Every girl is different when it comes to kissing. We each have our own degrees of reservations and inhibitions. I’m on the reserved side of the spectrum and have had a few messy dating experiences before learning what I’m comfortable with and when I’m ready for a first kiss. I’ve learned the hard way to listen to my intuition and to quickly act accordingly in order to minimize embarrassment for both of us!

Roughly two years ago, I decided to give online dating a try. A handsome guy emerged amongst the sea of profiles. After a healthy dose of messages, Facebook researching, and text chats, the handsome guy in question, “Chris,” asked me out.

The first date was great! We met up at a casual restaurant. Sitting in a booth across from each other, we chatted over drinks. He laughed at my jokes. I smiled shyly at his gaze. Chemistry was definitely there, the conversation was flowing, and the hope of potential love was in the air.

He walked me to my car and gave me a tight hug that lingered one or two seconds longer than necessary. My heart skipped a beat. I smiled, thanked him for the drink, and wiggled away into my car. For a quick second, the thought crossed my mind, “Wait, was he just going to kiss me?!” I shrugged off the idea, flattering myself but hesitant to assume.

I spent the next week in the abyss of over-analyzing and assessing my attraction to him. Would I be open to a second-date kiss? Did I find him attractive? With giddy hope, I felt positively inclined.

The second date emerged. Expectations were high. The food was good but, almost halfway into our dinner, the conversation started to stagnate. Subtle things about his sense of humor caught me off-guard. A few of his stories made me raise an eyebrow. During the meal, my reticence surprised me. As a self-aware people-pleaser, I typically do all I can to alleviate the other person’s discomfort, however, I felt fine saying nothing during long gaps of silence. My anticipation of a potential relationship was starting to fade, but I still wanted more time. Once we finished, he paid for dinner and drove me home.

Before arriving at my house, he grabbed a few mint tic-tacs from his cup holder and offered me some. I declined, mostly because I prefer the orange ones. He parked the car. I felt uncertain about the date so decided to just say thanks and lean over for a quick hug, but he offered to walk me to my door. As a cheerleader for chivalry, I agreed.

From previous dates, I assumed some sort of post-date debrief might ensue. Perhaps a few comments about what had just happened and a quick preview of expectations for what was to come. I waited. (Now that I look back on it, maybe I looked as if I was fumbling with my keys and intentionally stalling.) After more small talk (and no date debrief) I found the correct key and made my definitive lean in for the goodbye.

This is when it gets awkward.

He loosely laced his hands around my waist and made eye contact. He slowly glided his face closer to mine and then (and only then) I realized it—he’s going in for the kiss. Unsure what to do, I mentally reminded myself of my prior conclusion that I found him attractive and started to reciprocate the lean.

As I went forward, my heart began to sink. My gut felt hesitant, my stomach a little nauseous, and my mind strained. I froze. It was like the automatic brakes of my car were triggered, and I was staggering.

He noticed and gently chuckled asking, “What’s up?” with his eyes locked on my lips. I did a quick self check-in—my heart felt uncertain and conflicted. I breathed and gently leaned away and answered, slightly mortified, “I—I—don’t want to kiss you right now.” He quickly dropped his hands and took a few steps back.

Utterly embarrassed, he apologized and said he was sorry he didn’t ask. I felt awful and quickly blurted, “I’d love to keep getting to know you. Would you like to go for a hike this weekend?” He mentioned he was helping a friend move, cordially said goodbye, and left. As I walked inside and let the awkwardness sink in, I realized I had shot an arrow straight into the center of his confidence—bullseye. I sent him a thank-you text for dinner. He never followed up. No third date.

Looking back, I felt guilty for embarrassing him, but I also felt relieved I didn’t kiss him. After picking up new clues about Chris my heart was indicating that I didn’t trust him yet. Easier said now than in the moment, but of course, you don’t have to kiss a guy you don’t trust! A kiss is a gift, and I was unsure if he was a worthy recipient. My heart and body spoke the truth before my mind could catch up.

I’m much faster now at picking up on clues of an oncoming kiss (ahem, the tic-tacs) and what signals I can give to imply reciprocation, disinterest, or uncertainty. I also learned that prior analysis only gets me so far. Giving my heart space to speak in the moment is the best way to know if the time’s right and greatly minimizes the chance of kiss-regret or kiss-awkwardness. I also learned that when I feel uncertain about a guy, I don’t kiss. And if signals get mixed, it’s still okay to decline.

Living with integrity to me means living in alignment with my heart. No matter how awkward the aftermath of a situation might be or how someone else might view an action, following your standards brings peace. 

Editors' Note: Dating Unscripted is a column in our Readers' Write section. Submit your own story here.