AKIJAK: The 28 Before 28 Project – Update Three

I feel like the progress of this project is grinding to a halt. I’ve been unavailable to spend a lot of my recent hours looking for participates. It is draining and I might not finish, but I am not giving up. Perhaps if I don’t get to 28 participates before my 28th birthday, I will just have to add something to the end of the title of the project to extend it:

A Kiss Is Just A Kiss:
28 Before 28 (Is Over) Project

That would give me another 12 months, and much less stress on my poor introverted self. If I were an extrovert, this project would be much, much easier.

March 20:

It was the first day of Spring, and rather than focusing on the notion that “Love is in the air,” I decided to direct my attention to Spring Cleaning. I caught up on a month of laundry, cleaned my apartment and generally was content with not interacting with other humans. I needed the stress break. The closest thing I did to furthering the project directly was scheduling two willing souls for Saturday.

March 21:

I honestly didn’t even consider my project on this day, which is the first day since it’s inception, because I had important housing and community issues to which I attended. I’m not at all sorry, as I directed my energy, time and focus where I needed it and wanted it to be.

March 22:

I got up at a decent time and went to my local coffee shop to start the hard copy to digital copy edit of my first novel. I planned this location specifically for that purpose, and the purpose of meeting my next participant. I sent him a message, letting him know where I was inside the shop, as I knew that once I started the edit, I would be rather distracted.

I thought Colin was a no-show when I left the coffee shop 55 minutes after our proposed meeting time to go to a family brunch. I wondered if I had been too engrossed in editing my novel for him to find me, or if you forgot. I found out this morning that he had sat outside the cafe for 45 minutes with a sign that said KATHY while he did some writing of his own. It was a missed connection, and he wishes me well on the project.

The day was gray, which does nothing positive for me: it lowers my energy level, and I ended up needing a nap after brunch. I woke up in time to wander to my next meeting, although my brain was a little fuzzy from the afternoon snooze.

There were lots of random people in the square where I was scheduled to meet my next participant, and I was feeling too drained for project by the time my next participant walked up.

4. Andrew. A very tall man when compared to my 5′ 2 13/16″ height.

I think the poor guy could tell I’m clumsy, as he warned me about the rail I might bump into (I knew it was there) when I departed. He was polite, and asked the parameters of what was going to happen.

Well, I’m going to kiss you, and then I’m going to leave.
Okay.

I wonder if people expect an extrovert when they come to meet up with me, as my written persona is very skilled at projecting my internal voice, but I do not come across the same way in person. I trip on words, find it difficult to organize my thoughts and sometimes feel I have nothing to add to the conversation – occasionally this is because I have already had the conversation in my head to my level of satisfaction. I almost feel a need to apologize for not living up to the expectations one might get from reading my words before meeting me. Almost, but not really. I am who I am, and if this project where about getting to know people instead of just sharing a brief moment together, I’m sure they would understand.

I just hope no one things I’m a jerk. I’m just shy and introverted, not an asshat.

AKIJAK: The 28 Before 28 Project – Update Two

Alright, kids, I officially started to worry about my ability to finish the AKIJAK: The 28 Before 28 Project. By specifying strangers, I unknowingly made this project much more difficult than in could have been, as a number of people I know have indicated that they would offer to help if they weren’t ineligible. However, I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t set an incredibly high standard and feel like I absolutely have to complete it to be successful.

March 17:

If you didn’t already know, “Kiss me, I’m Irish,” is a phrase that was made up because kissing the Blarney Stone is meant to be lucky, but if you cannot do that, an Irish person will do the trick. (I’ve already kissed the Blarney Stone, and did not receive the fabled Gift of the Gab, which is why I like writing so much more than talking.) Due to my dislike of the idea of kissing anyone for this project while either of us has been drinking (consent is sexy), I kind of figured I wouldn’t find a participant this day.

First thing in the morning, I walked to the bus stop, wearing my green trousers and a scarf I got for St. Patrick’s Day when I was in Dublin this time last year, and nearly immediately started chatting with a Northern Ireland ex-pat, who commented on the scarf. We talked about the way the holiday is treated here verses in Ireland (I let him know I used to live there). Although we had quite a nice talk about his family fleeing Northern Ireland in 1987, I sort of figured this solemn talk wasn’t the best time to introduce my project, so I did not ask him.

Shortly after getting to work, I had a coworker ask me, “are you going around kissing people?” I had to explain the parameters of the project, but he asked in good humour. I guess my coworkers know about the project now.

