Wednesday, September 23, 2020

‘You may kiss the bride’

In 1978, an American music group, Exile, recorded and released a song called ‘Kiss You All Over’.
Excellent in its own right, the ditty reached number one. It, however, received added publicity brought about by an organization called Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), led by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Kiss You All Over broke onto the charts in July 1978 but didn’t reach the top until October.
Kiss You All Over remained America’s favourite record for four weeks and stayed on the best-seller list for nearly six months.

Operation PUSH unwittingly helped hype the song by objecting, through nation-wide media, to the lyrics of the song, especially the ‘kiss you all over’ part.

The scientific name for kissing is osculation and the Oxford dictionary describes ‘kiss’ as: touch or caress with the lips as a sign of love, sexual desire, or greeting.

But since sexual kissing may also involve one person kissing another on various parts of the body, the good reverend, apparently, objected to that and was adamant that a kiss should not be directed at any other part of the body except the face!

We always find an excuse to kiss.
We kiss when we say our goodbyes, just as much as we kiss to welcome each other, not to mention what goes on in between. We kiss (and add a hug, too) to congratulate someone for a success or birth of a child. But we also do the same when we comfort them at the loss of a loved one.

Anthropologists, however, are reported to still not have reached a consensus as to whether kissing is a learned or an instinctive behavior.

Personally, I would argue that, in the case of Africa, kissing is learned, or ‘acquired’, if you wish, but not instinctive. It is clearly a foreign practice that we took up with a passion.

Even today, only the ‘learned’ Africans, vis-├á-vis the traditionalists in the village, stick their tongues into someone else’s mouth.

As scientists try to trace and justify ‘kissing’, they contend that kissing ‘may be related to grooming behavior (here they come) seen between other animals, or arising as a result of mothers premasticating food for their children.’

A study by Susan Hughes, Marissa Harrison, and Gordon Gallup, Jr. of the University of Albany in New York and published in the August 2007 journal, Evolutionary Psychology (Volume 5(3), says kissing between sexual or romantic partners occurs in more than 90 percent of human cultures. The report also says some non-human animals, such as common chimpanzees and bonobos, ‘appear’ to engage in kissing-like behaviors as well.
Research suggests that mothers kiss their babies because of the way prehistoric mothers fed their children.

I have seen birds on National Geographic puking into the beaks of their young, while hyenas literally vomit into the muzzles of their cubs. Now I am being told the passionate kiss I give my lady evolved from this maternal practice. God have mercy!

Couldn’t the origins of my romantic enthusiasm, combined with the wild African in me, come from something a little more sensuous?
Tracy Wilson, (How Kissing Works), says that modern research suggests that just about every culture on the planet kisses. However, she says, anthropologists and ethnologists have described a few cultures in Asia, Africa and South America that do not kiss at all. Some of these cultures view kissing as disgusting or distasteful.

“When you really think about it, kissing is pretty gross. It involves saliva and mucous membranes, and it may have historical roots in chewed-up food,” writes Wilson. “Experts estimate that hundreds, or even millions of bacterial colonies, move from one mouth to another during a kiss. Doctors have also linked kissing to the spread of diseases like meningitis, herpes and mononucleosis.”

It is believed that over 400 different species of micro-organisms (which out-number the earth’s population) reside in the moist mouth and that billions of them ‘live quite happily on teeth, the soft fleshy mouth surfaces and, particularly, the tongue.’

“These bacteria thrive on all the sugar and carbohydrates that pass by and multiply until we next brush our teeth. Each time we kiss. We pass a few million on to our partner.”
Fortunately, say Japanese researchers, 80 percent of the bacteria we pass to our partners in a kiss are common to most people.

“More fortunately, the other 20 percent bacteria unique to one person are usually beneficial to the other because they help the immune system to create anti-bodies to the new bacteria.”

And there are various kinds of kisses, each with its own message. Different kisses have different meanings in different countries.
There are, of course, physical and emotional benefits, however slight, to the kisser and the kissed.

“Kissing can help our teeth by fighting plaque and cavities because kissing stimulates saliva which contains calcium and phosphorus.”
Don’t stop visiting the dentist, but don’t stop kissing either.

Meanwhile, the message conveyed by the ‘French Kiss’ is unmistakable.

A French Kiss, or deep kiss, is a romantic or sexual kiss “in which one participant’s tongue touches the other’s tongue and usually enters his/her mouth.”
Family members may kiss on the lips but using the tongue almost always indicates a romantic relationship.

“French kissing stimulates the lips, tongue and mouth, which are all areas that are very sensitive to touch. It is considered, by many, to be both very pleasurable and highly intimate,” says Wikipedia, but citing no sources. “Unlike other forms of ‘casual’ kissing, episodes of French kissing will often be prolonged, intense, and passionate.”
Wikipedia adds that because of the intimacy associated with it, in many regions of the world tongue kissing in public is not acceptable to most, particularly for an extended time.

“In Israel, legal precedent was set for considering a French kiss without consent, as opposed to a kiss without involvement of the tongue, indecent behavior.”

Although we say we give a kiss, we, in fact, take a kiss. When people kiss, both inhale air rather than exhale.

“This sucking is a leftover from our infancy when we would have the constant urge to intake sustenance,” says Seiyaku, a Japanese website. “This need was satisfied by mother and so sucking became associated with satisfaction.”

This satisfaction, it says, became so strong in our little brains that ‘even when there is no food, there is satisfaction; whether it’s a child sucking its thumb or a smoker trying to quit.’

And when the priest solemnising a marriage utters the words, “You may kiss the bride”, what kind of kiss is it that the two exchange? Is it is a symbolic kiss, a gesture, where the couple seems embarrassed at the public display or a hesitantly lingering, but rather argonisingly brief French Kiss,…a foretaste of things to come or, most probably, a condensed peep show into things already done by the two?

Either way, the gesture becomes an official and public declaration for the couple to go into romantic combat. Henceforth, no one will question them why they did or didn’t do certain things.
It is definitely a signal to pull the curtains, so to speak!

The world record for the longest kiss took place in London in July 2005. James Belshaw and his girlfriend, Sophia Severin, locked lips for more that 31 hours to break the world record for the longest kiss.

There are kisses on the cheek, on the lips, on the forehead and on the hand. We know of the kiss of death (an action that causes certain failure for an enterprise); we know about the kiss of life (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation); and we also know about the kiss of peace, a ceremonial kiss now abused by politicians and which, incidentally, has started more wars than it has solved. It is most favoured by those at war or those engaged in public acrimony with each other.

The above, however, are not all the kisses known to the human race.

There is the mother of all kisses, the biggest of them all, which led to the arrest and murder of an innocent man and to a suicide by another. Ironically, that historic kiss and its subsequent developments led to the spiritual emancipation and cleansing of humanity.

I wonder where humanity would be today had Iscariot not tragically given us the Kiss of Judas.
Let’s just kiss and say goodbye.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.