the kisscode (xoxo)

By Ariel Barley
April 27, 2024

When unsure, I consult the code.

NOTES —> the kisscode (xoxo)

1: on the forehead (meaning “hello, and I love you.”)
  • for little dogs, who scratch happy at shins and move their tiny bodies with their tinier tails
  • for mothers, who sit on the paisley-print couches and watch doctor dramas. (this kiss can only come from the adult, the girl who has reconciled her mother as worthy of affection)
  • for friends who look up
  • for daughters and sons, one day — the ones with mini-dresses and buckled mary janes, with a mother who will buy them a whole closet for each size-up (thrifted, just like hers)
  • for an apple (honeycrisp, probably,) just before teeth sink into to it
  • for stuffed bunnies, worn with time

2: on the cheek (meaning “you’re coming to my wedding” or “I hate you, like, a lot”)
  • for friends who look down. this kiss uses tiptoes, but can come more naturally with high heels and platforms
  • for not-friends who don’t deserve Kiss 1. this kiss is dramatic, overexaggerated like sugar and honey mixed into a goop
  • for distant relatives. they pinch cheeks and don’t have memorable names
  • for grandmothers with leathery skin and knobby fingers; they have hair from a magazine and a shrill voice
  • for the french (?)
  • for cutesy Instagram photoshoots (at train tracks, or coffee shops, or the beach during winter)

3: on the nose meaning (“I love you and I think you love me” or “I’m drunk”)
  • for cats, who sniff and sniff and wrap wormy tails around human legs. this kiss happens midair, with their skinny legs dangling and their voices shrill with protest
  • for birthday girls who have known each other for years — who light candles with colored flames and throw fairy themed-parties
  • for little brothers, who hole up in their room. this kiss is quick and harsh, tinted with tricky laughter and accompanied by a twisted earlobe
  • for drunk twenty-somethings, who fall into their friends with fuzzy vision. this kiss is everything, the memory that stays behind in the morning
  • “exactly, precisely”. this kiss is necessary, a friendship benchmark

4: on the lips meaning (“I like you like you” or “I trust you enough, I guess”)
  • for friends-to-partners, first and foremost, after Kisses 1 and 2 have run their course
  • for watching, annoyed but happy (at/for parents who tease each other over reality television, who meet in church and sing together in cars)
  • for very drunk twenty-somethings, who spend afterwards all curled up in bed from pulsing hangover pain

5: not at all meaning (“I don’t love you yet, or I love you, and we’re done”)
  • for strangers, potential spouses
  • for people who have worn out Kisses 1-4 ■

Layout: Caroline Clark
Creative Director: Jake Otto
Photographer: Dylan Haefner
Videographer: Cameron Shin
Stylists: Angel Peña & Keena Medina
HMUA: Floriana Hool & Srikha Chaganti
Models: Jake Otto, Phia Gonzalez & Chase Smyth

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