Part of me wishes I hadn’t said strangers, not only because some lovely friends have offered to help, but because I’d have a reason to approach people I already found attractive before the project started.

Some feedback from people who saw my post on Facebook: a friend is afraid I’ll get oral herpes. “The thing about strangers is they are strange.” Fair enough, but I’m not kissing everyone in sight, and so far I have tended to kiss only people referred to me by friends, so I feel I have a relatively low chance of that happening.

After I had assumed I wouldn’t find a participant, I had one handed to me on a silver platter.

3. Jay. Longest first kiss in the series to date. There were multiple onlookers, of whom I was conscious the whole time, and I was also conscious of standing on a couch to get close enough to lock lips (not due to him height, but just the fact that the couch was between us when I explained the project and he emphatically declared, “Get over here!” as an indication that he wanted to participate).

My friend Marie asked if I had met Jay before, and when I said I hadn’t she immediately told me to tell him about my experiment. I launched into an explanation of how it is not an experiment because there is no hypothesis, and his reaction to this moment of light-hearted arguing/explaining was incredibly entertaining. Laughing can make the whole awkward experience a little easier to handle.

While we were in our lip lock, I heard one of my friends ask if her roommate (all of these people were all in the same room where I was kissing this stranger) if he was interested. I overheard him say, “Nope, that crosses too many boundaries for me right now,” which is completely fine, and made my life a little easier, as I didn’t have to debate asking him. However, it felt weird to hear people discussing their likelihood of kissing me while I was kissing someone else (and while I could hear them).

I found out afterward that Jay is actually seeing my friend, and is part of an open marriage with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Awesome – I dig “alternative” lifestyles (I put that in quotes because I really wish I could just say I did lifestyles).

March 18:

I considered asking one (or both) of the cute tech guys at my usual Tuesday night volunteering gig to participate, and tried to hover close enough to bring it up in conversation with a mutual friend who was there, but I was feeling so drained that I couldn’t get up the energy to do so.

I received a message of “damn, why did I have to become your friend a month ago?” from a man who thinks it would be creepy if he did the project. I told him I was doing my best to keep the creepy factor low. I wonder why it seems to be inherently less creepy a project when it is being enacted by a late 20’s woman rather than a man in his 40’s. If you have insights, let me know. Also, if you are in Victoria, BC, and are interested in participating, please let me know.

March 19:

This project is very draining to my introvert sensibilities. I am using up way to much time trying to figure out where to find participants, and then going to the locations where I might find participants, and then ignoring things like chores and the fact that I requite time to myself to recharge. It is getting to the point where if I have an engagement that has little to no chance of me finding a participate, I get worried that I’m not going to finish the project (instead of just being excited about the event itself). I won’t find a participant in my locked house, but I really do need to do laundry tomorrow night, for example. I’m going on a date today, and I doubt it is socially acceptable to look for participants while we are getting to know each other.

After thought: I completely forgot that I wanted to write about (or at least mention) how intriguing it is that people are talking about this project, to each other in person, and not just on Facebook. I was mentioning to a friend that I needed help with my project, and imagine my surprise we she replied “is that the same project Marie had been telling me about?” Crazy! I did’t know Marie knew about it, as I hadn’t seen her comment on it/like it online.

AKIJAK: The 28 Before 28 Project – Update One

I am blown away with some of the awesome things that have come out of this project so far. The day I put up the original post, I received almost as many hits on my blog as the day I compared Jesus and Doctor Who fandoms. If only I had added some cats to the last post, I’m sure I could have hit a new record.

Seriously, though, I’m excited that people are interested in my project, and I’ll try to update every few days on my progress. Right at this very moment, I am at 2/28. The following is a little information on how I got to this point, as well as some general observations about the process. I’ve divided the notes about the process into the days on which I had each thought or experience. Some notes are running commentary of what happened that day, and some are expansions on the thoughts raised by that day’s events.

March 13th:

I’ve noticed that I am more engaged with my surroundings while in public, as I am now constantly looking for someone to ask. Instead of having my focus on the sidewalk ahead of me, my line of sight is up and looking around, wondering who would be a good candidate. I also contemplated when it is appropriate to ask people to participant. For instance, even if I get the cute bus driver, it’s not a good opportunity to ask him to participate. I don’t want to disrupt anyone at work, and I don’t want people to feel affronted or cornered when I ask them to participate. While on transit, I found myself mentally scanning my day for where/when I might find someone. Planning this project is taking a lot of mental power, and I hope it doesn’t interfere too much with my publishing goal – I want to finish the final edit of my novel and have it live for purchase before my birthday.

