This is not a post about politics.  This is not a post about the economy, climate change or the musical Hamilton.  This is, very simply, a post about kissing.

The act of kissing goes back thousands of years, and has been celebrated, regulated, banned and repopularized more often than Laverne and her friends rehearsed that “whisper” technique on Fabian’s picture in Laverne and Shirley.  The practice exists across cultures, generations and demographics–hell, even Bonobos have a good snog on a frequent basis.  It’s simple in theory–pucker, plant, release–but as straightforward as it seems in concept, in actual fact a kiss is much more than just a kiss.   It is a singular phenomenon that crosses not only sexual but social and even political boundaries and holds layer upon layer of meaning.  Let’s open up and explore.

Before our lips touch even at a whisper, we are already communicating.  In what is truly a heady sensual experience, pheromone receptors and transmitters that reside around our mouth and nose are pulsating with chemistry, introducing us to the physical sphere of the other.  As we draw close, we very literally breathe each other in, nose to nose and mouth to mouth.  It is here that we are often “turned off” by the messages coming to us, which may indicate that our bodies are not compatible, or alternatively, this may be the point of no return signaled by a perfect initial mixing of selves, cuing the hunger for more.

This is why those reality shows turn me off.  Giorgio at the bar after a couple of shots sees a girl he’s attracted to, saunters over, ask her a few questions and then proceeds to polish her tonsils with his tongue.  No introduction, no chemical orientation.  We skip the point, really, and to boot, Giorgio and his friend miss out on a lot of the real fun.

Think about your first kiss for a minute.  Chances are there was at least some close face-to-face communication happening, some graduation and introduction to the other’s space before the actual event took place?  If your first kiss, like mine, was a fabulous one (horn players have great lips), then I’ll bet you there was some pre-kiss lingering involved.  But not drool.  No.  Drool does not a good first kiss make.

But back to lips.  You don’t have to look like Angelina Jolie to be able to pack a perfect pucker.  As with other things that sometimes follow energetic kissing, it’s less about the size of the boat and more about the way you row it. While this can seem like the most bewildering piece of the puzzle, I offer here a few basic admonishments that sum it all up:

1. No drool.  I mentioned this before, but it’s important.  Like Giorgio and the tonsils, saliva is something to work up to.  Pheromones to lips, lips to tongue, tongue to juices.  Skip one and it gets gross quick.

2. No fish lips.  Nothing annoys me more when watching a romantic scene in a movie than to see a sweeping seduction, confession of love, or other sigh-generating exchange followed by a first kiss that looks like someone is sucking on a lemon rind.  Lips are soft and wonderful; pursed lips are like heel skin.  And there’s no communication happening with stiff lips (more on that below).

3. Don’t kiss to your own drummer. Kissing, like sex, is a partnership.  You need to know where your partner is in order to be in the same place, and proceed from there together.  There’s not much enjoyment if both parties aren’t on the same sheet of music, after all.

Here we are, then, having drawn close together, breaths in sync, enchanted by each other’s scent, image and sounds, and our lips have come together sweetly, a first taste of the banquet.  What comes next is another important connection.  We are now crossing the boundary into something intimate, something inside ourselves.  Our mouths communicate information much different but just as important as mere words.  Passion, tenderness, need, love, curiosity–all of these steps compose the dance of the kiss. We decide together where it goes, how deep, how forceful, how leisurely or frenetic, and those ingredients, in turn, determine What Comes Next and how the rest of our bodies will engage us. Kissing, then, at its essence, is a communication.

We’ve enjoyed a meaningful interchange, but this moment, for today, has come to a close.  As our lips part, I leave you with a question, which comes from all those things I listed in the first line of this post.  Just as kissing depends upon learning about the other, at the surface first and then inward to a deeper level, should not we as people engage each others’ minds in the same way?

Photo credit: “Romeo and Juliet” by Robert Dicksee (via Wikimedia Commons)

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