. I have seen young girls pregnant because no one ever had the talk with them and those were not going to be my daughters. I would use proper words, be honest and always let them know they could come to me with questions about their bodies or sex. But when the time actually came to say the words, to explain, as Eliza asked over and again, “exactly HOW do babies get in a mama’s belly” I froze, I was speechless and Seth had to do the talking.

What is wrong with me, I thought. I cannot believe I can’t even read Where I Come From! After all those days in the clinic. After all the women I met over the years who practically begged me to talk to my daughters.

Since our initial reading of Where I Come From, we’ve read it several hundred times. I’ve even read it and I didn’t die. Their interest has faded a bit and they are back to talking about kissing on the lips which is just fine by me. But I know the conversation will, in quick order, turn back to the specifics of romantic love and I’m hoping I can handle it a little bit better than I did the first time. I hope I can tell them that kissing on the lips can be a lovely thing and that the rest of it, while it sounds a little gross and implausible, can be too. I hope I can tell them that they will understand it all in time, a really, really, really long time from now.

About the Author

Jennifer Savage

Jennifer Savage is a writer and mama of Eliza and Lucille. Lately, she's learning to be a farm girl, again. She writes from her home at the base of the Mission Mountains in Arlee, Montana. She is also one of Mamalode's favorite writers and you can fall in love with her too at .

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