March 14:

I was thinking about how to approach people, and one huge thought came to mind: how do I know they aren’t a weirdo? Also important: how do they know I’m not a weirdo?

This led me into a lengthy internal monologue, the basic premise being that it’d be weirder if I tried “normal” ways of appearing legitimate while soliciting potential participants – like business cards. As much as it would be nice for people to know about the project so they don’t think I’m just trying to pick them up in the middle of the street, I highly doubt handing out my blog address is a good tactic.

A friend of mine has acted like a WingWoman and posted my project on her Facebook wall, so via that, I have a meeting set up with a stranger tomorrow. We are planing to meet in a public place, and we’ll see how that goes. I have someone in mind to ask tonight, and I think he counts because I’ve only met him once before while drinking with a friend of mine (who knows about the project).

I would ask cute guy at bus stop, but he is wearing headphones. I don’t want to pull anyone out of their bubble if they are listening to music. I’m also feeling self-conscious about chip breath, because I ate a bag of Bean Field between work and the bus stop.

It was about this point where I realized a pattern in my life: I nearly always wait for someone else to make the first move. Through this process, I am becoming more aware of people around me instead of walking with my head down – sort of forcing myself to be less shy. There is no problem with being shy (it is not something I am trying to “cure,” as I am comfortable that it is natural for me, and I am a fan of me), but I miss a lot when I’m in my own head. It is nice to come out every once in a while and take stock of what is happening around me.

My walk home takes me close to high school, and sometimes there are people gathered in the square nearby. I think that if I approach anyone in this vicinity, I’ll ask them for their date of birth before asking them to participate, just in case.

As a side note, here is some feedback I have seen online regarding the interest in the project, specifically how I am being described: pretty gutsy and impressive, brave, awesome, amazing. Shucks.

I received my first kiss for this project:

1. Pat, a friend of a friend, in the Fernwood Inn.

I knew the night would include drinking, so soon after we all sat down and finished the small talk about our lives since the last time we met, I asked my friend if he had passed on my project to his friend. He had not, so I explained, and Pat was emphatic about participating. It’s been quite a while since I kissed someone with a lip ring, so that was a nice touch. I quickly explained that even though I’d be doing updates on my progress, I wasn’t doing anything so crass as rating people’s technique. I enjoyed the flurry of excitement that came with kissing someone for the first time, even though I awkwardly pushed for us to do the deed before the drinks arrived, so we both had to stand up next to our table and kiss in the middle of the restaurant, with at least one human (my friend; his roommate) watching. Later in the evening, he asked me on a date.
March 15:

I specifically did not bring hummus for lunch and made sure I had gum when I gave up my Saturday to re-certify my first aid. You’d think there would be more mouth-to-mouth jokes about that day, but I honestly didn’t think of that connection until just now. Interestingly, there was someone in my course who had the same first and last name as first person I ever kissed, back when I was 11 years old and lived in Nova Scotia. I knew it would drive me nuts, so I asked him if he’d ever lived back East, but it wasn’t the same guy.

What are the chances, though? A project centred around first kisses, and my first kiss’ name sake shows up – strange.

2. David. Found me in Chapters, in the Graphic Novel section at 5:15pm, as per our arrangement.

That exchange went a little something like this:
He asked if I was Kathy, to make sure he had the correct person. We shook hands, and talked about how weird the weather is being. Yes, we actually talked about the weather. I am an awkward creature.

David: So, what’s the plan?
Kathy: I was going to kiss you, if you are still cool with it.
David: Okay.
(We kiss. He has long ringlets of hair that were incredibly soft, and it was this moment where I realized that I have a tendency to kiss people while holding the side of their face. We stop kissing, and return to being two random people in Chapters.)
Kathy: Thanks.
David: Thanks; have a nice day.

With that, he went down the escalator and I made notes for this project. I had some time to kill before volunteering, so I had a meal at a restaurant that has a high school friend as the bartender. We caught up – he grew a beard; I told him about my book and my project. He said he’d offer to participate, but he’s not a stranger. It’s nice to know that there are people who support my project.

Later, after I’d started drinking, I wished that all my days were lived in a way where I was free to look at everything – all possibilities of how a day could go. Where did self limit come from? I’m sure I had a lot more intelligent points to make, but Drinking Kathy isn’t a great note taker.

A note on drinking: as soon as I start, this project leaves my mind, as I don’t want to use liquid courage. A friend pointed out a potential candidate while we were playing pool, but I hadn’t even been thinking of it. I was drinking at an event last night, and didn’t even consider approaching anyone.

