What’s in a snog?
By Brandon Toh
Considering that Harry Potter is a seven-book series, each thick enough to kill another person with, it's remarkable how the one thing that has etched itself into my brain is the way J.K. Rowling describes the act of mutual mouth-sucking. In a meticulously-crafted world of magic, ghosts, unicorns, goblins, strange potions and fantastical adventures, somehow I became obsessed with the moment Harry snogged (Rowling's word, not mine) Ginny. I don't remember the exact book in the series I was reading, but I'm certain that "snog" is Rowling's preferred verb for that particular intimate activity between two consenting human beings.
Rowling infused Latin into almost every spell and many names of places and people within her world, and filled in the gaps with enough clever wordplay or double meanings to fuel countless trivia nights. Yet she chose to use the horrid-sounding "snog" to represent something romantic. It's not a one-time thing either; the term appears multiple times, each as jarring as the first for me. Not the neutral "make out", or the ever-popular, slightly onomatopoeic (I actually spelt it correctly without autocorrect) "kiss". Snog: a noise you make to find out how you sound when having the flu, because the word gets trapped in the nasal passage for a brief moment before it frees itself from your lips. A word that's better suited to describe two pigs fighting in the mud. It's crude for a supposed grand romantic gesture portrayed in films and TV shows, the climax of any rom-com that's usually paired with fireworks bursting in the background as the orchestral score swells in a crescendo.
Maybe Rowling was just trying to be more realistic (oh, the irony!) in her depiction of teenagers' tongue-wrestling. Maybe she didn't want teenage me to expect something transcendental and be disappointed later. But Harry thought smushing faces with Ginny was "blissful oblivion". I don't remember how Rowling described anything else in the series, but I remember "blissful oblivion". I wondered, at 15, what it would be like to be lost in a state of rapture, to forget everything in my surroundings while drowning in pleasure. Four years later, at 19, I found out that Rowling didn't understand teenage boys.
"Kelsey" was my first girlfriend (not first love; I got together with her out of curiosity more than anything else). While she was a year younger than me, she had a lot more experience in the relationship department than I did. She lost all her firsts when she was 13, while I lost all of mine to her. Our first kiss happened two days into the relationship. We were sitting on the edge of her bed, it was late at night, and I was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. She was in an oversized T-shirt that her ex left at her place, and those cotton short shorts that seem designed for Singapore's humidity. She took one last puff from her cigarette before stubbing it out and tossing it in the biscuit tin she hid beneath her bed. I was biting my lips to stop my teeth from chattering. She shuffled herself closer to me.
I nodded. It was the only action I could manage.
She reached her hands behind my neck, and pulled my face closer to hers. She closed her eyes, and I closed mine as well. Then, her lips touched mine, and she pulled away slightly. A light peck, before she moved in again, this time searching for permission with the tip of her tongue between my lips. Something about the softness being so present in that moment stopped my shivers. I mirrored her every move, and we were making out. There was no oblivion. Kissing meant being hyper-conscious of the interlocking lips, the amount of saliva, and whether she could feel it when I breathed out through my nose. It meant wondering if my glasses were in the way, wondering how to take them off without being awkward, and wondering how we'd both know when to stop. It meant liking the burnt rubber taste of tobacco that she was sharing. It meant me shifting my thighs to find a more comfortable position because the first truly raging boner of my life made my already tight jeans tighter. It meant her entire person getting closer to me as I tried to angle my hips away, and the lightning bolt of arousal striking down from my mouth to my loins as she aligned her body with mine and started to unbuckle the jeans.
There is no "snogging", and there is no "blissful oblivion". There are only currents of lust moving from me to her, her to me, and skin to skin, keeping our nerves privy to the lightest brush.QLRS Vol. 19 No. 2 Apr 2020
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