Dita Parker

Friday, November 4, 2011

Say it with a kiss

Osculation, "the anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction,"* smooching, snogging, the prelude, interlude and postlude of platonic, romantic and erotic encounters alike. Kissing. You can't write a romance novel without some, and it's impossible to imagine a romantic relationship, any close relationship really, without any.

I wonder what fool it was that first invented kissing.  

~Jonathan Swift

Well, Jonathan, since you asked, Mother Nature. Kissing may well have evolved from the mouth-to-mouth feeding practices of primate mothers who chewed food for their young. Or/and Mother Nature saw it fit for the process of mate selection, because as philematologists** will tell you, a kiss is not just a kiss. It's a complex, multi-sensory exchange of information by way of taste, smell, touch and pheromones. You are not aware of it while at it, but you're in fact tonsil-deep in exploration for clues not only into another person's genetic makeup but the current status and future of your relationship.

A man's kiss is his signature. 
~Mae West

Biologist Claus Wedekind found that the more different a man's genetic code immune system is from a woman's, the more attractive, or unatractive, she will find him. How do women detect those proteins? Via a man's scent and taste. Which explains the inexplicable, i.e. why some people turn you off the minute you kiss them. Fifty-nine percent of men and 66 percent of women say they have ended a budding relationship because of a bad kiss.***

Before I take out all the romance out of something very romantic, kissing is more than nature's reproductive litmus test. The messages it carries to your brain evoke an euphoric response you can feel from head to toe. Dopamin, serotonin and oxytocin all rush through you, raising your heart rate, dilating your blood vessels, sharpening the senses and your desire, elevating your mood and making you borderline obssessively focused on and attached to your partner. It's not only lust that kissing propagates, it's love.

Kissing is a means of getting two people so close together that they can't see anything wrong with each other. 
~Rene Yasenek

Kissing is a good indicator of how your relationship is doing. Says evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup: "In an established relationship, the frequency of kissing is a good barometer as to its status. If it's no longer featured prominently or is entirely absent, there's a much higher probability that the relationship is in trouble." Kissing is an act of flirtation and foreplay, it's an expression of caring and tenderness, it conveys love and desire. It can be soft, slow, long and tentative, it can be hard, take-charge, deep and urgent. You won't remember each and every one, but you will remember the first one. And when there are none to be had, they are sorely missed.

So. Sex drive (ruled by testosterone), romantic love (ruled by dopamine) and attachment (involving bonding chemicals like oxytocin). Anthropologist Helen Fisher says kissing evolved to fulfill all of these three needs. Customs, styles and techniques abound, but the need to kiss appears universal. More than 90 percent of known cultures kiss romantically. It brings lovers closer together, it inspires artists, it's a language that transcends time and borders.

Soul meets soul on lovers' lips.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

I did save the best news for last, meaning that of course you don't have to consider science or worry about tomorrow while kissing. All you have to do is let nature take its course and enjoy the joyride. Your next week's mission, should you choose to accept it, is to kiss with a vengeance. Write a sonet with your lips on theirs. Write a symphony with your mouth all over their body. Easy on the teeth and tonsils, okay? Going straight to tonguing and thrusting can be an explosive, spontaneous encounter, but try working up to it if you can. Vary your approach, the place and your pace. Brush with your lips. Brush with your tongue. Suck gently. Suck intensely. Explore. The only limit is your imagination.

Sweet smooching!

"A kiss is one of the most potent stimulants that a man or woman can indulge in...and is more intoxicating than strong wine."
~Sheikh Nefzawi, The Perfumed Garden

* Dr. Henry Gibbons
** scientists who study kissing
*** research conducted by Gordon Gallup of the University of Albany

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