March 16:

I woke up at 4:45am this morning help a friend go to Vancouver, get things out of storage and try to get back before my Improv class at 3pm. It turns out there is no us to the first ferry of the day, so that didn’t happen. I had kind of been looking forward to asking random strangers on the ferry to participate, but the walk and the extra sleep upon returning home was fine with me, despite the disappointment this caused my friend. I had a back up plan, anyway.

My plan was to ask someone from my class. Were just started a new session today, so I knew that I would meet some new guys. This class, however, is much smaller than my previous classes, and the ratio of men to women is not typical for the class, either, so I only met two new men. I made an intention of asking one of them at the end of the class, as I promised my teacher that I wouldn’t make the first day awkward (in that way; some of my awkwardness cannot be helped).

As we were leaving and chatting about chocolate bars, I asked one of the new guys to participate, and he became the first person to reject me. I’m perfectly fine with it.

Him: I’m in a relationship right now; would that be cheating?
Me: That is between you and the person you are seeing.
Him: Can I get back to you on that?

So, perhaps, since we’ll still be strangers next Sunday, I might be able to out him on the list; however, I want everyone participating to be comfortable, and if people are in relationships and don’t want to cross boundaries, I am absolutely fine with that. However, I am about to spend the evening with people I know, so it looks like I won’t complete a kiss for today. Good thing there are a couple of grace days in this schedule.

A parting thought, which occurred to me on the way to class: I was contemplating how I don’t like being the centre of attention, and this strange parallel occurred in my brain between scripted verse improv theatre (a) and my reasoning for not just getting drunk and soliciting kisses (b).

a) I prefer scripts to improv because I know what to do, and if the audience doesn’t like it, I can never take all the blame, whereas if I kill an improv scene, it is like being shoved onto the stage in the nude. I never tend to have stage fright for a scripted performance, because I rehearse and prepare and know what is expected of me. I get very nervous when I have to make things up, and my brain stops working. I have to look for moments to drop my question regarding participating in this project, and that cannot be scripted, so I am not in my comfort zone.

b) Sure, I might get my numbers up faster if I drank and made an announcement in the middle of a crowded establishment (such as the venue last night; it was a Boylesque show), especially if I were to wear the same thing I wore while volunteering (lingerie tastefully covered by a vest, but much more cleavage showing than usual), but that’s just not my style. I don’t dress to impress, and I don’t want to change who I am to complete this project.

A Kiss Is Just A Kiss: The 28 Before 28 Project

March 13th is an ordinary day to most people, but like any 13th of the month, it has potential to be fantastic. Today could also be an ordinary day for me, if I wasn’t thinking about the future and being mindful of what it could mean for me personally. March 13th marks 1 month until my 28th birthday, and for some reason this makes me want to embark on a project. I partly blame/was inspired by my friends, who tried to fart 27 and 29 times on each other’s birthday, in honour of their friendship. If you knew these friends (his blog & her blog) , it would make perfect sense, and not seem at all strange.

I was also partly inspired by this video that went viral regarding 20 strangers having their first kisses. I heard rumours it was staged, or is part of an advert, but I don’t particularly care. It sparked an idea in me, and that idea and the potential for personal growth and thought is what inspires me.

With that in mind, I’d like to present the following:

A Kiss Is Just A Kiss:
The 28 Before 28 Project

The title, along with the knowledge of the aforementioned viral video of strangers kissing, makes it pretty easy to figure out the basic concept of the project: I plan to attempt to find 28 strangers to kiss before I turn 28, which is one month from today.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how to define this project; I cannot call it a Social Experiment, as I am not testing a hypothesis. Instead, I will refer to it as a Social Exercise, since exercise can be defined thusly: use or apply (a faculty, right, or process), synonyms including use, employ, make use of or utilize. I certainly am utilizing society in this project.

This is an intimidating task, for many reasons, but the fact that it is a challenge makes it an opportunity for personal growth. I’d just like to point out that 28 is a very daunting number. I don’t think I’ve kissed 28 people in my entire life, and 28 is more than 3 times the number of sexual partners I’ve had. I point this out as an interesting juxtaposition in numbers, and not because this project has anything to do with having sex. Although I hope this project will be seen as sex positive, I do not plan on sleeping with anyone I meet while doing the project.

