Yesterday, my colleague Jessica Pauline Ogilvie wrote a post about why you should ignore sex advice from women’s magazines and instead just listen to your partner and do stuff that feels good. While I’m totally on board with that, the piece went on an interesting tangent in the comment thread about hickeys. Mostly about covering them up, that is. But you know what? I love hickeys. No, let me be clear: I fucking love hickeys.

Hickeys, just like 90210 reruns and old issues of Seventeen magazine, remind me of high school. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of things about high school I’d be happy never to think about again. But hickeys remind me of my first fumbly interactions with members of the opposite sex. Hickeys symbolize a sexual innocence – when I was both terrified and thrilled at the idea of going to first base with somebody, and when getting through an entire conversation with a boy without puking on my shoes was a lifemaking accomplishment. Not only do love bites take me back to the days of sloppy makeouts, they also remind me of the sense of pride that someone had if they showed up at school with a hickey on their neck. There were certain cool girls in my class who made a big show of walking into class with scarves around their necks even though it was ninety degrees outside. It was a clever, coded status symbol – ‘I have a hickey, so I’m going to make sure you know about it by pretending I don’t want anybody to know about it.’ Giving a boyfriend a hickey and then seeing him walk around with it the next day was a sexier, less possessive form of branding. No need to chase other women away from the guy you liked – a neck bite would take care of that for you.

These days, hickeys seem to have been appropriated by Twilight fans and their vampire-loving ilk. But biting someone’s neck isn’t about drawing blood – it’s about sensuality, excitement, and sexual buildup. The hickey isn’t the main event, but it’s a great warmup act. Just like magazines might tell you to leave a pair of your underwear in a guy’s bed in order to remind him of the hot sex you two had last night, a hickey (even if it’s not from Kenickie) is a calling card of sorts. When he’s shaving the next day or trying to pick a shirt with a collar that hides his new mark, he’ll think of you and of all the fun things you did after the hickey came into being. It’s the best kind of souvenir you could ask for – and since it goes away after awhile, you’ll be able to start all over again.