To tease, surrender and risk: Kissing class
There's more to a kiss than meets the lips, as couples are learning at a kissing school in Seattle.
Psychotherapist Cherie Byrd, 56, got the idea for teaching kissing classes while dating a man who was a horrible kisser.
The boyfriend didn't last, but Byrd, a self-described "luscious kisser," said that gave her the idea to teach the art and craft of kissing to other couples. Since 1998, more than 500 couples have paid $275 to learn Byrd's secrets for giving or receiving a passionate kiss.
On a typical class day, up to a dozen couples create "love nests" with sleeping bags and overstuffed pillows on the carpeted floor of the classroom.
Each class begins with foot rubs, back-to-back dancing and tender kisses on the hand. Students slowly graduate to neck nibbles, ear exploration and finally lip locks.
As Byrd guides couples through exercises, such as kissing only the bottom lip or licking an ear, soft music plays. In a calm, breathy voice she tells them to "tease, surrender and risk" touching their partner in ways they've never tried before.
Most are married and in their late 30s to mid-50s. Some couples have come from as far away as Africa, Korea and cities all over the United States, Byrd said.
Byrd's school, simply titled "Kissing School," appears to be the only one of its kind, although there are Web sites that offer kissing tips and techniques. Several books also cover the subject, including one by Byrd.
"We're basically clueless," Byrd said. "It's more than a smashing of lips." Byrd says that more important than technique is the connection between two people.
"It's hard to truly connect with your beloved in our society because we're in such a hurry," she explained. "Multi-tasking leads to sorry, sloppy smooches."
While most students at Seattle's Kissing School are couples, singles are also welcome to take classes, provided they don't mind kissing total strangers.
Gary Getz and Lorrie Clemens, married for nine months, flew from their home outside Palo Alto, California to Seattle to attend a kissing school on Saturday.
"It was Lorrie's idea to take the class," Getz said. "But I certainly benefit from her interest."
Getz said he resisted his wife's suggestion of going to a kissing school at first. And after completing the day-long class, he reported that he was somewhat disappointed.
"As a guy, I thought it would be more technical," Getz explained, "The put your hand here and pucker up this way kind of thing."
But he added quickly, "It was very enjoyable."
Other than an occasional, muted "yes" coming from the couple in the corner of the room, there was no conversation until the end of the kissing exercises. Each partner was then asked to rate the other's kiss on a scale of one to 10. One is "not so good" while 10 is a kiss that "sweeps you off your feet." After a brief discussion, the couples went at it again to try to improve their scores.
Getz and Clemens rated each other's kisses at 9.9. "We want to keep on practicing," Clemens said.
The instructor's top tip for creating a kiss that is satisfying and sensual is to slow down. "Men in particular rush through kisses and let their minds wander too much," Byrd said. "A kiss is really a gift of your heart. It's your energy transferred to another person's body."
Although the class is very intimate, Byrd has never had couples go too far with their kisses. The room, in an old school building, is well lighted and not the most comfortable place to get carried away, even with the fluffy pillows and blankets.
Only one couple failed the class in Byrd's opinion. "One guy thought he knew everything and didn't need any lessons," Byrd said. "I feel for his poor wife."
As couples left Saturday's class, hair tousled and in search of lip balm, Byrd went home to an empty house. The kissing school teacher is not married and at the moment doesn't have a boyfriend.