There are many reasons why I have decided to carry this idea forward:

-Everyone likes a challenge, and this certainly is a challenge.
-This exercise gives me a specific reason to act on inklings of attraction. This is intriguing, as I don’t usually engage this way socially. Usually, I am not 
conscious of my potential attractions, and on the occasions when I am conscious of an attraction, I very rarely act on it.
-Let’s just get this out there: kissing is great. It is fun and can be exciting if you are doing it in a healthy way. There are very few people who absolutely hate kissing (as a general idea), and the awkwardness and vulnerability of a first kiss is a beautiful experience that will be examined much more thoroughly than I ever expected to in my lifetime.
-This project gives me a reason to meet new people and challenge my ability to start conversations. As an introvert with social anxiety issues, this is huge. I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to approach people to ask if they would like to be part of my exercise, but I am going to have to step up my game in terms of starting conversations. I think everyone fears rejection, and I am going to have to get comfortable with people not wanting to participate (because, let’s face it, not everyone is going to think this is a great idea, especially if I don’t find out how to communicate the project in clear way).
-The opportunities of what could happen as a result of this project are endless. I could expand on this idea, but that sentence sums up the unfathomably large amount of variables nicely.
-A kiss really is just a kiss: it is not a social contract to go into further physical endeavors. Communication is a key aspect of this exercise, as it will help set expectations.
-I anticipate that this will be a rather vast learning experience, and will give me a lot of writing material.

I would like to put a couple bits of important information out there: I am not doing this to find people to hook up with, but if I were, there would be nothing wrong with that as long as there was honesty and informed consent. I personally want there to be completely no strings attached between myself and the people who agree to participate. I really do just want a first (and only) kiss from each person willing to participate.

An issue I would like to address specifically: consent. Consent is sexy. I, in no way whatsoever, want anyone to feel forced into participating with this project. If someone doesn’t feel good about giving it a shot, that is fine.

Another issue that should be addressed: sexual preference, and how has potential influence on this project. I prefer men as sexual partners. I have found woman attractive, and there have been a few that have made me think, “wow, if I fancied sex with a woman, I would want it to be with her,” but the fact is that that is not something I am looking for. However, this is not about sex. This is about kissing, and I am more than open to having ladies on my list of 28 kisses before I turn 28. This just reinforces that a kiss really is just a kiss, and if I find a woman that I am comfortable kissing, then she shouldn’t be excluded as a potential participant.

However, this doesn’t mean I want to kiss absolutely anyone. There are certain situations that make kissing someone an inappropriate choice. For example, if anyone with whom I work finds out about this project, I am not comfortable with them being a participant, due to issues of professionalism. Just because I am comfortable kissing someone outside my usual sexual partner pool does not meant I want to kiss everyone outside of that pool. I want to be safe, I want consent, and I want to be comfortable in my choices.

Concerns I have regarding this exercise:
-I fear social slut shaming, or a negative public opinion of the project, but that just gives me an opportunity to challenge those issues and present a sex positive mindset.
-Where am I going to to find 28 strangers to kiss me? I don’t want to rely on alcohol to give me liquid courage, and also don’t want alcohol to blur the lines of consent for those participating with me, so pubs/parties are not a great choice (not that this introvert goes to loud places often, anyway). I might have to be rather open with my definition of stranger, and ask people I’ve met before but don’t know well if they would like to participate. If there is anyone in Victoria, BC, reading this before April 13th who would like to help me, let me know.
-I want to document my experience, and that in itself might pose comfort issues for other people. I don’t want to take video or photos of us kissing. I don’t want to post an in-depth list of how each person rates as a kisser. At most, I just want to be able to list what number they are on the list, perhaps their first name (or simple [name withheld]), and where we met, then talk about my experience (and not in terms of graphic content, but rather what I took away from the experience intellectually).

Am I scared right now? Yes. I am a little freaked out. It is a big number and challenging personally in many ways, but I am going to try to take it one kiss at a time. I have 30 days to find 28 kisses. That is less than one a day. If I make it a goal to find one persona a day, I should be able to complete this exercise. I plan to make updates as frequently as I am called to do so.

Wish me luck.

Disquiet Sonnet

I wish that I could find the words to tell
You where it hurts; nothing breaking my skin
Slices whispering in my brain like hell
Leaking suggestions of a morose grin
Cannot collect my thoughts long enough to
Share them in an understandable way
So I lock my lips firmly and walk through
Life, searching for the perfect words to say
Trapped in my head, I seek to be let out
Grasping connections with those who might know
What it feels like, alone in a crowd, doubt
Filling my body with reasons to go
Face to face, I might not find the right phrase
But I hope someone hears me anyway